As new commish for my league which was a 12 team H2H redraft league for years, we moved to a keeper format this past year. Had a lot of the same issues you do, and after talking to a bunch of people here at the cafe and tossing around ideas with my leaguemates we instituted a bracket format for our keepers to keep everyone interested but to also make sure the top guys were available to be drafted each year.
The following is from our league constitution:
Each team must select four keepers who may be kept for two years after their draft year. Essentially, you will then have a player for three years (draft year plus two keeper years). At the end of this three year term, the player must be returned to the player pool for the ensuing year's draft.
Teams may keep players based on brackets:
Rounds 1-4: No players may be kept
Rounds 5-9: One player may be kept
Rounds 10-14: One player may be kept
Rounds 15-19: One player may be kept
Rounds 20-23 and free agent pick-ups: One player may be kept
Each team must email keeper selections to the league commissioner by the January 30th deadline.
Once a player is traded, their keeper status does not change. For example, Team A drafts Youkilis in 2009 and keeps him for 2010. Technically, he is now in the second year of his three year keeper term. If Team A then trades Youkilis to Team B during the 2010 season, Team B now has Youkilis in year two and can keep him for an additional year, 2011, at his original 5th round value, therefore designated him as Team B's 5th-9th keeper if Team B elects to keep Youkilis at the end of the 2010 season.
Teams should be mindful of the keeper rules and consult the Google spreadsheet when considering trades, adds and drops.
Should a team not have any keeper options in a bracket at the end of the season due to trades or drops, then that manager forfeits their keeper for that bracket.
The draft will be conducted on a pre-determined date, snake-style for 23 rounds.
After the initial draft in 2009, each draft thereafter will only be 19 rounds as each team will already have four keepers in place. After the initial draft year which will slot teams randomly in regards to draft order, each ensuing year the draft will be conducted with the winner of the consolation bracket, the 7th place finisher, getting to choose which draft slot, 1-12, they would like to have. Once that team has selected their spot, draft order slots will be selected by the remaining teams in the following order:
2nd choice: 8th place finisher
3rd choice: 9th place finisher
4th choice: 10th place finisher
5th choice: 11th place finisher
6th choice: 12th place finisher
7th choice: 6th place finisher
8th choice: 5th place finisher
9th choice: 4th place finisher
10th choice: 3rd place finisher
11th choice: 2nd place finisher
12th choice: 1st place finisher
The draft has been arranged this way to place a value on winning the Consolation Bracket and providing an incentive for teams who did not make playoffs to finish their season strong.
It worked pretty well as far as keeping everyone's interest was concerned. We had a few trading deadline blockbusters and teams in the consolation bracket kept it together through the end knowing they were fighting for the #1 pick next year, or Albert Pujols.
I'm excited to see how it goes with the keepers in place, but it was a nice change for us and so far it seems to be working. For what it's worth, we also go 11X11 which is not your typical set-up, but it's what we've always done and it works.