The Hybrid League: The perfect blend between dynasty and keeper leagues.

Many years ago the a re-draft league I am in was looking to take that next step, and evolve into a keeper league. The idea of maintaining a roster from year-to-year was appealing for many reasons:

  1. Creating a sense of team identity seemed to take fantasy football to the next level.
    It’s kind of fun to be able to associate players with owners in your league.

  2. The idea of trying to build a dominant fantasy dynasty was also an added challenge to make the game even better.

  3. It would expand fantasy football into the off-season, where owners could remain engaged with offseason keeper declarations, and trades of players and draft picks.

The biggest downfall of a keeper league is how it can impact the draft day experience. We live for draft day, and so the idea of degrading that to just a few rounds of drafting rookies and veteran scraps was worrisome. We decided to start off with a small time investment of just keeping 4 players with time-limited contracts. It all felt like a very half-assed and unrewarding experience. After two years in we scrapped it, and with lessons learned, we developed a system which has then been modified to near perfection over 20+ years. A perfect balance of team identity, off-season engagement, ability to develop multi-year champions, and a quality draft. experience. All wrapped up in a delightful league format we have deemed…The Hybrid League!

Keeper Leagues vs Dynasty Leagues

Keeper League formats involve fantasy teams getting to keep a small number of players from year-to-year. This maintains a fair amount of quality in the draft pool from year-to-year, however, from a game play perspective it’s very unsatisfying. It ultimately just feels like skimming the first round or two of the best players, and equally distributing them to all the teams. There’s no sense of team identity and trades remain as infrequent as in re-draft leagues. It just doesn’t really improve the overall fantasy league experience.

Dynasty League formats involve fantasy teams keeping their entire roster from year-to-year. It’s a great format for serious leagues, but it has some major downfalls. The biggest pit is that the draft becomes significantly less fun. You are essentially just drafting rookies, and the draft will only last about three rounds. The majority of stars go in first round, and then it’s just a bunch of unknown rookies that got selected in the 7th round of that year’s NFL draft. On top of this, if your team is bad it can several years to rebuild and get out of that hole.

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The Hybrid League

The Hybrid is a perfect combination of Keeper and Dynasty Format where a large amount of players are kept, but the draft still holds a lot of value.
Here’s how the keeper rules of a Hybrid works

  • 3 Total Skill Players (QB, RB, WR, TE) of any mix

  • 2 DR (Drafted Rookies)

  • 1 Kicker

  • 1 Tight End

  • 1 Defense/Special Teams

    Additional Rules

  • Keepers are designated one week following the NFL Draft

  • Drafted Rookies (DR) lose eligibility for that draft slot if traded, dropped, or assigned to a different keeper slot (eg one of the 3 Skill Player keeper slots)

  • Following the end of the season, Trades involving players cannot take place until keepers are designated

Most of these keeper slots are self explanatory.
You keep any mix of 3 total players from any of the skill positions: Quarterback, Runningback, Wide Receiver, and Tight End. For example, you could keep 2 QBs and 1 RB or 3 RBs or 1 RB and 2 WRs.
Then you keep one kicker, one tight end, and one defense/st. Things like kickers and defense may seem trivial, but there is purpose. For one, it helps establish team identity. We have owners who have had the same Defense/S.T. for 20 some years. It’s odd, but also kind of awesome. Kickers can be fun too, as it creates an NFL like atmosphere of owners struggling from year-to-year to find a dependable kicker that they can have for the future. Last year I made a sizable trade to get Justin Tucker, just out of the belief that I won’t have to deal with that position again in the draft for many years to come. That’s something you’ll rarely see in other league formats (trading for a kicker).

Explaining the Two “Drafted Rookies” Keeper Slots

The slot that needs some added explanation is the two “Drafted Rookies (DR)”.
The “DR” keeper slots are for any player that you drafted as a rookie. You can keep players in this slot for as long as they are on your roster and assigned with that DR designation. For instance, we had an owner draft Peyton Manning as a rookie, and he got to remain in that slot until he retired. The one important notable is that once a player is dropped, traded, or moved out of the DR slot in any given season, then they are never again eligible to be put there.
What the DR keeper slots accomplish is adding value to rookies. It makes it important to acquire a player for those slots (rookies), and forces owners to give constant thought to their rosters (both offseason and during the draft). For instance, if in a given season you only have two players eligible for that slot for the next year, you may be hesitant to trade either of them during the season as it would limit the amount of players you get to keep.
The one small downside is that this must be tracked manually. This means that the commissioner should keep a spreadsheet of keepers and their designations from year-to-year. Players will often times be shifted from the DR keeper slot to a one of the 3 skill position slots, which is often done to make room from grooming recently drafted rookies. It’s essential to track this so, because once they are moved out of the DR slot that player loses the eligibility in the future.

Hybrid League Examples of Keeper Roster and Draft Quality

As mentioned earlier, the Hybrid keeps a beautiful balance between keeper roster and draft player pool quality. While you aren’t going to have the type of draft pool you get in a re-draft, it’s going to be dramatically improved over a dynasty league. The first round is usually dominated by start rookies and a handful of veterans, and the quality remains fairly solid through about the 5th or 6th round.

For example, below is my roster going into the 2019 season:
SKILL 1: Mahomes, Patrick KCC QB
SKILL 2: Conner, James PIT RB
SKILL 3: Ingram, Mark BAL RB
DR 1: Fournette, Leonard JAC RB
DR 2: Davis, Corey TEN WR
TE: Ebron, Eric IND TE
K: Tucker, Justin BAL PK
DST: Seahawks, Seattle SEA Def

I drafted both Fournette and Davis as rookies a couple of years ago, and slotted them into those DR keeper slots. I have a pretty young team right now, and with my DR slots in tact, my strategy this year will be to focus on getting some veteran depth for my roster.

Going into the draft, here is the quality of players that will be available:

ALL of the NFL rookies. These will dominate the majority of the first round of our draft.
The veteran talent (there are many more, but here are the top 15-20 players from each position)

Roethlisberger, Ben PIT QB
Ryan, Matt ATL QB
Rivers, Philip LAC QB
Prescott, Dak DAL QB
Cousins, Kirk MIN QB
Newton, Cam CAR QB
Trubisky, Mitchell CHI QB
Fitzpatrick, Ryan TBB QB
Allen, Josh BUF QB
Manning, Eli NYG QB
Tannehill, Ryan MIA QB
Keenum, Case DEN QB
Winston, Jameis TBB QB
Dalton, Andy CIN QB
Stafford, Matthew DET QB
Carr, Derek OAK QB
Darnold, Sam NYJ QB
Bortles, Blake JAC QB

Running backs
White, James NEP RB
Drake, Kenyan MIA RB
Peterson, Adrian WAS RB
Cohen, Tarik CHI RB
Howard, Jordan CHI RB
Collins, Alex BAL RB
Miller, Lamar HOU RB
Murray, Latavius NO RB
Barber, Peyton TBB RB
Breida, Matt SFO RB
Ekeler, Austin LAC RB
Smallwood, Wendell PHI RB
Allen, Javorius BAL RB
Hyde, Carlos JAC RB

Wide Receivers
Hill, Tyreek KCC WR
Diggs, Stefon MIN WR
Samuel, Curtis CAR WR
Stills, Kenny MIA WR
Godwin, Chris TBB WR
Jones, Zay BUF WR
Anderson, Robby NYJ WR
Boyd, Tyler CIN WR
Fitzgerald, Larry ARI WR
Hilton, T.Y. IND WR
Ross, John CIN WR
Woods, Robert LAR WR
Sanders, Emmanuel DEN WR
Landry, Jarvis CLE WR
Edelman, Julian NEP WR
Goodwin, Marquise SFO WR
Jeffery, Alshon PHI WR
Pettis, Dante SFO WR

As you can see, along with all of the rookies there is a pretty sizable amount of potential in the veteran pool. A few of these players will go in our first round, which leaves rookies to continued availability throughout the draft.

One of the most fun aspects of any keeper league is the possibility of trading draft picks. With a decent player pool each year, it gives draft picks a fair amount of value, and adds an enormous amount of fun and flexibility for trades.

Following the end of the season, Trades involving players cannot take place until keepers are designated

There are a lot of rules that go along with this that are flexible from a league-to-league basis. For instance, our keeper declaration date is one week following the NFL draft, but that can be moderately modified. It’s important to note our rule that during the off-season “Trades involving players cannot take place until keepers are designated”. You don’t want owners trading off all of their excess roster to teams in need at the end of the season. All that will do is lessen the draft quality. Instead, lock the rosters following your fantasy season until the set keeper designation date.
The earlier you set your date for keeper designation, the sooner it opens up trades and starts getting people excited for the draft. We choose the NFL draft and it offers a little bit of added insight for the quality of the up-and-coming rookie class, and where some of the players on your roster sit with their current team before deciding who to keep.

If you have any questions about any other specifics or nuances of the Hybrid League format, drop a note in the comments and we’ll be happy to answer them!