This article is part of our 2020 NFL Breakout Watch series.
Back in 1994 when I started playing fantasy football, there was only one type of draft, and it was 12 people sitting around a table not only making picks, but also a social event where trash talk was king. The smack always occurred whenever someone either made a risky pick or called the name of the player who was drafted five rounds earlier, thinking they had "the steal of the draft." Obviously, most drafts are online now, and although the competition is great, the camaraderie is often lacking.
Well, I completely lucked out when RotoWire asked me to represent our team at the annual King's Classic League in 2018. Not only was this a live draft, but the draft took place in the Gold Jacket Lounge at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The King's Classic was founded by Canton-native Bob Lung of Big Guy Fantasy Sports. Bob had a vision of bringing together experts from the best fantasy football companies in the industry. His dream was to make this an annual event that would become the signature industry draft each year, while leveraging all that the NFL Hall of Fame has to offer.
If that wasn't enough to get the competitive fires roaring, there was both a snake draft followed by a salary cap draft against some of the biggest names in the fantasy industry. As if that didn't motivate everyone to bring their "A" game, the manager who had the fewest points across the two leagues was relegated (moved down to a different division). Some people may play for incredibly high stakes, but in my mind, no stake is greater than avoiding relegation! Of course, beating fellow experts is awfully fun, and the KC now has a great prize:
Here's who I'm competing with in the Jim Brown League for 2021: Bob Harris, Mike Clay, Brad Evans, Jeff Ratcliffe, Dave Richard, Curtis Patrick, Patrick Daugherty, Andy Behrens, Michael Fabiano, Colby Conway, Dom Cintorino, Scott Atkins and founder Bob Lung. Those are some serious experts!
In terms of preparation for the snake draft, like for every other draft, the big board is constructed and maintained throughout the spring and summer. But when facing a group of sharks, value players rarely slip. There are always competitors eyeing the same "value" players. So when preparing for the King's Classic draft, extra attention must be paid to identifying which players have higher priorities on the draft board, and then a decision must be made ahead of time as to which of these players should be selected a round or two earlier than normal. In addition, every player on the big board must be placed wisely, and the best way to test the board is by using it in many drafts ahead of time. Not only will being on the clock in other live drafts let you know how you really feel about the next remaining players on your board, but those decisions will force you to make the micro-adjustments needed to maintain as much objectivity when on the clock at the King's Classic. At the same time, this is a 14-team league that not only starts one QB, two RBs, three WRs, and a TE, but it also requires three flexes (non QB), so it's important not to take too many fliers on players who present a vast ratio of upside and downside. There are a lot of starting positions, and good luck winning the FAAB bids during the season, as the 13 sharks in this league never let a player slip through cheaply.
Once the snake draft is concluded, this event is far from over. We'll take a short break before beginning the salary cap draft. Although preparation for the snake draft is intense but crafted over a longer period of time, the salary-cap draft is very difficult to prepare for in some ways. First of all, there aren't many 14-team salary cap drafts to practice against elite competition. The roster requirements are the same as the snake draft, so it's imperative to build a very deep roster of starting-caliber players while navigating the extra scarcity that's created by the league and roster size. During the preparation for any salary-cap draft, it's important to place maximum dollar values on the cheat sheet along with the percentage of the budget planned out for each position, but again, squaring off with 13 of the sharpest minds in the industry requires much advance planning.
With every salary-cap draft taking on an unpredictable course of its own, planning for the unexpected becomes critical. Of course, all contingencies can never be anticipated, but similar to the snake draft, there must be a plan for situations such as- there are about 22 viable RBs to start the season, but with 14 teams, the scarcity could become problematic. The draft plan must have numerous scenarios baked in, so that when flexibility is forced by the draft, emotion is removed and replaced by an objective plan. Every dollar is critical, because the direct result of overspending on players is the inability to have solid players across a weekly lineup of 10 position players. Also, the level of aggressiveness needs to be planned out as well. Early over-spending will likely result in being stuck with three-to-four minimum-priced players. But if a drafter is too passive early, the roster may lack enough of the top-end talent and leave too much money for players who are great for depth but not for championships.
During my three years in this prestigious event, I have qualified for the playoff twice, with my only miss being last year. So I'm really gearing up for a return to the postseason! As I wind down my preparations for this year's event, I'm planning on taking an approach that lands me a quarterback after the top couple are off the board, as well as one of the top RBs with depth being filled out from some of the non-elite options. In addition, I'll spend a great deal of attention loading up on WRs, not only for the three starting spots, but likely the three flex positions as well. Finally, I'm unlikely to take a top TE, but if I can get a player in the 'Noah Fant' range, that would be perfect. Again, depth will be critical in this league.
Although being prepared for every draft is a critical part of being a competitive fantasy player, there is that occasional draft, like the King's Classic, that requires a true elevation of one's game! With the event taking place the weekend of Aug. 14, I'll be reporting back with an update of how my drafts went in the days immediately following.
Editor's Note: Here's a photo from Jim at the inaugural 2018 draft (Jim's twitter handle is actually @JimCoventryNFL) –