Fantasy Advice

Same Game, Different Rules: Keeper Leagues

By June 9, 2015No Comments

Welcome, welcome to part two of my series, “Same Game, Different Rules,” where we go through types of fantasy football leagues that you may be unfamiliar with and how to succeed in them. If you missed part one, where we talked about PPR, PPC and 2QB leagues, you can find it here. Today, we’re going to go through keeper leagues. Personally, I’m not a fan of them. I enjoy both regular re-draft and dynasty leagues (which we’ll talk about next week) more than keeper leagues, so I tend to stick to those formats. However, I know plenty of people who play in and love keeper leagues, so they’re certainly worth going over. Let’s get to it!

What’s the Difference?

Keeper leagues allow you to keep a certain number of players on your team from one year to the next. The number of players kept varies widely from league to league but, from what I’ve seen, usually rests somewhere in between one and eight. In order to maintain parity, keeper leagues generally have specific sets of rules regarding player costs. Let’s go through some of the more common ones.

There’s No Rules!!!!!

The least complicated way to run a keeper league is this: set the number of players each team can keep. That’s it. The players kept are excluded from the draft pool, and and the draft is run like a normal draft with fewer rounds. I don’t really recommend this, but hey, who am I to tell you what to do?

Player Cost Rules

The most common keeper format involves forgoing draft picks for keepers based on where they were drafted the previous year. For example, say you took Jordy Nelson in the second round and you want to keep him. In order to do that, you’d have to give up your first round draft pick. However, if you took Odell Beckham Jr. in the 15th round, you’d have to give up your 14th round pick. Get the idea? Some leagues will make you give up a pick two or three rounds higher than last years value. It all depends. Generally, waiver wire pickups who you’d like to keep are treated as last round draft picks. Leagues vary on rules regarding first-round picks as well. Some leagues will not let you keep first rounders. Others will make you give up more capital, such as two of your keeper spots or another draft pick. Some will just make you give up a first-round pick, which makes keeping those first-rounders more valuable.

It’s common for keeper leagues to have restrictions on how long you can keep a player (three years, five years, whatever floats your boat really). This creates parity and prevents one owner from keeping a dominant player for their whole career. Certain leagues (generally those in which you lose draft picks to keep players) may not require you to use all your keeper spots as well. If you think you can do better by just drafting, it may not make sense to use every single keeper spot available to you. When I do play in keeper leagues, I prefer this kind of format, as it makes strategy more complicated and, therefore, more interesting.

How to Succeed

There’s no one formula to success in keeper leagues, as strategy varies highly based on individual rules and the number of keepers allowed. However, effectively working the waiver wire can give you a major edge. If you worked the waiver wire well this past year, you could be keeping Justin Forsett, Odell Beckham Jr. and C.J. Anderson, which would require you to give up your last three draft picks. That’s a huge advantage over your league-mate who is losing hisfirst three picks to keep Demaryius Thomas, Aaron Rodgers, and Julius Thomas. Keeper leagues also require you be ahead of the curve when it comes to aging, regression, and changing situations. Keeping an aging running back who has played well for you is not always smart, particularly if you’re letting younger players go. Keeping free agents or players on new teams is also risky. Players’ skill sets do not always translate to other schemes or situations. You need to closely monitor where your players end up.

Similar to most leagues, sustained success in keeper leagues comes down to understanding your league rules and having a good grasp of player value. If you keep these two things in mind, you’ll be in good shape.


That will just about do it for keeper leagues. As I said above, they’re not my favorite, but I understand if you like them. Next week, I’ll be back to talk about dynasty leagues, which are basically keeper leagues in which you keep everyone. I’ll have much more to say about them because I love playing in them. If you’ve got any questions about keeper leagues, want to tell me I’m stupid, or just want to talk fantasy football in general, hit me up on twitter @nwalshington. Until next week!

Nick Walsh