It is never too early to plan ahead. That’s the whole point of getting ahead.
As we prepare to say goodnight to this NFL season and enter the long winter of football darkness, one way to fill the time is for fantasy keeper league members to study up on their plans for next season.
There are as many different variations of keeper league rules as there are chicken sandwich options at Chick-fil-A. OK, admittedly, that isn’t a huge number, but they can offer vastly different experiences.
There is what you might call our Classic Fantasy Keeper Sandwich. This doesn’t have any condiments or sauces. You have a set number of keepers — like, say, three. There are no values attached, you just choose from among those on your end-of-season roster. Who you keep has no impact on your draft.
Some leagues might allow teams the option of not keeping as many to gain extra draft picks. But this is just the Deluxe version of the same Classic concept.
If you want more zest, you need to be in what we will call Spicy Fantasy Keeper Leagues. These attach a draft value to players — either a pick in a particular round or an auction value.
It is these more interesting formats where designating keepers is more complicated. In the simple versions, you just keep your three best players. In the more complex, you have to weigh the production of each keeper candidate against his cost.
In these spicy leagues, finding cheap keeper candidates is vital. So as we head into the offseason, it is wise to keep some “Sleeper Keepers” on your radar.
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Players like Kerryon Johnson. It was Week 4 before the rookie Lions running back took over the starting job from LeGarrette Blount. He missed the final five games with a knee injury. In between, he averaged 12.7 carries and 68.6 yards per game with three touchdowns. He also caught a total of 22 passes for 161 yards and a score. That averages out to 15.7 fantasy points per game in PPR formats. Not bad.
Now, imagine what a full season would look like. Without Blount, who is an unrestricted free agent, to steal carries and touchdowns? On a team in which head coach Matt Patricia will continue his efforts to transform the squad into one that relies on a strong run game and a stout defense.
All this together makes Johnson an intriguing keeper possibility.
Some leagues allow for offseason transactions. If yours does, try to acquire Derrius Guice now, before his stock begins to rise upon his return from a knee injury that cost him his rookie season.
DaeSean Hamilton should be as cheap as they come. He was a factor down the stretch, averaging 13.8 in PPR over the final four games. He likely will enter next season as a starting receiver alongside Emmanuel Sanders.
Obviously, be ready to shift strategy based on roster and coaching developments, but it is easier to change your plan when you already have a plan.