2021 Kings Classic / Fantasy Football Expo Recap

The trip to Canton Ohio for the Kings Classic drafts has become an annual tradition. The 2021 installment of one of the premier industry fantasy leagues included the Fantasy Football Expo as an added attraction (and responsibility as a presenter at one of the breakout sessions), as I wasn’t able to attend the Expo in 2019.

The journey began early morning on Friday the 13th. Four hundred+ miles separates my home in Delaware County, PA from Canton Ohio. I have driven every year, but this year decided to take the scenic route rather than experience the monotony of the PA turnpike from one side of the state to the other. The actual travel time via the scenic route is 15 minutes more, but the benefits include scenic Dutch Country where some Shoo-Fly-Pie was snagged for a hotel room snack.

More importantly, navigating diagonally through Pennsylvania provides the perfect halfway stop in State College, PA, which I also refer to as “The Promised Land” of my alma mater Penn State University. Beaver Stadium is just a quick 5 minute hop off the highway, and being in its presence makes you feel like you are home again. After a 2020 season which excluded fans and tailgating, this structure comes back to life in 2021. Looking forward to that.

With nostalgia taken care of, the remaining 4 hours finally leads me to downtown Canton, which doesn’t quite have the vibe of Vegas, but to be honest, when 450 folks descend upon a location for a fantasy football weekend, less distractions surrounding the epicenter of the event probably results in a better experience (unlike Las Vegas where you can easily get sidetracked and disappear for large chunks of time, that you may not remember). Here is the magnificent view from the hotel room. It did make it easy to keep an eye on my car parked on the street below.

With logistics out of the way, I kept things pretty moderate for a Friday night as I knew I didn’t want to be drafting early the next day at the Hall of Fame compromised with a hangover. Been there, done that many times in Las Vegas during the High Stakes drafts over the years. Older and wiser in 2021. As a result, Friday night socializing was kept to a minimum, and caught up with the likes of Gary Davenport, Addison Hayes, Bob Lung, Curtis Patrick, Ryan McDowell and for the first time had actual face to face interaction with Scott Fish and Matthew Freedman. Beyond that, a few introductions, but wasn’t around for the craziness that ramped up as more people arrived at the hotel.

Saturday morning was spent doing the routine data updates at FantasyMojo.com (Priority 1), enjoying some in room Coffee (not that bad), and cracked open the Shoo-Fly-Pie (delicious) which would hopefully give me drafting superpowers.

With a target time of 10 AM to kickoff the first of the two Kings Classic drafts (one snake draft and one auction), I quickly settled into the Hall of Fame media room, helped set up the draft boards, and then attended a quick presentation within the Gold Jacket lounge where I received a pretty bad ass championship belt for my 2018 victory in the Blanda Division Snake Draft (thanks CMC!). The quality of this thing is top notch. Shout out to the Trophy Smack guys for making these.

The format of the Snake draft is 14 teams, 16 rounds, and a starting lineup of 1 QB/ 2 RB / 3 WR / 1 TE / 3 Flex (RB/WR/TE). This leaves only 6 bench spots, which is kind of shallow when you are used to stashing high upside players later in the draft. Having a few years experience in this format, I know that the waiver wire is pretty skanky, even at the WR position. Based on that, I prioritized filling out my roster with WRs, going with a mindset of “win the flex”. Ideally I will start 6 strong WRs, 1 strong RB, and take my chances with the 2nd RB. I have previously tried to stash high upside RBs, but inevitably, when the bye weeks hit, the price of keeping them on the roster is extremely high.

Draft order in this league is determined by a drawing of cards. Based on the card you are dealt, you get to choose your draft slot. Ace is the high card. My card was a “2”. And here is where the first controversy set in. Drew Davenport of Footballguys held the Ace, and chose the 1 slot. With 2, I chose the 2nd slot. But then a question arose. Does the ordering of selection go Ace->2->3->4…. Or Ace->King->Queen->Jack …. . In a somewhat confusing exchange my 2nd overall selection, became the 2nd TO LAST overall selection. I ended up with the 12 spot (of 14 teams), which honestly didn’t bother me as I’m comfortable drafting from any slot. It turns out the Jim Brown division ran the order the opposite way of our Blanda division. Whatever, we’ll just make sure next year we have that settled BEFORE cards are drawn in 2022.

Here is my roster, and the overall draft board. Basically I went with a Hero RB build where I believe I can start 6 WRs. Mixed in an Atlanta stack with Ryan, Ridley, Pitts. Drafting 2 QBs is not typically my thing, but I imagine I will be starting Justin Fields at some point when his number is called. I found out about the Darrynton injury AFTER I drafted him (staying on top of the news cycle a bit difficult amidst the chaos of the morning). Overall I give the draft a “B+”. When I go through the exercise of matching up my starting lineup against some other teams, I feel pretty good about what I came away with.

The second draft was the auction. I don’t do many auctions, but have done enough for the Kings Classic that I at least had a handle on how it would go, knew the tendencies of who I was drafting against, and what the expected values would be (which turned out to be spot on) based on last year’s prices. Simply using the data here at FantasyMojo to rank players and transpose them to the prices paid among players in 2020 worked perfectly.

The auction roster I felt a little less excited about. Again, this is a 14 team league. Talent dries up quickly. This team has stronger RBs, but weaker WRs than my snake team. My 2 starting RBs and 3 starting WRs are covered. The 3 flexes is a little hairy. Justin Gage is “ok”. Chase Edmonds in a best case scenario will work. The 3rd flex? Well, we’ll see how things look when the season starts. It is probably Nelson Agholor if I had to make a guess right now. But again, every team is challenged with those later flexes. As it stands right now, this is a middle of the road team in the league. I waited too long for a TE. I like Engram, but that is a volatile situation I have at TE with him and Firsker. I give my Auction team a “C” . One nice thing about it though is I think the RB situation is set up well, with Mattison handcuffing Cook. RBs on the waiver wire in this league are non-existent, and when they are available, people will burn a majority of their FAAB to grab them.

In the end, the Auction draft took 4 HOURS!! Draft fatigue began to set in after nearly 7 total hours of drafting with just a lunch break mixed in. I think we needed to stop playing patty cake when bidding and starting off with $1 for players who clearly would go for $20+ .

Tremendous group of guys to be in the room with that included:

Doug Orth – Long time Kings Classic comrade and Snake draft winner from 2020

Drew Davenport – The auction king and Auction winner from 2020

Brian Drake & Kevin Tompkins – Drake is a fellow Eagles fan and new Sirius XM Radio personality and Tompkins his partner during the Snake draft

Hutchinson “The Kid” Brown – Pissed me off many times in the auction which means he did well

Chris Allen – Fellow FFPC Data enthusiast and met him for the first time

Mike Woellert – Fellow 4 year alumnus and a “Lefty”

Ian Hartitz – Wild man who brought energy to the room

Eric Dickens & Ryan McDowell – Strictly business in the room and 4 year alums. Great auction endurance who were still bidding up players late into the auction while I was nearly passed out. I know their game though, save the money for the end.

Steve Rapin – Fighting Chance Fantasy veteran (Who also had the thankless job of recording the picks into the Google Docs for the online viewers and listeners of SiriusXMFantasy)

Gary Davenport – Fellow 4 year alum who sniped Jalen Hurts from me as we were the last 2 to go QB in the snake draft

Ryan Hallam – Also took on a thankless job of putting the stickers on the board for the league

Corey Parsons & Lawrence Jackson – Ballers who brought their A-Game (and title belts from a previous Kings Classic Win). I think Corey is secretly an Eagles fan after he outbid me on Boston Scott.

Scott Pianowski – It became clear he was an Auction price enforcer. I hope I left him with a few undesirable players after I caught on.

Matt Donnelly – A Canadian import who reminded me of Ox Baker

Mauricio Gutiérrez – My new friend from Mexico who overcame many obstacles to get to Canton, which reminded me that we take for granted the ease of access to this event.

Dennis Clausen – The Rotoballer baller

Pictured: Ryan Hallam, Steve Rapin, Drew Davenport, Doug Orth, my empty seat next to Doug, Mike Woellert, Chris Allen

Pictured: Lawrence Jackson, Scott Pianowski, Matt Donnelly, Mauricio Gutiérrez, Dennis Clausen, Gary Davenport, Kevin Tompkins, Brian Drake

Pictured: Hutchinson “The Kid” Brown with his legal guardian (Dad), Ian Hartitz, Ryan McDowell, Eric Dickens

Immediately following the draft many of the Kings Classic drafters stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings for a quick bite to eat before the Expo Party at Centennial Plaza. The restaurant selection around the hotel itself was a bit lacking, so swinging by the traditional hangout in prior years was a good call.

Immediately after, it was back to the hotel for a quick change into some “fly threads” for the party and make the short 3 block walk down to Centennial Plaza where the festivities were held.

Granted the weather was great, but the configuration of this place is absolutely perfect . A wide open space with a giant outdoor TV displaying the Cleveland Browns game and plenty of space to spread out. Everyone got 2 drink tickets (though more kept appearing), a cigar (Punch or Macanudo), a cigar cutter, and they had some “bar food” which was unexpected but appreciated to be honest. The party hosts from ffaffair.com knocked it out of the park. These guys are party professionals. If the Expo weekend had stopped after that party, and canceled the entire Sunday slate of Expo events, it still would be declared a success.

Much of the time there was spent with fellow FFPC aficionados Billy Muzio, Adam Krautwurst, Mike Schopp, and Bradley Stalder but mixed it up with Jim Coventry, Mike Clay, Rich Hribar, Joe Bryant, Bob Harris, and many others as well. As a wrestling fan (long ago), the Michael Cipes story about drinking all night in a hotel lobby with Sgt. Slaughter was classic. Party festivities concluded around midnight, but with a presentation on Sunday on “Transitioning to High Stakes Fantasy Football”, pushing it beyond that was not a good idea.

Pictured: Me, Mike Schopp, Rich Hribar, Adam Krautwurst, Bob Harris, Billy Muzio, Bradley Stalder

Sunday morning came quick. As an early riser, I kicked off the morning FantasyMojo data processes (Priority 1) and explored the expo area. It eerily resembled scenes from The Shining without any signs of life or lighting at that point.

Basically at this point I was mostly looking to chill out before my 1:30 presentation and then hit the road. I attended some panel sessions on the Main Stage and spoke to a few exhibitors but still kept it pretty low key. While chilling on the comfy lobby sofas I had a chance to interact with John Laub, Matt Donnelly, and my favorite fantasy couple Don and Sally Kurjan. Don and Sally have a blog over at aFantasyFootballCouple.com and are the nicest folks. Interacting with them always so great.

Pictured: Don Kurjan, Bob Lung, Sally Kurjan

The “Transitioning To High Stakes Fantasy Football” presentation went off as expected. The room was about 70% full, so hopefully some good knowledge was dropped on those people thinking about venturing into the High Stakes fantasy waters. Everyone received an envelope containing sports cards (either an autographed card, pack of cards, or regular season card of a Hall of Famer). What I have left I will bring to Vegas and hand out to some folks.

Final thoughts:
• It felt like Dynasty related content dominated the event
• I saw a lot of other familiar Twitter faces, but wasn’t always able to get in an introduction, so there will be opportunities in the future. I’m not that interesting unless you want to interrogate me about High Stakes ADP anyway.
• Have seen some suggestion that the Expo should be held elsewhere. In my opinion, the co-location with the Hall of Fame is key. The Expo is an extension of the Kings Classic, and I can’t see that being held anywhere else. So long as Bob Lung is running the show, I expect it will stay there. They may outgrow that particular Expo venue though. It seems like that was about as large a crowd as it could comfortably hold.
• The whole event went off without a hitch as far as I could tell, so kudos to Bob Lung and his family who played the part of event promoters seamlessly. So many things could have gone wrong and nothing did as far as I could tell. With so much to coordinate the entire weekend, including overseeing things at the Hall of Fame for the Kings Classic, the man is calm, cool, and collected. So impressed.
• The number of people who approached me to say how much they liked what we are providing here at FantasyMojo.com was pretty cool. Granted we are a bit of a niche in the overall fantasy space but it was clear how valuable it is to those who are playing high stakes
• I need to drop 5-10 pounds before FFPC Drafts in Vegas early September. Many of the photos of me from this weekend make that clear. #BanShooFlyPie