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Setting Your League Apart

By Mike Davis | 12/17/20 |

Last week’s question: Can the cost of a keeper go down?

Saquon Barkley

My column for Week 14 featured a question from a reader named Michael, who wonders whether the cost of a keeper can ever go down. The price of players in his league has traditionally 1) been lower than ESPN’s auction cost despite 2) increasing by 10% over the previous year’s auction price in that league.

Michael anticipates that Saquon Barkley’s auction ESPN auction price in 2021 will be lower than it was in 2020, so he poses a reasonable question: Should the Barkley owner be able to keep the RB at a discount, or should he still be expected to pay the 10% premium (even though that would likely result in Barkley being the only player in the league whose keeper price is greater than the ESPN auction value)?

Much as I liked the question, I didn’t collect much feedback that engaged the nuance of Michael’s problem. Bart’s take was typical:

Rules are rules. If your auction league increases the price of keepers by 10%, then the Barkley owner can either pay 10% more [in 2021 than he paid in 2020] to keep him or designate a different player as a keeper. There’s no way he would get a special discount in my league just because some website hung a lower price tag on him.

I didn’t hear from anyone who advocated a discount for the Barkley owner, but I still enjoyed the thoughtful case that Michael made for tweaking his league’s system. I also enjoyed hearing from Mark about the rules his league has implemented on keepers to add excitement to the final 6 rounds of his draft while capping the duration on keepers in such a way as to prevent one freakishly lucky pick in the 18th round from determining a team’s destiny for the next decade.

What we do on keepers and have for several years is that the 12th round is the first round that you can draft a keeper (we have 18 rounds in the draft). Round 12 becomes fun as managers take shots at rookies or injured players. The owner with the last pick in the draft gets the first pick in the 12th round, so there’s a small reward for having the last pick in the first round. The rules are you need to keep the player on your roster the whole year; if you drop or trade them you can't retain them in future years.

We also decided that you can only have a keeper on your roster for 3 years (meaning you can only retain keepers for 2 years beyond the year in which you drafted them). We call it the Kurt Warner rule as someone in our league was a big UNI fan and drafted Kurt in the 18th round and then had him for 5 years. Each year you can retain up to 3 players but they move up 2 spots in draft order. So if you drafted X in the 14th round this year, you could get X in the 12th round next year and 10th round the year after.

One other rule is that once they hit the 10th or 11th round, that is the last year you can keep them. So for example Kyler Murray was the first 12th round pick last year, and the owner kept him in the 10th round this year and next year Kyler goes back into the regular draft pool.

Other examples of 12th round picks this year were Tua, Justin Jefferson, Debo Samuel, Damien Harris, & Jerry Jeudy. I took a shot on Darrell Henderson in the 17th round this year, so I have to decide next fall if I keep him in the 15th round or let him go back in the draft pool. You can keep 0-3 players each year.

I wish Michael the best of luck with his keeper Sa-quandary, and my thanks go out to everyone who wrote in--especially Mark (since his detailed take on his league’s approach to keepers leads us neatly to Jeremy’s question below).

This Week’s Question: What rule sets your league apart?

Jeremy has some interesting ideas that might be worth exploring to make his league unique, but he’s eager to hear from other readers who have implemented unorthodox rules successfully.

He’s currently considering a “Hindsight is 20/20” change to his league that would permit owners to retroactively adjust their lineups if a bench player outscores a starter (but only once per season):

Each team has the option once per year to switch out a starter for a bench player. Decision has to be made by Tues at noon and submitted to the commish. At noon commish will reveal which teams used their hindsight option. After that scores will be updated accordingly. Commish and weekly opponent would send their decision to a third party.

Although I find this proposal fascinating, I’m not sure what to make of it. I can imagine weird forms of collusion coming up that would involve teams using their mulligans not when it would be in their own best interest, but in order to impact the playoff picture for friends.

But then again, the pressure to use these mulligans early in the season--when everyone is still jockeying for a playoff spot--could realistically be high enough to prevent such incidents from occurring. In other words, I would have to try this for myself and see how it works out to have a real sense of whether it’s a great idea or an eternal headache. If anyone out there has tried anything like this, I’m sure Jeremy would like to hear about your experience as much as I would.

Jeremy is also considering a “holdout rule”:

This is for keepers only. In the week after keepers are confirmed and before the draft, all owners that opt in will have their keeper(s) name written in a piece of paper and put into a hat. If your keeper is drawn, he is considered a holdout. The keeper will be ineligible to play the first three weeks (weeks 1-3 regardless of injuries or anything else) unless the owner agrees to renegotiate their contract. For the player to become eligible, the owner agrees to make the keeper price $10 more which will be taken from the next year’s draft cash. If your keeper is not drawn, you get all your keeper fees draft cash returned to you (just the added keeper fee, not the player value fee).
Whether you like this idea or not, I hope you’ll give Jeremy points for creativity. Even though a random drawing is obviously based on luck rather than skill, it adds an element of uncertainty and gamesmanship that is likely to appeal to a lot of fantasy enthusiasts.

If you have any “outside the box” rules such as the ones that Jeremy is considering, please share them with me in the comment section below or via email. And even if you don’t have any ideas, please let me know why you think Jeremy’s proposals would or wouldn’t work in your league.

Survivor Pool Pick (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

[Editor’s note: Those of you with experience in survivor pools already know how hard it is to get these picks right week after week. The fact that Schiff has only missed one pick in his top slot 15 weeks into the season is a testament to the general soundness of his approach and one more reason I’m delighted to have featured his analysis in this space for many years.]

#3: Tennessee over Detroit: 8-6 (Bal, KC, az, sf, LAR, min, was, PHL, PIT, GB, mia, NYG, LV, no)

Is there a better running back in the NFL than Derrick Henry? He leads all backs this year in rushing and gives Tennessee such an edge at that position that they arguably have the most fearsome foursome of skill players (including Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, and Jonnu Smith) at the disposal of any QB. The Titans lead the AFC South and should cement a playoff spot this week when the Lions visit (most likely without Matthew Stafford under center). Combine that with Kenny Golladay not being available and a Detroit defense that has been giving up more than 25 points per game, and you can pencil this in as your lock of the week.

#2: LA Rams over NY Jets : 9-4 (ind, AZ, TB, BAL, sf, MIA, LAC, KC, NE, CLE, min, sf, sea, GB)

This late in the season, it makes an awful lot of sense to pick any team that is playing one of the three or four worst teams in the NFL. Why? Because those teams are competing for the number one draft pick in the following draft. This year, the Jets are 0-12 with a high likelihood of getting Trevor Lawrence as the #1 pick in April’s draft. Do you need any other reason to choose the Rams? Well, if that wasn’t good enough, the Rams’ defense dismantled the New England Patriots--and should easily do the same to Gang Green. This is the chance for the Rams to take control of the NFC West--especially with their rival Seahawks facing a Washington team that has a chance to win its own division (the NFC East) by upsetting Seattle. Look for the Rams’ Aaron Donald to sack Sam Darnold at least twice in this event, with a possible pick-six thrown in for good measure.

#1: Pittsburgh over Cincinnati: 13-1 (KC, GB, IND, LAR, BAL, ne, BUF, TB, HOU, LV, LAC, CLE, MIN, SEA)

The Steelers have lost two straight, and the warning bells are going off. But if you need a team to help you “get healthy,” the Bengals without Joe Burrow is a formula to fix what ails you. While the Bengals are far from a “guaranteed win,” these teams are definitely at different levels. I don’t believe that the visiting team covers the spread, but they should have more than enough to stay in the hunt for home field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can be found here.