Contributed By: Dan Duff
Fantasy leagues that maintain some year-to-year continuity by allowing fantasy team owners to protect some of their players have a wide range of styles. These leagues tend to come in one of two formats-keeper, which allows a small group of players to remain (typically, one to three players each season) and dynasty, which allows a majority of the players to remain each year. A closer look at the pros and cons of each system can help you determine which style suits you best.
A small (1-2) keeper league will not vary greatly in style from a typical redraft. The main effect will be to remove the top 10-20 players from the draft list, but all other roster-building decisions will essentially remain the same. (For a good look at the differences, check out FF301, Keeper vs. Redraft). A true Dynasty league on the other hand will require a vastly different approach to team building.
Before we go further, a word of warning-if you are considering converting to a Dynasty, it may be best to start without any carryover of rosters from your current league. Since youth becomes a key component in talent evaluation and player value, players will rightly protest that their choices would have been quite different had they known of the new system. Even converting from a one or two-player keeper can bring these complaints, so tread carefully.
In a true Dynasty, you will normally have a roster of around 20-25 players (this number can go up into the 30’s in a Dynasty that uses individual defensive players). Each year, prior to the draft, you will cut a handful of them. Again, the number will vary by league, but six is a common choice. You will replace these six in your draft by new talent.
As I noted above, youth plays a huge role in Dynasty play. Older stud quarterbacks who still have a year or two of starting in their future are typically top-10 material in a redraft or keeper league. That same type of player drops to the second tier in a Dynasty. The young arms may not outplay the future Hall-of-Famer in year one, but drafters are anticipating their continuing to play for a decade or so after the old warrior hangs them up.
This difference in value is more pronounced at running back, due to the relatively short careers of primary ball carriers. A first or second year player who is expected to start will always go before the old warhorse strapping in for one last round. Even though the older player is more predictable (and therefore the safer choice in a redraft or small keeper), you will need to replace him in the near term. The shortage of available RB talent will make this a difficult task.
In a keeper league, you roster size will be significantly smaller, more on the lines of a typical redraft. You can expect 15-17 slots in a team defense format, and 20-22 in a league that uses individual defensive players. While young players will have a bit more value, in general only the best rookie RBs will rate higher than in a redraft. If you play IDP, there is usually no reason to consider keeping defenders unless you keep a half-dozen or more players each season. The top few linebackers are an exception, but beyond that, there is greater value in the offensive players. In a Dynasty IDP, you will be holding on to linemen and d-backs each year.
If you establish a Dynasty league, be ready for a different approach to trading and drafting each year. First, as with keeper leagues, trades need to be evaluated in the context of the effect on the following year’s potential as well as current potential. Trading future picks and potential away for immediate help is a staple of both keeper and dynasty leagues, although there is much more opportunity to make these types of trades in a Dynasty. Be certain that your Commissioner, and all of your fellow players, are well aware of the different sorts of trades that till occur. In a redraft, a trade that moves the season’s best QB for a second tier QB and a rookie WR would get the traders accused of colluding. In a Dynasty league, that same trade is not likely to draw a comment.
Your yearly drafting will also present a different sort of challenge. In most redrafts, the first five picks are the top RBs from the prior season. In keeper, the first five will typically be the best veteran WRs and QBs on the board, with a rookie RB sometimes sneaking into the mix. In a Dynasty, the first five picks will all be rookies, and will be a mix of all RB, QB, and WR. This highlights the biggest challenge in Dynasty team building, being able to project the NFL potential of the top collegiate stars. Guess right, and you will have the next Peyton Manning on your team for a decade or two. Guess wrong, and you will be dumping the next Ryan Leaf into your free agent pool, and spending another top pick on a QB.
This “problem” is also the greatest advantage to a Dynasty league over a Keeper league. The ability to focus on potential adds an element to fantasy football that you cannot duplicate in any other system. In a Dynasty, young QBs and WRs that would be waiver wire fodder anywhere else become prized possessions. Because of this, most dynasty owners will stay active in their hobby year-round. College bowl games and combine results become a major research tool.
Along with this advantage comes a great problem, however. If an owner is truly horrible at this type of play, you could end up with a true George Allen team-devoid of future draft picks, and stuck with an aging roster of has-beens and marginal young players. If that owner gives up, how will you be able to find someone willing to take on years of losing efforts as they rebuild the squad? Make sure you have a committed group of Fantasy owners who are willing to stick out the lean times, and have a good concept of how to play in a Dynasty. Partnering can help also. If one of the owners begins to lose interest, bringing in a partner can ease the transition (if it occurs), and lighten the workload if it does not. This also will give your league a potential new owner if another suddenly has to resign.
In summary, Keeper leagues will typically run like redrafts in the annual draft, and will have some modified trading parameters. The top offensive players are usually the only ones kept. They offer the ability to retain the services of your beset choices, while still allowing the opportunity to turn over most of your roster in the annual draft. Dynasty leagues are a completely different animal, in need of a different mindset as to player value. They require greater commitment on the part of the owners; can be active year-round; and will require much deeper knowledge of the college stars. Players’ at all offensive positions (and defensive positions in an IDP) will be on your roster year-to-year. Mistakes in evaluation are much tougher to correct, as most of your roster will stay the same. There should be much more trading activity around your deadline, and certainly more off-season deals. Finally, both systems offer continuity from season to season, and can help maintain a sense of ownership in your league.