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How Do Keepers Work in ESPN Fantasy Football?

Before jumping right into Keeper leagues, you should understand how they compare to the other two families of fantasy football leagues.

The best method to explain Keeper leagues is to compare and contrast them to their far more common redraft leagues and their far more complicated Dynasty leagues.

The typical career arc for a fantasy manager is, to begin with a redraft league, then add keeper leagues to the docket, and eventually dive head first into dynasty leagues. [1]

I’m Tracy, and I’ve been an NFL and fantasy football student for years. So I know the rules and available options regarding ESPN fantasy football.

In this post, I’ll compare and contrast the three different variations of fantasy football leagues that ESPN supports brilliantly: redraft leagues, dynasty leagues, and keeper leagues. I’ll also explore why you may prefer one variation over the others. Whichever option you select, ESPN’s fantasy football platform provides an eternity of hassle-free enjoyment!

It’s about that time!

Let’s get smarter!

Key Takeaways

  • When you play in a keeper league, you ‘keep’ a predetermined number of players from one year’s team to the following year’s.
  • As of 2022, keeper leagues integrate beautifully into ESPN’s fantasy football platform.
  • If you desire more control over additional aspects of your team, you must experiment with a keeper league.

Redraft Leagues

Almost all fantasy football leagues are redraft leagues or year-to-year leagues.

In other words, you draft your entire team from scratch every year.

The players you draft for this fantasy football season are only on your team for one season. 

Next season, you will complete the draft process again and likely select entirely different players.

Redraft leagues provide 99% of the public with great enjoyment throughout the fantasy football season.

Dynasty Leagues

Imagine you enjoy playing fantasy football but would like to work with the same team for years to achieve the real NFL GM experience.

Leagues, where you draft your team once and work and compete with the same team for years, are called Dynasty leagues.

This creates an environment that is very different from a redraft league. 

By enabling you to keep players and build a team over time, there can be a much stronger sense of team ownership, and success is achieved with greater satisfaction.

Mistakes or successes in a dynasty league can affect the fortunes of a franchise for years to come, just like in the NFL. 

A dynasty league also facilitates trades, including trading of rookie draft picks. It encourages a deeper roster pool, so young ‘project’ players can be identified and groomed. [2]

Keeper Leagues

You have redraft leagues on one side of the spectrum, where you select new teams every year.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have dynasty leagues. You select your players only once and mold that team into a championship contender over the years.

Keeper leagues are somewhere in between redraft leagues and dynasty leagues.

A keeper league is similar to a dynasty league but involves keeping a smaller portion of your players.  

A keeper league allows for a few players to be retained. A dynasty league allows for most or all players to be maintained. [3]

When you play in a keeper league, you ‘keep’ a predetermined number of players from one year’s team to the following year’s.

One thing that keeper leagues share in common with redraft leagues is that they both entail participating in a standard draft before the beginning of each year. 

Keeper leagues will still see most players go back into the general player pool each season, so starting with a (mostly) full-player draft each year is still necessary and a huge part of participating in any keeper league. 

After the season, teams will disband, but before the next season, teams will have to decide who their specific keepers will be. [4]

The number of players you can keep in keeper leagues will vary from league to league, depending on that league’s unique set of rules. 

Keeper leagues are an exciting variation that enables fantasy football players to feel more like actual NFL football general managers.

The players that are retained from one year to the next are referred to as ‘keepers.’ [5]

Are Keepers Compatible with ESPN Fantasy Football?

Fantasy football platforms have typically endured significant problems with keeper leagues.

The reason for these issues is that each team forfeits their draft pick in the upcoming year’s draft based on where they selected their keeper in the prior season. 

For example, if you selected D’Andre Swift in the seventh round in 2021 and were intent on making him your keeper in 2022, you would lose your seventh-round selection in the 2022 draft.

Such a system rewards those fantasy players that find keepers in the later rounds, as only late-round draft picks must be forfeited.

The combinations of different fantasy players forfeiting draft picks during different rounds proved challenging.

Suppose you’ve had the misfortune of participating in a fantasy football keeper league on a site that doesn’t allow keepers to be slotted into their teams pre-draft. 

In that case, you’ve probably seen a draft or two ruined by a keeper being drafted onto the wrong team.


As Keepers are a non-standard variation from Public Leagues, the Keeper functionality only works in League Manager Leagues!

For those who play in ESPN leagues, that doesn’t have to happen anymore. 

ESPN Fantasy Football released a list of new features for 2022, and the option to set the specific pick a player should be kept was among them. [6]

This feature was already available at some other sites. 

Now, ESPN makes keeper leagues a LOT easier to manage. [7]

Read more:

Final Thoughts

Nearly 99% of all fantasy football players begin with the annual redrafting format found in Standard Leagues.

For most players, this is more than adequate to enjoy the camaraderie and competition of fantasy football.

However, if you desire more control over additional aspects of your team, you must experiment with a keeper league.

And the most significant trait of the ESPN fantasy football platform is that it enables seamless integration of keeper leagues into its League Manager settings!

Less work and more fun for you and your buddies!


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