Last Saturday I was able to attend the ESPN Fantasy Football Convention in Chicago.
This was my second year attending the convention and I must say it is quite the spectacle. To see the ESPN guests and on air personalities was great, but the sheer number of people that attended was impressive. There were close to 900 people in attendance this year, and according to the sign in estimates almost 200 were women. To have almost 25% women was very surprising. It just goes to show how popular fantasy football has become. By all accounts from the people at ESPN, that makes Chicago one of, if not the largest fantasy football conventions in the country.
The morning was filled with commentary from ESPN experts Mike Ditka, John Clayton, Eric Karabell, and Stephania Bell. The convention started with Mike “Da Coach” Ditka presenting the 2011 championship trophy to Oscar Hernandez. I had a chance to speak with Oscar and asked him what his main strategy was to winning it all. He felt that having a hook up combination was a huge part of his success to winning. He gambled on Mattew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, which as we all now know worked out extremely well.
The next part of the morning was hosted by John Clayton and Eric Karabell. They gave out tons of information from player info, suspension updates, to fantasy strategy; these guys give it all. John Clayton is simply not human. The amount of information that he can give you right off the top of his head is astounding. To me he is simply on of the best football reporters around today. Eric added his perspective on some different draft strategies, varying on what type of league you are in. One of his strategies is waiting on a D/ST till the very last few rounds. I tend to disagree with that, but even some of the writers from Gridiron Experts would agree with him. I do feel kickers should go very late but a good D/ST is worth an earlier pick.
Stephania Bell was next and what she added was her insight and expertise into how injuries can effect a player and your fantasy team. She gave a perspective on injured players that you otherwise might not get from a standard injury report. One example was Adrian Peterson and how fast he has recovered from his torn ACL in week 17 last year. You would tend to shy away from a guy with that type of injury unless he was a late round pick. She stated most guys just don’t heal that quickly form an injury like that, and for him to be seemingly ready to go by week 1 is unheard of. She added, the knee still has to be game tested and there are no guaranties he will be the old AP, but he is a “Freak of Nature”.
Just before lunch they had the live celebrity draft. Some of the participants in the draft where, Tom Waddle, former Chicago Bear WR and current NFL Network analyst, John Jurkovic, former NFL defensive tackle and current radio host for Chicago’s ESPN 1000, to former Bear great Steve “Mongo” McMichael . The picks were pretty standard, but the highlight of the draft had to be Waddle’s “All Caucasian Team”. I’m not sure if he was doing it intentionally, but after so many rounds it became a running joke.
The next part of the day was what most people in attendance were there for, the live draft. What makes this different than any other live draft is the pure number of people in the room. The hall was close to 90 tables of 10 and almost every one of them full. It’s like a scene right out of the World Series of Poker at the Rio. What’s at stake is a trip for four to Vegas and bragging rights over a whole city. The best record and top points scorer from each league move on to the finals. The finals are a 3 week point shoot out in weeks 14, 15, and 16. Piece of cake! Right? Well not so much, last year I won my league but faltered in the finals to finish mid pack at 66th out of 134. Still not bad showing out of close to 700 players.
ESPN really does a great job with the convention, and if they host one in a city near you next year, I would highly recommend you go. For any fantasy football enthusiast it is simply a day to enjoy![pgallery id=”0MHJ1716V6″ /]