Friday - Mar 22, 2019

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LESSONS LEARNED: Getting my Butt Kicked in the King’s Classic Experts’ Drafts

This past weekend, I had the privilege of representing Fantasy Sharks in the King’s Classic Fantasy Football Expert Drafts at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio.

That’s right—I drafted a fantasy football team from inside the Hall. Two, actually.

The King’s Classic consists of 24 teams spread out over two divisions, helmed by some of the sharpest minds in fantasy football—including many of the biggest names in the industry. There were a pair of drafts—a traditional “snake” draft (in which I picked from the 10 spot) early on and then an auction (more on that in a bit) later in the day.

If you’re wondering how I managed to get into this, so am I. But there I was.

Kings Classic

To say that it was challenging drafting against a group like this is an understatement. There is no low-hanging fruit. No easy values to be had after your league-mates overlook a player.

It was a day that can best be summed up by a quote from the noted philosopher Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan…until they get punched in the mouth.”

Of course, it didn’t really help that not until the low battery light came on on my laptop as the auction wound down did I realize that I had left my power cord at home.

I think I handled that bit of adversity pretty well.

Kidding aside, had my better-half not run to Office Max to grab me a spare before they closed, I likely would have spent the evening curled up in a fetal position at the hotel. She’s a keeper.

Anyway, as I was getting my head kicked in, it dawned on me that my butt-kicking could serve a higher purpose. That some of the things I learned (or was reminded of—often painfully) in the King’s Classic drafts could be of use to fantasy drafters heading into the two biggest draft weekends of the year.

The Running Backs, Man…So Many Running Backs

Fantasy drafts this year definitely have an “old school” feel to them. Talk of wide receivers and “Zero RB” draft strategies have been replaced by a good old-fashioned early run on running backs.

A long run.

I can’t think of a draft I’ve taken part in this year in which the first four picks weren’t running backs (some combination of Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott). In the snake draft I participated in at the King’s Classic, Antonio Brown didn’t come off the board until No. 7. Ten of the first 12 picks were tailbacks.

This isn’t to say WR/WR is a dead strategy—one team was able to pair DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham in the first two rounds as a result of the run in the backfield. But know going in that the pool of talent at running back is going to drain more quickly than in the past couple of years.

Shady McCoy is Slipping

If you do decide to draft a pair of wide receivers with your first two picks, at least one proven veteran fantasy RB1 could well make it back around to you.

But it’s a back that more fantasy experts than not are cool on this year.

LeSean McCoy was a Top-10 PPR producer in 2017, but between the three new starters on the offensive line in Buffalo and the stacked fronts Shady will see thanks to Buffalo’s non-existent passing-game talent, McCoy is falling into Round 3 consistently. In our snake draft Alex Collins, Kenyan Drake and rookie Royce Freeman all came off the board before McCoy did.

I pulled the trigger on McCoy at 3.10. I’d love to be able to tell you I feel great about the pick.

If only I did.

Fantasy Experts are Higher on Lamar Miller Than You Are

Lamar Miller of the Houston Texans generates about as much excitement among fantasy drafters as a proctological exam. He’s not an especially exciting player to watch in action, and his stats the past two years in Houston have been…OK. The 27-year-old has an Average Draft Position at My Fantasy League that puts him toward the back of Round 5.

In both of the snake drafts in Canton, Miller was selected well over a round earlier.

Maybe it’s because of all the yawns Miller induced in 2017, he finished the year 16th among running backs in PPR fantasy points after tallying over 1,200 total yards. Maybe it’s because Miller’s the unquestioned three-down back for a team that should be able to move the ball that much better with Deshaun Watson under center.

Or maybe it’s because RB2 production on the cheap is worth its weight in gold this year.

For God’s Sake, Wait to Draft a Quarterback

In industry leagues, quarterbacks tend to fall farther than in other fantasy drafts. Sure enough, that reality was borne out in the King’s Classic big-time. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers lasted into the fifth round of my snake draft and all the way to the first pick in Round 6 in the other.

It’s hard to find vault with that value.

Even then, the real value at the quarterback position lies later on. When I took Russell Wilson early in the sixth I felt pretty good about the pick—I think Wilson could be on the verge of a career-best season stats-wise even as the Seahawks struggle as a team.

But when Cam Newton lasted until the final pick of Round 7 I felt a little bit, um, less good. And when I was able to get Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons as a backup to Wilson in the 14th round, I threw up in my mouth a little.

Wait under center. You’ll be glad you did.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.