A frequently asked question around Fantasy Football forums and circles is “who do I keep? Player A or Player B?” and the resulting “advice” can range between sound advice and foolhardy optimism. If you’re offering the former, then odds are you’re presenting a scenario in which the player your suggesting is going to provide better value than the player you’re putting back into the draft pool. This is a result of quality strategy; and concept I’d like to share below for those just learning.
1. Understand your leagues format:
Year in and year out it’s painfully obvious which players gloss over this important piece of information. When selecting your keepers start here. Is it a two quarterback league? full point PPR? Do you have 3 WR spots or an extra flex? All of these factors would adjust the “value scale” on a player prior to submitting keepers.
Scenario: I recently replied to a forum post where an owner couldn’t decide between Russel Wilson, Julio Jones, and DeMarco Murray. He described his league as half point PPR with two starting QB slots. Right away I’d eliminate DeMarco Murray, at his current ADP and expecting the draft to be heavily geared towards QB’s, he’ll be available in the middle rounds anyways if you’d really like to have him. This leads us to Wilson or Jones… Two things to consider; one, do you expect your fellow owners to keep QBs? And if so, do you expect the first round to feature QB’s heavily? This is important because you’re likely going to have to draft a QB in the first round if you keep Jones. My argument (and personal opinion) centers around having clear cut tiers to your positions. Wilson is securely in my 2nd tier because of his reliance on his legs and Julio Jones is securely in my top WR tier. Consider the .5 points for receptions and the fact that the 2nd tier of QB’s features far greater numbers and you have your answer: Julio Jones. It’s more likely you can replicate Wilson’s production if you miss out on him than Jones’.
2. Understand your fellow owners:
Put yourself in your fellow owners shoes prior to making your selections; check their final rosters and determine if you think a certain position may be more (or less) scarce at the top of the pile. This will lead you to possibly keep a player with less perceived value in standard formats.
Scenario: This falls to my own experience to explain. After a successful year, I was considering who my 3rd keeper would be. I already had Le’Veon Bell and Mike Evans kept in the 6th and 8th rounds respectively… that left me with Tannehill in the 11th, Lamar Miller in the 7th, and Travis Kelce in the 21th. Our league starts two QB’s, and a look at potential keepers showed that several teams had high value QB’s in the middle to late rounds; I expected a large number of QB’s to be kept and opted for Tannehill as my 3rd. When the list of keepers was revealed, I was pleased to find that nearly every team kept a QB, further depleting a position I would need to roster 3 players at. Based purely on value, Kelce would have been my third keeper, but knowing I’d be drafting at a disadvantage for the entire draft, I kept the QB I knew I’d have to reach on early just to have.
3. Keep your eye on the future:
Some of this advice seems fairly obvious, and this section will not be any different. When fleshing out your keepers for the following year it’s important to factor in how your league processes the keepers during the draft. Do you have a finite time on keepers? Does your pick degrade over time (10th round becomes 8th round etc, etc.)? This becomes important when considering between two players who offer similar value but age or round drafted become a mitigating factor.
Scenario: We’ve already seen this following piece of advice bear fruit. You’re deciding wether or not to keep Arian Foster (pre-injury) and have narrowed it down to him in the 5th round or Carlos Hyde in the 8th. At the time you’d be thinking “I’m a fool to pass up a first round RB in the 5th round” knowing Carlos Hyde would likely be available in the 3rd or 4th rounds of your draft; but I’d caution you to consider both the age of either player, and their ability to stay healthy. All of these scenarios require several “what if” statements but I’d argue that keeping Hyde with the potential to have a top 10-15 back in the 8th round for the next several years trumps the value of an oft-injured Arian Foster a few rounds earlier knowing he’ll eventually not be worth drafting.
4. Keeping to Create Balance:
Although this may sound like it runs contrary to the first piece of advice, it’s important to consider balance when keeping your players. To me, this is a puzzle piece that fits tightly together bullet point 2. above. Despite how you may feel about a certain player, if you’ve narrowed it down to a few, it’s important to consider how you’ll build around your core. Does keeping three backs set you up for failure but being too unbalanced going into the draft? I’d argue it does. Ideally you’d like to keep three players who can dominate or offer top value at their positions, rather than the “bulk up on one position” strategy I’ve seen so many times.
Scenario: You’ve been lucky enough to draft several players who would be keepers on other teams but you know you’re going to have to throw a few back. You’ve got Andrew Luck and Marshawn Lynch already set aside as keepers and you have several to chose between for your final spot. You have Mike Evans in the 6th round, Latavius Murray in the 16th, and Lamar Miller in the 9th. You consider for a moment what it’d be like to pair Marshawn with another RB, it sounds like a nice advantage, but I’d argue that you’re missing the boat. Sure, RB is a shallow position, but I’d argue to keep Mike Evans would allow you to target players more liberally in the draft rather than putting yourself in a position to have to react to other players. This becomes and issue early when you have to draft a WR instead of a back that you really like because you have a spot you need to fill. Suddenly you find yourself drafting C.J. Spiller three rounds early because you missed on Carlos Hyde, and this can spiral into a middle round disaster where you draft players purely because you think you have to, rather than because you think that player is the best player available. Keeping Evans allows you to skip a WR to draft a RB or vice versa if you don’t like the players at your pick.