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Ultimate Keeper League – Take the Ultimate Step

Ultimate Keeper League

So, you read the ‘Ultimate Draft’ article (posted July 8) and you like the concept of controlling your own draft destiny. Now, you want to step things up a few notches and make your league even more exciting. How about trades year round, salary caps and injured reserve? If you are in a league with the same group of owners year after year and you want to spice things up a little, consider extra Serrano peppers in your guacamole dip. If you want to spice things up a lot, consider an Ultimate Keeper League (UKL).

Before I get into the details of the UKL, let’s first take a look at both dynasty leagues and keeper leagues.

First of all, for those that don’t know, a dynasty league involves an initial draft during the inaugural season and the players remain on the same team from year to year unless they are traded or released. Each subsequent season, only a rookie draft is held to supplement your roster. This is great for consistency from season to season, but a rookie draft takes virtually no time and you miss out on the excitement of the annual draft each year. It also takes a longer time, maybe even years, to recover from a bad initial draft or from serious injuries or jail sentences that involve one or more of your star players.

Now, let’s look at a traditional keeper league. A keeper league is kind of a combination between a standard annual draft league and a dynasty league. Owners hold an annual draft each year, but they are able to hold over a select number of players from their previous season’s roster to their new roster. The good part is that you still have the enjoyment of the annual draft with your friends and you do get to keep some sense of continuity for your team from year to year. There is also enough turnover in each roster from year to year to allow you to recover from a previously bad season. The bad thing is that your favorite player such as Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson may be locked up and unavailable for many, many years. That is unless you can work out a trade with that owner who only trades with you if you’ll give him three studs and an option on your first born son in return.

Now let’s talk about the Ultimate Keeper League. First, the format, and then we’ll talk about the advantages and disadvantages.

The Annual Draft

The draft combines an auction style draft for the first eight rounds and a serpentine draft for the final eight rounds.

-The auction will have a limit of $150 dollars and will last eight rounds. Auction order (player nomination by owners) will be determined by draw of the cards. Minimum bid in the auction is $3, with $1 increments after that. The auction will continue until each owner has eight players on his roster. Remember, you have to have enough money remaining after each player selected, to be able to make at least a $3 bid on each of the players you still have to obtain during the auction. (i.e. the highest you could bid on the first player is $129 in order to have $21 left over to bid the minimum $3 on the remaining seven auction players you need).

-The final eight rounds consist of a standard serpentine draft. The order of the serpentine draft will be determined by money left over from the auction with a draw of the cards to break ties. (i.e. most money left over from auction, first pick in Round 9)

-Draft picks/positions and auction dollars cannot be traded.

Player Values

At the conclusion of the draft, each player will be assigned a value of:

1 Purchase value from the auction ($3 min.)

2 $2 if selected in Rounds 9-12

3 $1 if selected in Rounds 13-16 (or undrafted waiver pickups during the season)

At the end of each NFL season, the value of each player will increase by the following amounts:

1 +$2 if 1-8 games played during regular season

2 +$4 if nine or more games were played during the regular season

A list of adjusted player values, on Week 17 rosters, will be provided by the commissioner at the conclusion of the season.

Subsequent Drafts

Owners can freeze up to eight players on their roster if their adjusted player values can remain under the $150 cap for the auction. (i.e. freeze five players totaling $141 and have $9 left to select three more players at the $3 minimum).

An undisclosed sealed list of frozen players (keepers) will be submitted to the commissioner by each owner on draft day. The commissioner will open the sealed list from each owner and reveal the player’s names at the start of the draft auction and all frozen players (max. eight players) will remain on the owner’s roster with their dollar amount (determined at the end of the previous season) subtracted from the owner’s $150 auction allowance. Any player, not frozen by his owner, will be available in the auction or subsequent draft and a new value will be assigned to that player based on when he is drafted.


-Trades can be made during the offseason.

-Trades and waiver pickups are limited by a $200 maximum team salary cap during the season and off season.

-Owners can place players on Injured Reserve if they are placed on IR by their NFL team during the season. But, their salary cap number still counts toward your team salary cap for the season involved.

-Players that are cut during the season maintain their draft dollar value if picked up on waivers.

-A trade deadline during the season can be determined by the individual league and will remain in effect until the end of the season.

-All off season trades between two owners will be nullified by the commissioner if both owners do not participate in the upcoming season’s draft. The exception would be if the departing owner(s) or the commissioner finds an approved replacement owner.

Advantages and Disadvantages

First of all, if you are in a league with guys that still get all their information from magazines and are more interested in socializing than participating in the draft, Ultimate Keeper League is probably not for you. It involves some dedication on each owner’s part and a common fantasy knowledge level among the league owners to maintain the league checks and balances.

If, on the other hand, your draft involves owners that show up on draft day with laptops and self-generated spreadsheets with player rankings, Ultimate Keeper Draft may be just what you are looking for. While it may take a little more effort to maintain player values and calculate trades based on cap space, I just call that fun. I’m sure there is at least one owner in your league that loves to crunch numbers and can keep track of the player values for the league. Values are only determined twice during the year, once after the draft and a second time at the end of the season. Imagine trading a high-dollar veteran to an owner making a playoff run, for a low-dollar prospect that can remain on your team for years to come. See how high-priced players become salary cap victims on draft day the following year and are suddenly available. The increase in player value each year makes it almost impossible to keep a veteran player for several years. It does, however, allow you to build a great team, for years to come, with prospects you grab late in the draft or off the waiver wire. Or maybe you want to be the next Daniel Snyder that wants to make a championship run this year by trading future prospects for high-price veterans. It is all up to you and how you want to run your franchise. That’s the fun of it. It is your franchise!

When it is all said and done, Ultimate Keeper League provides a much more realistic fantasy experience for those owners that dream about the NFL and fantasy football 12 months a year. Owners actually have to manage their franchise from year to year and they must constantly weigh the affects of every decision they make and how those decisions will affect their team’s current season as well as the franchise’s future.

Next up
– Ultimate Draft and Ultimate Keeper League strategies.

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