Guillotine League Strategies for the First Timer

by • July 22, 2019

Not sure what a Guillotine League is? Go here to learn about the hottest new format in fantasy football.

Welcome to the world’s first (as far as I know) Guillotine League advice article. 

At the outset, let’s note that this format is only one year old, so I don’t have all the answers. Heck, maybe there aren’t any absolute answers. But, I’m going to try to cobble together advice based on my personal experiences and the feedback I’ve gotten from others who have already played in this format.

The most important thing to understand is this: you’re not playing to win every week, just don’t finish last any week.  As you’ll see, the three strategy tips below all reflect an approach to help you not lose.

Guillotine Strategy 1: Prioritize reliability

This means, you need to prioritize players and strategies that will deliver reliable production every week. Conversely, you’ll want to de-emphasize boom-or-bust players. 

Run-heavy quarterbacks are extremely dangerous.  When inconsistent passers like Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson get shut down on the ground, you could be looking at single-point production from them.  That’s a killer in this format.

At the running back position, the most dangerous guys are the ones who rely on receptions for their productivity.  Tarik Cohen is an elite pass-catching back. But half of Cohen’s games were duds because 11 times he failed to top 29 receiving yards, and he rarely chipped in meaningful rushing production.

Among receivers, you’ll want to avoid low volume guys who need touchdowns to produce fantasy points. Guys like Marquise Goodwin, Mike Williams, and Will Fuller are dangerous, because they kill you in any week in which they don’t score.

Your team can probably survive starting one or two of those kinds of guys.  But the more you have, the greater risk you run.

Guillotine Strategy 2: Don’t sweat the early weeks.

You’re going to be tempted to prioritize the early weeks. After all, nobody wants to get booted in Week 1.  You might be tempted to draft guys with easy early schedules. Or avoid guys with early bye weeks.

But odds are, it won’t matter. Let’s look at the math. 

  • In Week 1, with 17 teams, your survival odds are 94.2%. 
  • In Week 2, with 16 teams, your survival odds are 93.75%.
  • In Week 3, with 15 teams, your survival odds are 93.33%
  • Combined, you’ve got an 82% chance of surviving the first three weeks.

In all probability, non-horrible teams will survive the early weeks.

You don’t need to optimize your roster for early season survival. Nor do you need to ferociously attack the waiver wire in the early weeks.  Speaking of which…

Guillotine Strategy 3: Don’t blow your FAAB early.

The waiver wire is the best part of a Guillotine League.  It’s the only format where Saquon Barkley, Mike Evans, Zack Ertz, and Patrick Mahomes could all hit the waiver wire in Week 1. This never happens in any other league.

Keeping your emotions in check is a critical part to staying alive in a Guillotine League. When an entire team’s draft gets dumped to free agency, it’s awfully tempting to throw huge dollars after those players.

But, remember, the next week another entire roster will hit the waiver wire, and you could be looking at David Johnson, Odell Beckham, Le’Veon Bell, and Hunter Henry among others.  There’s going to be strong helpers available on the waiver wire each week.

Most of the time, you’ll want to save your FAAB for a long season of attrition—literal attrition.

Obviously, if you’re getting destroyed at a position, you’ll need to invest FAAB to fix your problem. But, you shouldn’t break the bank unless you’re pretty confident that your team is on the chopping block. 

Plus, the buying power of each FAAB dollar increases each week as teams get eliminated and their money is removed from the pool. 

Here’s the math behind what I’m saying:  The season starts with 17 teams and $1000 per team, so that’s a league-wide pool of $17,000 of FAAB.  Each dollar doesn’t go very far.  By midseason, there are 8 teams left and each team might have $500 left.  That’s a league-wide pool of just $4,000.  Each dollar you’ve saved goes a lot farther.

I hope these three tips to surviving your first Guillotine League have helped you.  The format is so new, we’re all learning together, so I hope you’ll pass along your success (and failure) stories to me via twitter, @paulcharchian