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Offseason Strategies for Keeper Leagues
from Brandon Wilson

Making Deals to Maximize Your Keepers

In a keeper league, getting your team in shape during the offseason is just as important in keeper leagues as it is in the major leagues. The way to get a keeper league team in shape is to have the best keepers possible going into the draft. For some teams, cutting the roster down to the draft day limits will be a challenge. For other teams, keeping as many good players as allowed by the rules will be a challenge. No matter which situation you are in, there are things you should be doing during the offseason to make those decisions easy and maximize the value of your keeper list.

Every league is a little bit different, but deciding whether a player is keeper worthy involves basically the same process in any league. In order to make that determination, compare whether that player would be worth more than what you can get on draft day (whether it is a draft pick or auction budget).

While that decision is often somewhat subjective, the point is you need to know (before it is time to make your cuts) how many keepers you have and the relative quality of those keepers.

Too Many Keepers?

After reviewing your team, if it becomes obvious you have more players of keeper quality than your league rules allow you to carry into the new season, do not worry. This is good news. It means your team has quality players. It does, however, mean that there is work to be done. You are not just going to cut those keepers, are you? Maybe some of those players are marginal keepers at best, but someone else in your league probably needs to fill out the bottom of their keeper list with better players. Take advantage of that knowledge, and use trade opportunities to improve your team.

In auction leagues, rank your players based on their profit. The first thing to do once you have determined that you have more keepers than you can carry forward is rank them. If you are in a budget or auction league, compare their salary against their projected "profit". In making this calculation, it is important to factor expected draft day inflation into the projected value since that is what you would have to pay to get them back if released. Without going into too much detail here, inflation is created by players being kept below the salary at which they would have been drafted. Next, rank the players not on their projected value, but rather based on the difference between their projected value and their salary. In other words, if you have a player whose projected value is $30 and his salary is $20, he is worth less to you on draft day (and should be ranked lower) than a player whose projected value is $20 and his salary is $4. Ranking players by their “profit” is the best way to determine which ones are the most valuable to you headed in the auction draft.

In straight draft leagues, rank your players based on the order you would draft them. In a straight draft league, the decision is slightly different. First, make sure you understand your league’s rules. In order to determine the best keepers you will need to know where your compensatory draft picks will come if you do not keep the maximum and what players will be available in those spots. In most leagues, this is easy since the picks come at the end and, as a result, virtually every team keeps the maximum number of players. Next, rank your own players in the order in which you would select them (comparing that ranking to which round they might be taken in a new draft). Next, try to determine which players all the other teams in your league will keep. Whereas in salary leagues your keeper evaluation is internally focused (“profit” driven), in straight draft leagues it will be based on which players the other teams have in comparison. The ultimate goal of this exercise is to determine which teams will be interested in the players that do not make your cut list.

Make your moves. Whichever kind of league you are in, once you have done your rankings, it is time to make moves. Remember, you have more players than you can keep so the goal is to trade two or more players for one better keeper if possible. This helps you because you cannot keep all the players that have keeper value, but you can “monetize” that talent by upgrading the bottom part or total value of your keeper list. This trade can help your trading partner because it also allows him to upgrade the total value of his keeper list (see illustration at the end of this article). Making offseason trades in keeper leagues is also your best opportunity to make a win-win trade. With only a few exceptions, trades made during the season are zero sum trades (one team wins, the other loses), but offseason trades can benefit both teams.