Last Week's Question: What Makes Keeper/Dynasty
Leagues So Much Fun?
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]:
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
Pros for Dynasty
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):
- 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
- 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.
- 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,
- 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
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
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.
[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
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
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
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
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
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.
of Matthew Schiff)
For this week's trap game insights, consider the reluctance with
which Matthew makes his top pick.
Detroit over Carolina (7-3, PIT, SD, GB, BUF, HOU, CIN, NO, CAR,
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):
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