One of great things about keeper and dynasty leagues is the tremendous versatility owners and commissioners have when putting the leagues together. The spectrum of possibilities is almost unending and stretches much further than I could cover in one commentary. Keepers with no restrictions, keepers with restrictions/penalties, salary-cap leagues, dynasty leagues, college farm leagues and even something called a "survivor league", the list truly goes on. In one of my previous commentaries I discussed the top 3 keepers at each position, focusing more on new, startup keeper/dynasty leagues. However, one of the readers (thank you "BRonIsBoss") brought up a great idea for my next keeper discussion. Focusing on keeper leagues that penalize an owner for keeping players (generally the cost for 2012 keeper is 2011 draft slot), I wanted to take a closer look at the best values for those leagues and rank them accordingly. When owners are looking for the best value, average draft position (ADP) and return on investment (ROI) become the tenets of their decision making process, not solely perceived or projected point production like a redraft league.
1. Cam Newton: ADP 2011- 13.10 / ADP 2012- 2.09
The Rookie out of Auburn went undrafted in many leagues, but it did not take long for leagues to react to the record setting QB. At the cost of only a 13th, Newton's value is unparalleled at the QB position. Aaron Rodgers is the king of the position, but if there is anyone who can match or even surpass Rodgers (in terms of fantasy production), it is Newton. You will not find a better value with more potential ROI than the Carolina Panther QB.
2. Matthew Stafford: ADP 2011- 7.06 / ADP 2012- 2.08
A sleeper on many pre-draft lists in 2011, Matthew Stafford surpassed all expectations. Stafford's WR corps is loaded with weapons, including the best WR in the NFL. Stafford, rightly so, is being drafted as a top 4 QB but will only cost keeper owners a 7th. Health has always been a concern, but the ever-changing NFL rulebook should favor Stafford staying healthy.
3. Eli Manning: ADP 2011- 9.08 / ADP 2012- 6.07
Value being the name of the game, the New York Giant fills the 3rd spot nicely. The oft-ignored Manning, Eli nearly reached the 5000-yard mark in 2011. Manning won't throw up 45 TDs like Rodgers or rush for 9 TDs like Vick in 2010, but he will not cost owners a 1st or 2nd like Rodgers and Vick did in 2011 either. Again, looking strictly at value for keeper owners, Manning can be had for a 9th while providing a 6th round value.
1. DeMarco Murray : ADP 2011- 13.05 / ADP 2012- 2.03
Like Newton in the QBs, the 2nd year RB for the Dallas Cowboys went undrafted in most leagues in 2011. It was supposed to be the year of Felix Jones, but injuries vaulted Murray into the starting lineup and only a broken ankle would force Murray to relinquish his starting role. Starting in only 8 games (one being the game he was lost for the season after only 5 carries), Murray put up more than a 1000 total yards. TDs were limited (only 2), and while that is a slight concern, I would be happy to forfeit my 13th for the top-10 RB knowing the TDs will eventually come in that offense.
2. Marshawn Lynch : ADP 2011- 7.03 / ADP 2012- 2.02
As a Bills fan, it pains me to have Marshawn Lynch amongst my top 3. However, value precludes loyalty (at least on paper) and thus Lynch makes my list. Lynch has no place on any of my teams where he is currently being drafted, especially after getting a new contract, but the value combined with his youth makes for mega keeper value. Lynch is the only legitimate RB in that offense and Seattle made it quite clear when they hit the red-zone it is Beast Mode time. Lynch scored a TD in 11 straight and was the only RB to hit the century mark versus the 49er defense (averaging 5+ yards a carry). There is no denying the talent; owners just have to hope the drive is there now that the money has come.
3. Ryan Mathews: ADP 2011- 4.08 / ADP 2012- 1.05
There may not be a more intriguing and hyped RB going into 2012 than Ryan Mathews. With Tolbert out the door and off to Carolina, Mathews is the guy in San Diego. Reports out of San Diego have the entire fantasy community abuzz, especially keeper owners as Mathews has reportedly matured. Mathews was no slouch in 2011, compiling 1500+ total yards and 6 TDs, but it was the perceived small nicks and bumps that seemed to constantly hinder Mathews and frustrate owners. Will 2012 be the year Mathews takes his place amongst the top backs and deserving of a top 5 pick? I am willing to wager my 4th that his value will far exceed the price I, and other keeper owners, will have to pay to find out.
1. A.J. Green : ADP 2011- 9.02 / ADP 2012- 3.05
Forfeiture of picks or not, A. J. Green nearly made my top 3 WR keepers overall, but keeper owners are just stealing at the price of a 9th. Green consistently was able to get behind DBs, averaging 16+ yards a catch, but also showed tremendous ability inside the red-zone on his way to catching 7 TDs. The 23-year-old Green will be a keeper for many years to come, but never again at such a value.
2. Jordy Nelson : ADP 2011- 11.02 / ADP 2012- 4.03
There were whispers about Jordy Nelson following his showing in the Packers' 2010 Super Bowl win, but 1,263 yards and 15 TDs was a tad unexpected. Only 27, with the best QB in the league, Nelson should at worst be a WR2 at the cost of a WR4. Like Newton, owners should not expect 15 TDs in 2012, but 70-1100-10 is well within the bounds of reality for Nelson.
3. Julio Jones: ADP 2011- 6.09 / ADP- 3.07
It may have taken some time, but the top rookie (in terms of ADP) taken in 2011 finally found his footing the last 3rd of the season. Jones not only has the help of another top WR helping to draw coverage, but a shift in offensive scheme that should cater to his skills too. Like Green, Jones is only in his 2nd year, with a young QB throwing him the ball and will more than likely never again be had for 6th round pick.
1. Rob Gronkowski: ADP 2011- 9.02 / ADP 2012- 2.07
It is hard to believe TEs are going in the 2nd round, but I cannot argue with the pick. I strongly doubt the oft-dancing, shirtless TE can replicate his 17 TDs, but that was only half the story as he registered 1300+ yards too. The weapons are vast in NE and there just isn't a DB/defensive scheme that will be able to stop this machine in 2012 without creating huge vulnerabilities elsewhere.
2. Aaron Hernandez : ADP 2011- 11.06 / ADP 2012- 6.04
Now hear me out readers. This is a nice opportunity to remind everyone, these rankings are based on value, not perceived/projected points. I fully expect Graham to outperform Hernandez, but Hernandez offers better value (in my humble opinion). With the addition of Lloyd, extra attention to Gronkowski and a regression to the norm for Gronkowski and Graham I think the gap between Graham, Gronkowski and Hernandez could shrink in 2012.
3. Jimmy Graham: ADP 2011- 6.05 / ADP 2012- 2.05
Jimmy Graham is young, the number 1 target in one of the most prolific offenses in the league and yet, despite all that has room to grow and will get better. Like Gronkowski, Graham's ceiling is limitless and also like Gronkowski, deserves his current ADP. Truth be told, if you have Graham, you keep him in 99.99% of scenarios and you dominate the position on a week-to-week basis. The league will catch up, it always does, but don't expect it to by 2012.