It's an interesting setup: 10 teams, max of 20 players, $115 cap, $2 raise per player during the offseason. Undrafted players become $2 free agents, dropped players retain their salary through the end of the season. We start 2 RB, 2 WR, and 2 flex; other than that, it's pretty much standard lineups.
I came into the draft with $56 to spend and several spots to fill. Here's how it went for me ...
Keepers: Matt Hasselbeck ($14), Matt Cassel ($4)
Draft: Tom Brady ($26)
Most expensive keepers: Hasselbeck ($14), Tony Romo ($12)
Most expensive picks: Brady, Peyton Manning ($25)
For the third straight season, I'll have New England's starting quarterback. (I had Brady two years ago, when we first went to a keeper system. He was $17 in 2007; last season, I couldn't afford $19 in an injured QB, so I released him and picked up Cassel.) Hasselbeck has potential, but also has injury issues, and with Cassel's health also a question mark (never mind the Chiefs as a whole), it helps to have a real #1. Of course if Brady gets hurt again ... on the other hand, Hasselbeck moves from a decent #1 to an expensive #2. Which is worth more, one veteran QB or seven $2 players? Right. (I have 14 now, so dropping Hasselbeck and picking up 7 $2 players would work perfectly.)
There are several starting QBs still available, and $14 is too much in this league for a guy who might only start one game for me.
Keepers: Steve Slaton ($4), Pierre Thomas ($4)
Draft: Ronnie Brown ($10)
Most expensive keepers: LaDainian Tomlinson ($39), Frank Gore ($23)
Most expensive picks: Maurice Jones-Drew ($25), Steven Jackson ($23)
Last year I picked up two rookies, McFadden and Slaton. I spent $18 on McFadden. Not worth it. With Thomas as another cheap holdover, I had a tolerable starting lineup, but with two flex positions, I really need at least 5 RBs. Brown is a good pickup, but I need more depth, and I couldn't justify spending more cash at a position that is so fungible. (This was, by the way, the theme for the season.) I definitely need FA help here. At least all three RBs have different bye weeks.
Tomlinson's owner is trapped; $39 is way too much, particularly for a player who is likely on the downside of his career. (At 30, a RB is running on borrowed time, so to speak. He may be one of the rare guys who can keep playing, but you should find that out at a lower cap cost.) Expect to see LDT on waivers to stay this season.
Keepers: Dwayne Bowe ($8), Larry Fitzgerald ($14), Derrick Mason ($6)
Draft: Donald Driver ($6), Domenik Hixon ($4)
Most expensive keepers: Steve Smith, Carolina ($25), Reggie Wayne ($19)
Obviously I had a pretty good set coming in. Fitzgerald is arguably worth $14, Bowe is going to be catching a lot of passes in KC from someone, and Mason is surprisingly productive and a nice hold at $6. Driver and Hixon are probably Mason-type numbers this year, but it may not have been the best place to acquire depth. On the other hand, I have five good receivers with different bye weeks, so once I shore up my RB crew, the flex spots should be covered.
There are clearly some overpaid WRs in this league; the guys who have Randy Moss ($13) and Anquan Boldin ($10) have to be happy with those prices.
Draft: Antonio Gates ($9)
Most expensive keepers: Tony Gonzalez ($6), Jason Witten ($5)
Most expensive picks: Gates, Dallas Clark ($6)
Partial credit for dropping Gates at $16 and regaining him for slightly more than half that. Of course, while he may be a productive tight end, he may not be worth $9 when there are decent TEs now available for $2. Backup help will be coming in the great Waiver Wire Raid after week 1. (Our league doesn't allow waiver wire pickups until then.)
The top TEs are split: about half are $5 or above and about half are free agents. This is typically a boom-or-bust position, and unfortunately a number of us will have busts.
Keepers: Stephen Gostkowski ($5)
Most expensive keepers: Gostkowski, Nate Kaeding ($4)
Most expensive picks: three at $2 each
I drafted Gostkowski for $1 in 2007 and he's definitely been worth it the last two seasons. Is he a $5 kicker in 2009? Probably not, but I didn't mind locking down the kicker position for 16 weeks again this season. Once again, backup coming off waivers.
With money to spend, you can sort of justify a kicker for more than $2, but wit ha reasonable amount of talent still available, even Gostkowski may prove to be more expensive than he's worth.
Draft: Chicago ($1)
Most expensive keepers: Pittsburgh ($6), Minnesota ($6)
Most expensive picks: three at $2 each
The one thing I did right was spend little money. Actually, three defenses went for more than $1, and considering there were two Bears fans in my league, I did okay with this. (Of course, the problem is that Chicago has significant injury questions on defense.) If I keep $2 aside for a defense spot, then I can cycle these teams through as matchups permit. Worst-case scenario is that I don't get much from my defense, but it's not a high-scoring position in our league anyway. Hard to rate this pick one way or the other.
In this league, where you get only 5 for a shutout, 2 for a safety, and nothing for return yards (only return TDs), defenses are not going to produce much for you on a regular basis, although at least you can't do worse than 0. Spending more than $2 is probably not a good investment.
The one thing I did was spend the last of my money quickly. Unfortunately, this season a lot of owners chose to be more conservative with their money, which meant I probably could have managed my money better, particularly at TE. (Yes, Gates is good, but as good as a $1 or $2 TE and a few other cheap players?) We're starting to see the implications of a keeper league ... of course at some point you have to play for the present rather than the future, but when you don't know the true current value of a player, how much should you really spend on him?
I made some good pickups last year and ended up losing in the finals. I think if I can add two more decent RBs, and if Brady can stay healthy, I should be in a good position again. We'll see.