When I started writing this article several years ago, I actually hadn’t even ever been in a keeper league, so in some regards I was talking out of my rear. But I figured it wasn’t that hard to figure out how to play things, and I was correct about that. My first actual keeper league was, believe it or not, in 2012 when a group of message board subscribers invited me to compete against them. And even though everyone in the league knew all my picks and inclinations that year, I took them down by winning the league with a dominant playoff run.

I don’t need to get into why, but I wound up dropping out of that league, despite the fact that three of my first four picks in ’12 were Cam NewtonAdrian Peterson (coming off his ACL), and Antonio Brown. I also drafted a murderer who committed suicide, but we don’t need to go into that. 

Next up, after I went 14-0 in the regular season of our FantasyGuru.com Staff League in 2013, we decided to do a new league and make it a keeper league. I was a top-3 team the first two years with a 10-4 record, and in 2016, my drafting at the end of our (mostly rookie draft) finally got to me, and quite frankly I didn’t put in the needed work and had a bad year (5-9, I think).

My keeper sample size is still relatively small (four seasons), but it’s safe to say I’ve done well in keeper leagues.

Other than stating what everyone already knows and telling you to focus on youth, the key lesson I learned after participating is some startup Dynasty drafts – and this is also pretty obvious – is that you really need to study the league and have a grip on player personnel in terms of their skill sets and their short-term and long-term outlooks on their respective teams. 

Otherwise, it’s mostly just common sense.  

To start this keeper league draft plan off, let me break down the types of players I’ve targeted the two times I’ve done a startup keeper/dynasty league (one in 2012 was full dynasty, the 2014 Guru league keeps 12 players, so it’s close to a dynasty league), both times my teams were very good with that 2012 championship under my belt.

Very young players who are clearly high-end talents – I used the 3rd-overall pick in my 2012 dynasty draft on QB Cam Newton, for example. This group can even include rookies if you’re sold on them, and last year I wrote in this spot that you can even take Ezekiel Elliott as early as #1 overall. Taking Devonta Freeman in the middle rounds of 2014 is paying immense dividends for keeper leagues.

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