Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jeremy’s Spoken: Mid-Season Strategy: Keeper Leagues

We’re back after missing last week’s Jeremy’s Spoken column and ready to roll for week 10. Today we’ll pick up where we left off and discuss mid-season strategies for keeper leagues.

As is the case with redraft leagues, you’ll want to begin by evaluating where you stand. Standings are, of course, the primary means to assess your potential for the rest of the season, but they do not always tell the whole story. See last week’s article ( for a review of how to assess where your team stands. That process will be the same in redraft and keeper leagues. The goal is to decide if you’re going to play for next year or try to win it all.

Playing for Next Year

You’ve decided that you have the worst team ever assembled in fantasy football history so it’s time to deal for next year. The first step is to rank your keepers. If you’re limited (I can only keep 5 each year in one of my leagues), your goal is to try and upgrade as much as possible. Start with #5, your worst keeper. Deal anyone and everyone that you need to to try and get better. If you have anyone else left over with any type of value, trade for draft picks if you are allowed to.

Some people argue that lower-level draft picks are worthless and aren’t willing to deal any players for picks lower than a certain round. That’s garbage. Every pick is valuable. Just think about the good players that have been picked up since the start of the season that were never drafted.

The bottom line is that you should be very active until your league’s trading deadline passes, especially if you have a limit to the number of keepers. If you are allowed 5 keepers, for example, you will ideally end up with 5 studs and waiver wire trash for the rest of the year, plus a handful of picks. That is your goal.

Going for the Gold

This is the position you want to be in each year. You are either at the top of the standings or in the middle of the race with a promising team for the next 8 weeks. Depending on how confident you are, you should be assuming different levels of risk

Lowering Your Risk

My friend Adam is 9-0 and has Tom Brady on his team, along with strong wide receivers and tight ends. His goal, therefore, is to prepare for the playoffs. He is trying to work trade avenues and the waiver wire to try and protect himself from injuries during the playoffs. He is also trying to ensure that each position on his team has great matchups during the playoffs.

This latter strategy works especially well for defenses which can usually be acquired on the cheap. For example, I have the Patriots defense in one league. A sure fire start each week, right? Perhaps. But they face the Steelers in week 1 of my playoffs and I like having options. I can either hang onto the surprising Chiefs DST (who play the Broncos in week 14) or pick up the Bills improving DST (who play the Dolphins).

Increasing Your Risk

Suppose you are right in the thick of the playoff race, perhaps even fighting for a spot. You think that if you were to get in, you’d have a decent shot. You should be taking on more risk, trying to trade for players with high upside for the final weeks. Selvin Young, Priest Holmes / Kolby Smith, and Javon Walker at WR are players that come to mind as examples of high risk but high upside players for the final weeks of the season.

The more confident you are in your chances of winning, the more you should be trading away your keepers in deals that can help you now. In one league, I am on the playoff bubble so I am unwilling to mortgage my future. However, needing a QB, I traded a 6th round pick (with 5 keepers it’s equivalent to an 11th round pick) for Kurt Warner. I picked up a QB with great receivers and a very favorable schedule for very little. If I were more confident in my chances, I would have been shopping my stud keeper, Michael Turner, instead.

Deal from a Strength

Similar to our advice from the last article, you want to deal from your strengths. However, in keeper leagues, your strength may be different than in redraft leagues. If you have players that are worth little now but have keeper potential you should be looking to deal these for help now (again, depending on your confidence level). And of course, if there are quality players that you don’t plan to start during the playoffs, you should be looking to deal these for help at weaker positions.

Examine the Schedule

Also similar to our advice from last time, examine the schedule. The NFL schedule during the fantasy playoffs can play a huge role in the outcome of your season. Trade for players with favorable schedules and deal those with unfavorable matchups. Strength of schedule is usually a very underutilized piece of information in evaluating future performance.

The bottom line is to be active working both the waiver wire and all trade possibilities. Leave no stone unturned—every pick and every player has value. If there are players that won’t help you this year, try to transfer that value to the future in the form of better keepers or draft pick.

Next time we’ll take a look at good and bad trading strategies to help in your final push.

Jeremy Mittler, M.B.A., is a Strategy and Statistical Expert at His column, Jeremy's Spoken, appears on Thursdays at SportsJudge Blog.

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