Tuesday - Jan 19, 2021

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SWIMMING WITH SHARKS: Fantasy Draft Lessons Learned at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

This past weekend has rapidly become my favorite of the year. I was again honored to represent Fantasy Sharks at the second King’s Classic fantasy drafts at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. Organized by Bob Lung of Big Guy Fantasy Sports, the King’s Classic is a 28-team brouhaha of epic proportions—two 14-team divisions (Jim Brown and George Blanda) drafting both an auction and snake team on the same day.

It’s a gathering of fantasy football’s best and brightest. And me.

I know. I’m surprised, too.

It’s the kind of draft where just about everyone leaves hating their team. An exercise in glorious brutality. In 2018 the top-heavy auction team I drafted (hated it) finished third. The snake team I thought was OK finished 11th because the entire team was devoured by bionic crocodiles—starting with Minnesota Vikings tailback Dalvin Cook.

I’m not bitter. Not at all.

It’s also one of my absolute favorite drafts of the year—because no quarter is given. None.

There is no mercy in that dojo.

As maddeningly frustrating an experience as it is every year, it’s also a valuable one—a lesson in player valuation and draft strategy taught by the best in the business.

And despite my best efforts, I continue to learn lessons from it.

LESSON NO. 1: Backs to the Future

In the Jim Brown division of these drafts, the first round featured a pretty equal distribution of running backs and wide receivers—a willingness from some teams to gamble on upside backs a bit later in favor of a loaded WR corps.

The Blanda division did…not. I’m legitimately going to need therapy after what happened there. It started with eight straight running backs to kick things off and 10 of the first 14—and got worse from there.

Devonta Freeman went 17th overall, and I seriously considered him at No. 15.

This was an extreme example, but it’s also more rule than exception. The reality is running backs are being hit hard early in drafts in 2019.

This isn’t to say DeAndre Hopkins is a bad pick after the elite RB are gone. Or that “Zero RB” is dead. I took Davante Adams on the turn because he was there and it’s a better pick than Freeman. Just don’t count on any running back you’d have any confidence starting every week as things stand right now dropping even a little. They won’t.

LESSON No.2: The “Experts” are Gambling ON Ezekiel Elliott

Full disclosure—these drafts happened before Jerry Jones decided to try to be funny and the Cowboys inked outside linebacker Jaylon Smith to a fat extension. The latter, in the opinion of the guy who dropped 25% of his auction budget on Elliott (sigh), is a bigger problem than the former.

But I’d still do it. He also went for the exact same amount in the Brown division and went fourth overall in both snake drafts.

Tony Pollard was a hot topic of discussion Saturday, and the chatter’s only increased since. But among the crowd in Canton, prevailing wisdom seemed to be that even Jerruh has enough sense to not flush a season. Without Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys have no shot at Miami.

Elliott anywhere outside the top-five is theft.



Shut up, Jerry.

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 nine-time FSWA Award finalist and three-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last four years. He won the honor in 2017 and 2019. 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.