Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Q & A
Week 11

Last Week's Question: What Makes Keeper/Dynasty Leagues So Much Fun?

In last week's column, I mentioned the feedback I received from participants in keeper/dynasty leagues who were glad to see the Q&A column focusing on their concerns . . . at last! Many keeper enthusiasts wrote to suggest that I focus on keeper leagues more in the future, so I decided to dedicate my Week 11 column to keeper/dynasty leagues by allowing the fans of the keeper/dynasty format to explain what makes their approach so much more fun than the typical redrafter leagues that most casual FFers are familiar with.

The responses I received were overwhelmingly positive endorsements of keeper/dynasty models. Many readers of the column wrote in to let me know that the best thing that ever happened to their league was the switch from a complete redraft each season to a keeper/dynasty format. Significantly, not one person wrote in to express dissatisfaction with keeper/dynasty leagues.

Most of the responses were too brief to function as helpful sales pitches for the keeper/dynasty format, but many of the folks who wrote in took the task of advocacy quite seriously. The most coherent and compelling of these lengthy responses are featured below. If you are in a redrafter league, be warned! It may be difficult for you to read all of these responses in their entirety without beginning to wonder whether you should consider switching to a keeper/dynasty format in your own league.

Andy's response is a great place to start not just because it is so thorough, but because he is a proponent of the keeper format who also enjoys participating in redrafter leagues. His comparison of the two formats is therefore extremely balanced:

I love my keeper league better than all my other leagues, and so do most of the guys in my league. I also like redraft leagues to change it up, but for my money keeper leagues are better [for the following reasons]:

1. Team Identity
In redraft leagues, if you hit on Arian Foster last year you felt great, and he was your guy. But this year, unless you had a top pick, you weren't getting 'your boy' back. If you drafted Foster early enough in a dynasty league, he might be the face of your team for years. I drafted Randy Moss as a rookie, and he was on my team for his entire career. The owner of Peyton Manning in our league also has had him since his rookie year.

2. Teams always have something to play for
The worst thing that can happen to a league is when 5 or 6 teams don't seem to care about the last third of the season. Our dynasty league is like Major League Baseball because there are trades in the second half of the season that allow the crappy teams to get picks or young players for next year while the contenders get the studs to try to win it all this year.

3. The competitive balance is more realistic
I know a lot of people like things to be 'even' in fantasy football - not me. I like it when there are a bunch of really good teams and some really crappy ones. In a typical 12-team redraft with competent owners, most of the teams look very similar. Last week in my redraft league, I was 6-2 and played a team that was 2-6. Looking at the lineups, my team was better, but not by much. There's way too much parity in redraft leagues.

In dynasty leagues, it looks more like the real NFL does. You have some teams that have built up their team to be a powerhouse now and some that are playing for the future. And while a lot of the games seem competitive, there are some games where there is NO CHANCE that one of the teams could beat another. Consider the lineups for a matchup last week between two teams in our league:

Chicago: Rodgers, Foster, R. Rice, F Jax, Fitgerald, V Jax, Wallace
Minnesota: Orton, Donald Brown, Tawain Jones, B. Edwards, Hankerson, D. Henderson, Brandon Tate

This is an EXTREME example. Chicago is 11-1 and one of the best teams we've seen in our league in years, and Minnesota is 0-12 and is one of the worst ever. (Chicago won 87-13, where the league average score is around 45).

Now, Minnesota may look dreadful, but they traded Vincent Jackson to Chicago earlier and got Chicago's #1 pick next year, so they have multiple 1st round picks, including their own, which will be very high. They also picked up Jackie Battle, and traded him for another pick. So, even though Minnesota may be the worst fantasy football team ever assembled, they have a lot to look forward to next year.

4. Offseason activity
Our rules say that teams may only keep 5 players, and the total salary must be $20 or less. Because of this, there is a flurry of trading activity from June to August in order to get under the cap or to trade your assets for draft picks. Here's a typical type of trade in our offseason:

Drew Brees ($9) for C.J. Spiller ($2)

Of course, in most redraft leagues someone would get shot if the Brees/Spiller trade happened, but here it makes sense. The owner of Brees couldn't keep him under the cap (without dropping some other very good players), and the owner of Spiller had plenty of cap space, so the trade makes perfect sense in our league. No one would even bat an eye over this in our league, and these types of trades occur all the time in the offseason.

5. More valuable players in the draft
In redraft leagues this summer, guys like DeMarco Murray, Antonio Brown, and Denarius Moore were nothing but roster fillers if they even got drafted. They had very little draft value. But in keeper leagues, you have to weigh the potential for several years of production from these guys, which makes them valuable commodities on draft day. Adding extra value due to potential long-term keepers makes the draft much deeper.

(Note: Our rules say that all rookies have keeper status, while early-round veterans are one-year rentals. So the team with the #1 overall pick had this choice this year: Do you want to take AP or Foster for THIS YEAR ONLY, or do you want to take Ingram and potentially have the next AP for 6 plus years?).

I think that everyone should participate in at least one solid keeper league, but you have to be careful. When we started doing a keeper league (around 1996/1997), we voted on it one year and didn't even begin the process until the next year's draft. If you don't have everyone on board, there will be a few teams that take advantage right out of the gate and ruin it.

I like redraft leagues as well, and I don't try to make all my leagues keeper leagues--even though many of my guys want me to try to make the redraft I run like the keeper I run. The reason I ALSO like redraft leagues is that everyone is available to me anew each year.
Like Andy, Jim participates in both a dynasty league and a redrafter league, but he sees a great number of desirable features in dynasty leagues that can't be replicated in redrafters--particularly the importance that dynasty leagues place on understanding the contribution that newcomers to the NFL will make over the course of their careers as opposed to how they are likely to perform once they make it into the starting lineup and are on everybody's radar:
The reason I enjoy the dynasty league format (and I am still in a redraft league as well---and do value the fun and nuances of the different types) is the notion of "discovering" talent. How many times over the years have I picked a young player in a redrafter league because I felt he was going to explode--only to have picked him a year too early? I then have to watch as other owners draft him the next year and take the credit for the find. It's maddening. In the dynasty league, I get to watch my guys "grow" into the players I hoped they would be. It adds a dimension of not wanting to give up too early on a player, but also knowing when to cut bait.

For example, I had Tashard Choice on my team for 2 years. I kept waiting and waiting for him to get his chance and possibly have a "Michael Turner" moment when he gets released into the wild and is picked up by a team that will value him. He sat on my bench, being relatively unproductive for that time. This year, with Barber gone, I felt he would get a chance to be that guy. But at the beginning of the season with the Cowboys drafting Murray, it appeared as if Dallas might have soured on Choice, so I cut him for my next promising player. Time will tell if I made the right decision, and there will be consequences in my dynasty league. In a redrafter league, there isn't even much reason to remember what you thought about a player you drafted or cut two years ago.

In dynasty leagues, you face questions such as, "When is a good time to pick up Jake Locker? Should I have drafted him? Do I pick him up before the waiver deadline this year and have him eat up a roster spot?" These decisions add an element to strategy in dynasty leagues that doesn't exist in redrafters.

Best of all, the dynasty format allows me to follow a player over the course of his career without having to worry about him getting points with my enemies. I drafted Brady in the first round of the original draft and now get to go into each season knowing he's my guy. The balance of trying to win now and for the future makes the dynasty league an intriguing exercise.

I would never give up on my redraft league, I love it and have been doing it for over 20 years with the same group of friends, but joining a dynasty league in addition is just fantasy football heaven.

Not everyone has time to participate in a redrafter league as well as a keeper/dynasty league. If you can't do both, then you doubtless want to know which one is better. Some of the best responses that I received this week came from people who are convinced that the keeper/dynasty format is inherently superior to the redrafter format. Whether they use headings and subheadings, bullet points, or numbers to make their cases, they all reach the same conclusion about the limitations of redrafter leagues as compared to keeper/dynasty leagues. Michael sees continuity and commitment as the key factors that make keeper leagues better than their redrafter counterparts:

1. Continuity
The single biggest factor in a ‘keeper’ league being better is that there is a built-in continuity factor. Teams are built to go beyond one season, and there is more of a personal investment to commit to that team moving forward. In redraft leagues, it is more common for a few owners to rotate through the years. This will still happen some in a keeper league, but it tends to happen less , which is an absolutely huge factor for people who have friends around the country and use fantasy sports to help keep in touch with them.

2. Trust & Respect
With continuity, there comes a certain trust and respect for fellow owners. Most of us are friends when we join anyway, but, as with the beginnings of anything, there is a certain unknown quantity to how people will behave within the confines of the league. As a keeper league tends to have more continuity, it tends to have more trust and respect between owners.

3. Ownership of team
In a redraft league, an owner drafts a set of players that will be discarded at the end of the season regardless of how they perform. A keeper league adds the factor of keeping these players for multiple years. Consequently, that late-round rookie you drafted that is tearing up the league is even more special to you because you know you will have him on your team for seasons to come. One of the negatives of fantasy sports for me is that your rooting interests (outside of your own NFL team) fluctuate so wildly game-to-game and season-to-season. A keeper league allows you to have a few ‘favorite’ players in the NFL that remain constant.

4. Long-term investor
I would argue that redraft league owners are like day-traders in the stock market. They are looking for the current hot stock whose value will rise enough for them to make a quick profit and move on. Keeper league owners are long-term investors. Yes, they will look to buy low and sell high on the current trending markets, but the smart investors will also be valuing long term prospects and looking toward building their portfolio in the future. The balancing act towards trying to win a championship now, while also trying to compete for future championships adds a lot of different subplots into every draft pick, trade discussion and waiver wire acquisition. Subplots mean more to consider, which makes everything more interesting.

5. Openness to new ideas
One quick example: Most keeper leagues allow you to trade players whom the other owner will ‘keep’ for next season (for a draft pick). Trading draft picks is something most redrafter leagues do not allow. In keeper leagues, the complexity of trades can easily evolve to allow the open trading of draft picks (or even keeper picks for a draft pick). In a redraft league these types of discussions usually go nowhere. However, since owners in a keeper league are more invested in their league, I have seen more discussions and openness to ideas in them.
Mark has participated in both dynasty and redrafter leagues for almost two decades, and he does a fantastic job of highlighting the best points of each on his way to concluding that dynasty leagues are indeed more fun. His bullet points do an effective job of explaining exactly what he means by each heading, but readers who are feeling overwhelmed can get to the thrust of his argument by skipping to Mark's final paragraph.

Pros for Dynasty

  • You build your team much like a real owner does in the NFL.

    • You plan for the future in all transactions - draft, trades, waiver pickups

    • You take risks on rookies before they establish themselves in the league.

    • Strategy comes into play with not only your lineup but analyze risks and rewards of a player (e.g. I have C.J. Spiller and am making a strategic decision to stash him on my bench in the hopes he could actually become an elite player down the road although I'm starting to doubt that now).

    • Elite players usually stay on your roster their entire career, if you want.

    • Trades or the pre-draft annual 'releases' really require a lot of strategy.

  • The constant of the ownership

    • Camaraderie with owners that have been around year after year after year AND the fun of welcoming a new owner when someone 'sells' their team.

    • Rivalries. We have competitive 'trash talking' with owners that we have known for years. We learn what they like (do they always go after a Bears player, even if they are a borderline player) and that plays into your strategy for drafts, trades and waivers, sometimes even in their weekly lineup.

  • History

    • We keep a history of records and players from all the past years. We have our equivalent Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers style teams (perennial winners) and our share of Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers style teams (teams that are good and bad but struggle to win it all).

    • Looking back on the path different teams and their players took (e.g. I still have maybe the best trade ever in our dynasty league when I traded Rob Moore, WR, Cardinals, who was at the time a 1000-yard receiver for a young rookie named Terrell Davis, RB, Broncos).

  • Commitment and Interest

    • The NFL off season holds about as much intrigue for us as it does for any NFL fan. What happens to my players - traded, retirement, coaching changes, etc. Since I keep my roster, I follow those activities with a different focus on how it will affect my roster and my strategy for the next year on keeping or getting rid of a player.

    • I follow a team AND player's tendencies year in and year out more closely and stick with a player through a team or player's valleys in hopes that the team or player will rebound next year (e.g. Philip Rivers, Andre Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall)

  • Backups and IR

    • You can IR your player if they are IR'd and have them back next year!

    • You can stash a backup that you feel will start (starter is weak or injury prone) or is a future starter (see Aaron Rodgers)

Pros for Redrafter

  • Each year is a totally different experience in that you probably will end up with an entirely different team.

  • The 'elite' players are always available at the next year's draft. Good players are often available on the waiver wire.

  • The win now mindset allows for greater risk/reward attempts in transactions because you probably won't have that same player the next season. So, you play for the best intentions of your team that season only.

  • Your commitment is only for that year if you are a casual 'owner'.

There are many other items I could include, but the point is that if you are really a committed FF owner, then the dynasty leagues allow for your commitment, research, and strategy to have greater meaning and a more lasting impact.

Rob speaks for the many readers who wrote in to contend that redrafter leagues are a natural sort of introduction to fantasy football, but that serious participants will generally graduate to the next level (which is the keeper/dynasty format):

[The core appeal of fantasy football is] the idea that you are running your own football team.

Nothing in fantasy sports gets you closer to that idea than dynasty/keeper leagues.

Redraft leagues are introductory. Once you've learned the minutia of fantasy terminology, player information, team strengths/weaknesses, how to set a roster, and (most importantly) established a good league nucleus, you're ready to move on to bigger, better things.

If you can get the right people together, keeper/dynasty leagues elicit far more emotion, satisfaction, and, at times, nerve-wracking agitation. You become invested in the game during the off season (the NFL draft means so much more because of the implications it has on your farm team) and you're forced to make tough roster decisions (cutting people/signing contracts) based on your salary cap.

The auction (which my league holds the day before kickoff) is literally a circus. It is a ridiculous party filled with debauchery, taunting, and all the other things that make fantasy football so great.

I wasn't sold on it at first, but once I bit I was hooked. . . . I thought I knew about football until I started playing in this league. I've had to learn a lot and temper my team, both financially with a roster cap, and due to the limitations placed on player contracts in our league.

I am much more involved in the happenings of players (on and off season), constantly thinking about salary/personnel decisions and how they will affect the long term effectiveness of my team, and looking at players that aren't even in the NFL yet. Heck, one guy added Vick to his farm team while he was in jail. That paid off last year. I added Carson Palmer this year because he was on the Bengals' 53 man roster. Now I'm reaping the benefits. You have to establish your team over a couple of season, not unlike a real NFL team. You make low bids on sleeper players and who knows, sometimes you end up with someone like Michael Turner or Drew Brees and turn them into your franchise players.

What makes it so addictive and exhilarating is the fact that you've spent so much time and effort in building it. Instead of building a sand castle and watching the ocean carry it away, you've actually put together something that, hopefully, holds itself together as time goes on--not unlike a real NFL team. You're entrenched in it even when your season is crap. I'm losing in my league this year (Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, DeSean Jackson, LeGarrette Blount, Antonio Gates, let's see who else is injured.. haha), but I'm still having a blast and meticulously planning for next season in the process.

In the end, it boils down to just how involved you want to be with fantasy football. If you want the ultimate experience, you have to invest more time, learn more about the game and the prospects, and have a decent group of people with the same intent. You also have to have a stone cold tablet of fantasy commandments to keep it all together and a league manager with balls of steel. It's not for everyone, but now that I've tried it, death is the only thing that will stop me from playing.

Last week I introduced readers to the word redraftercentrism. I guess the new word I would like to use this week is dy-curious (for people who participate in redrafter leagues but are curious about moving to a keeper/dynasty format). I believe that at least one of the responses featured above should speak powerfully to any dy-curious readers who make their way to this column. And I want to apologize to all of the readers who took the time to send in responses that I did not have the space to include (though I believe that all the most important points that various readers wished to convey are covered in one way or another).

This Week's Question: What Is the Best Sales Pitch You Can Make for Auctions (or any Draft Format Other than the Traditional Serpentine Draft)?

This week's question from Damian was obviously inspired by last week's column:
As someone who has only ever participated in leagues with a draft, I'd also like to know why people in auction leagues think they're more fun. I've read columns by a few writers who participate in auction leagues, and they all claim auction leagues are more enjoyable than draft leagues without actually saying why. I don't know anyone in real life who has ever participated in an auction league, and I've only ever played in standard redraft leagues myself.
Damian obviously doesn't realize how tired the readers of this column are from having typed out their responses to last week's question, but I look forward to hearing from anyone who is willing to explain why leagues that move from a serpentine draft to an auction rarely go back.

Last Man Standing - Week 11 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

For this week's trap game insights, consider the reluctance with which Matthew makes his top pick.

#3: Detroit over Carolina (7-3, PIT, SD, GB, BUF, HOU, CIN, NO, CAR, NE, DAL):

Carolina is a good football team that can move the ball up and down the field (sometimes at will). Surprisingly, a Carolina defense that was expected to be below average (at best), is right in the middle of the pack at 20th overall. But this Panthers team hasn’t played against MegaTron and company. While Jahvid Best will be out another week (maybe more), the Lions have brought back Kevin Smith, a player that was with them for four years prior to his departure last year. While every team goes through injuries throughout the season, imagine how good this team could have been without them.

#2: New England over Kansas City (7-3, SD, AZ, DET, GB, NYG, PIT, JAX, NO, DAL, MIA):

New England is back baby. Well, maybe not all the way, but a big win against the rival Jets goes a long way. And now that the Pats have found their second wind, who is their unlucky opponent? The Chiefs. Matt Cassell is out this week, and maybe for the rest of the season. Before Cassell's injury, the Kansas City offense was only averaging 306 yards per game. So even though the Patriot defense is still ranked last in terms of total yards allowed, don’t expect any miracles from the 28th-ranked, Cassell-less Chiefs offense. Maybe the release of some dead weight in Beantown was exactly what Coach Belichick needed to jump start this team.

#1: San Francisco over Arizona (7-3 SD, PIT, TN, PHL, CIN, GB, DAL, NYG, OAK, BAL):

All my bells are going off telling me that this is a “trap” game. Coming off a big win against the New York Giants, the 49ers can almost taste the easy 2nd seed in the NFC. So here come the Cardinals and their 3-6 record. Should San Francisco rest Frank Gore? Does Kendall Hunter get a chance to shine against a weaker opponent? Do the 49ers defenders overlook what Beanie Wells is capable of doing and let him have a “big day”? Most likely Harbaugh rests Gore, but Hunter should be able to step right in without missing a beat. And the defense doesn’t take a down off (like it used to in the past). So the chances of a letdown are slim, but still there.

For responses to this month's fantasy question please email me.