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Fantasy football draft strategy – How to select keepers

NFL Fantasy



While so much focus is on traditional redraft fantasy football formats and dynasty league formats, there’s a hybrid format that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much — keeper leagues.

Operating as a fun middle ground where you still get to experience the drafts year-over-year but also get to hang on to sharp picks you had made in previous years makes for one of the most fun formats in fantasy football. The question on how you should choose your keepers, though, is one that people are often left wondering.

The answer varies from league to league, as superflex leagues will carry higher weight on keeping quarterbacks, whereas it may make more sense to keep a running back in a standard league compared to a wide receiver in a PPR league. Regardless of format, below is my strategy and preferred resources for selecting my keepers for the 2021 fantasy football season.

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The keeper league value chart – Fantasy football 2021 draft strategy

This is resource number one and it’s invaluable. Our own Jeff Ratcliffe curated an easy-to-read keeper league value chart that serves the purpose of quantifying the quality of keeper that each player is in 2021. The screenshot below gives a sneak peek into the chart:

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While it’s typically unusual to keep top-five selections (as a number of keeper leagues have rules in place to prevent keeping the top round or two of players), this serves as a good way to showcase how the chart is used.

As shown, each player has a value (per respective format) and each draft pick has a value (per respective format). The “keeper value” is generated by taking the player value and subtracting the pick value, essentially leading to a surplus. The greater the surplus, the higher the player’s value is as a keeper option. That number, though, will change depending on each individual league, as your pick that you are looking at keeping your player could be different from me looking at keeping the same player. All in all, the chart serves as a phenomenal baseline when measuring the value of the eligible keepers on your roster and can ultimately be a nice tiebreaker for the neck-and-neck decisions.

Comparing ADPs – Fantasy football 2021 draft strategy

Similar to the Keeper League Value Chart, comparing ADPs from the previous season and the current season is an easy and efficient way to gauge the quality of a player you may want to keep. (The FTN Fantasy ADP tool can help with this.)

Typically, keepers come from late-round picks in previous seasons who have since seen their draft capital rise considerably enough to where the spot that you originally drafted them is now a value. When using ADPs to gauge whether a player is a worthy keeper, you can implement a similar process to the above chart.

The larger the difference between a player’s 2020 ADP (and where you drafted them) and their 2021 ADP, the better. Take Calvin Ridley, for example. Consistently a fourth- or even fifth-round selection in 2020 (WR16 per MyFantasyLeague), he’s now a consensus top-20 player in redraft leagues in 2021. If you were able to grab him last season, keeping him in the fourth round would essentially afford you the ability to have two second-round selections for the price of a second- and a fourth-round selection.

The same can be said about looking for players to avoid as keepers. These are easy to spot, as their 2020 ADPs may be drastically higher than their 2021 ADPs, devaluing them completely as a keeper option.

To see this technique in action, I’ve listed a handful of the best fantasy football keepers for the 2021 season below.

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Best keepers for 2021 fantasy football

Here is a look at the best keepers for this fantasy football season, and their ADP as of mid to late August 2021.

Antonio Gibson has seen his fantasy football stock skyrocket

2020 ADP: RB43; 2021 ADP: RB12 (MFL)

Antonio Gibson’s meteoric rise to becoming one of the most crowded offseason hype trains was a fast one. After generating little buzz ahead of his rookie season, Gibson flashed brilliance in 2020 after the release of Derrius Guice. His stock is high in 2021, as the Football Team has an upgrade at quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, a bolstered defense that could lead to a positive gamescript, and a season under his belt where he averaged a touchdown every 15.5 carries (11 touchdowns, 170 carries in 2020). If you were lucky enough to grab him at the tail end of drafts last season, you should be licking your chops this season in your keeper league.

Diontae Johnson burst onto the fantasy football scene in 2020

2020 ADP: WR41; 2021 ADP: WR24 (MFL)

There was some hype around Diontae Johnson heading into 2020, but not nearly as much as there is in 2021. Despite struggles with drops last season, Johnson led the Steelers with 144 targets in 15 games, some of which were even shortened by injuries. With Ben Roethlisberger continuing to age and a rather questionable offensive line, Johnson should continue to soak up some of the low-aDOT, first-read targets for the aging quarterback.

Dallas Goedert is the unquestioned fantasy TE1 in Philadelphia

2020 ADP: TE18; 2021 ADP: TE9 (MFL)

The tight end position is a wasteland, making this an interesting keeper choice, but the ADP gap is significant. Dallas Goedert had spurts last season where he looked like a bona fide top-five tight end, but the presence of Zach Ertz continues to cap his ceiling. Nonetheless, he should operate as a first read for second-year QB Jalen Hurts and is a surefire TE1 compared to the middling TE2 he was drafted as last season.

To dive into more ADPs, check out our free consensus ADP tracker to monitor how the ADPs are fluctuating throughout the 2021 draft season.

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