Building and managing a fantasy football keeper team

by Rafael Zamorano on May 1, 2013 @ 11:26:35 PDT


You've played a few seasons in single-year leagues and, after reading KFFL's guide, "How to Play Fantasy Football," along with the article "What Is a Keeper League and Why Play?" you feel you're ready to take it up a notch and play in a keeper league. You might think that success in regular fantasy leagues should automatically translate into success in keeper leagues, but that is not necessarily the case.

However, you shouldn't worry since we here at KFFL will help you learn the intricate details of managing a team in a keeper league and also help you avoid the most common pitfalls for newcomers to the next level of fantasy football.


Your draft strategy for keeper leagues, especially full-retention versions, should integrate at least three new factors that are not necessarily accounted for in single-year leagues.

First of all, you should consider the overall age of your team. Keeping in mind that you will commit at least part of your roster for future seasons, you don't want to be stuck in a position where you could lose several key players in one offseason due to player retirements, persistent injuries or a rapid decline in production.

Second, you should consider monitoring the development of certain players that might currently be second- or third-stringers on their team's depth chart but are being groomed to eventually take over a starting job in place of an aging veteran or a future free agent. This way you should have the inside track the moment that player gets promoted to the first team.

Thirdly, you should be mindful of the coaching carrousel. Like a player, a new coaching staff might take a couple of years to really implement his plan and hit on all cylinders. However, once players grasp the new system, they should start posting better fantasy numbers than what they had been outputting before. A lot depends on how complicated the team's scheme is. Know what type of offense they favor, and then research to see if the starters at key positions fit that specific kind of offense. Are they players worth adding to your team, with an eye to the future?

Trades and free agents

Similar to what was explained regarding drafting, assessing trades and waiver-wire pickups in keeper leagues cannot follow the same exact logic as in single-year leagues.

Besides considering youth, the developing players and the coaching changes, you should also be mindful of avoiding the "one-year wonder." This means you should not mortgage your team's future by trading away or releasing a solid player in order to obtain another one who seemingly came out of nowhere to post up big numbers. This kind of mistake could really set your team back a couple of seasons in your league. Research can help you there.

On the other hand, you should always keep a close eye on these "surprise" performers because, when the conditions are right, they can duplicate or even surpass what they accomplished during their breakthrough seasons.


One of the most important decisions you will face when playing in a keeper league will be how to deal when one of your players suffers a season-ending injury. If the player is either a fantasy stud or a borderline contributor, the decision will be an easy one. In the first case, in most instances, you will likely keep him. The severity of the injury and the prognosis for recovery will play a factor, though. In the second case, if you don't have an injured reserve available, you would be more inclined to release him and pick up another player.

The hard part is assessing what to do when said player is an in-between value instead. In such a scenario, be mindful of the fact that you are not playing just for the current season but for future seasons as well. Consider the player's age, health record, future with his team, free agency status and any other relevant factors. All of this information, just like it does for your other players, should help you make a better decision. Injuries are a delicate matter, though, especially in full-retention keeper leagues.

Get to know your opponents

The fact that a keeper league is designed to be played over a number of years should make it easier for you to identify other owners' philosophies and tendencies. Get to know who's more inclined to pull the trigger on trades, which kind of players they like to deal for, who's a bigger risk-taker on draft day and who favors which positions when deciding which players to keep for next year. All of this information should help you make better decisions when managing your own team.

Final tips and conclusion

There are some other things you should consider in order to be successful in keeper leagues, such as: (1) Know the specific rules of your league (for example, some leagues don't allow more than one player per position carried over to the next season, while others do not impose such restrictions); (2) Do your research (much more is required in keeper leagues - stay informed on player projections, updates, injuries, trades, etc.); and, finally, (3) Develop a strategy for notonly on draft day but also when assessing which players will be carried for next season.

Popular misconception might lead you to believe that a keeper league is just a chain of regular single-season tournaments that restart every year, but this is wrong. Especially in deep leagues with full carryover, achieving solid continuity on your team is paramount to pursuing success. Of course, the main goal is to win every year, but in the end, it's about who wins more over an extended period of time.

Keeper leagues can be highly addictive; once you really understand the nuances and finer points, they are truly more fun than single-year leagues. Here at KFFL, you can be sure that we will provide you with all of the necessary tools to be successful in keeper leagues as well as any other type of fantasy league in order to fully maximize your fantasy football playing experience.

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About Rafael Zamorano

Rafael Zamorano is an NFL columnist and editor at for Latin America. He has been a contributor at KFFL since 2006.

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