Fantasy Football Guillotine Leagues & Draft Strategies

When it comes to fantasy football there are plenty of traditional draft formats that you can play but over the years we’ve started seeing the imagination really blossom and newer, more exciting league formats are being thought of and created. These newer league formats tend to challenge us when it comes to creating fantasy football player rankings or trying to test out draft strategies in our fantasy football mock drafts. 


For the hardcore players, there is an adrenaline rush when it comes to fantasy football. We live it in one-week increments that feel like a series of explosive bursts as we also have to play the long game to bring home that championship. 

Knowing is half the battle. Regardless of the format in which you play, you won’t get anywhere without knowing the player pool. That translates across all types of games and will not change. Once that is out of the way, then it is time to diversify and really have some fun. 

One way to do this is to play in a Guillotine league. 

What Is A Fantasy Football Guillotine League?

On the surface, it looks like any other league you may be familiar with but things have to be approached differently. Before we can dig into some strategy, let’s first review what exactly a Guillotine league entails.

Instead of a standard 10-or-12-team league we are digging a bit deeper into the player pool here. Since we have to get through the whole season (more on that shortly) these leagues generally contain a minimum of 17 teams (if there are more, eliminations are often doubled up in one or two weeks) as that is the norm throughout the industry. It goes without saying here that expansive knowledge of the player pool is required. Well, at least initially that is as these leagues are never as deep as they are on draft day. 

The key here is to advance. You don’t need greatness. Well at first that isn’t necessary. All you have to do is not be the worst. There is no difference in being the best team or being the second-worst on a weekly basis. 

In a sense, this is a mix between playing DFS on a weekly basis and playing a season-long league. For better or worse, you carry your roster through for the entire season but there is also the benefit of having weekly FAAB. 

Each week though, the scoring resets itself. The lowest score gets eliminated and the rest promptly move on to play another week. Eventually, either one team is left standing at the end of the season, in this case likely Week 17, or once it gets down to the final few teams, there is some level of a playoff to crown a champion. The NFFC leagues start with 17 teams and eliminate a team each week until there are four teams left heading into Week 14. Prior to this point, nothing is cumulative but then a four-week playoff commences in which the weekly scores are combined throughout the scoring period to declare a winner. 

Another wrinkle that we must keep in mind, and that truly makes these leagues fun and exciting is that each week the losing team’s players get released back into the player pool. While the initial player pool is deeper than normal, things do gradually thin out on a weekly basis as we get fresh options which usually include at least one or two elite, or at least solid options to bid on in an attempt to improve our teams. 

Now that we have the lay of the land, let’s dig into some strategies and thoughts to keep in mind on our way to victory and success. Ultimately, we want to stay in the middle of the road here based on the setup of these leagues so that is what a lot of this will be based on. 


Watch The Schedule

Bye weeks are important. I mean that’s nothing new in fantasy football as we have been dealing with them for a long time, and we do have the use of FAAB so it’s not like we are locked into our teams for the entire season, but we can’t afford to give up a week here. In seasonal leagues losing one matchup due to a decimated team doesn’t matter, and in some cases, it might be better to pile everything up into one week, but when you are playing for your survival each week that luxury doesn’t exist. While the FAAB is always a viable option, you don’t want to be in the position where you have to rely on it to fill multiple holes in your roster with lesser options. Spread out the bye weeks to lessen the impact. 

While we are planning out our roster management for the season, weather is also something to keep an eye on. As we get to the end of the year it is important to know what the schedules look like with the intention of avoiding unfavorable weather situations while giving the edge to players that will be playing their games in either warmer weather or in domes. With a lot of things, the intention isn’t to make this the main factor in our analysis or player selection, but it is one other tool to add to the list when deciding between two similar options. 

By the same token, there is a big difference between what actually happens in December and what we expect to happen when forecasting it four months prior. That is not to say that looking at the strength of schedule for the entire season is meaningless, but things will look very different as the season evolves. Even more importantly though, you need to get to the end of the year for that analysis to even come into play. Of all the factors to consider this is probably pretty low on the list but as with everything, the more data the better (although there is such a thing as paralysis by analysis). 

Fantasy Football Guillotine League Draft Strategy

One of the common themes here is to eliminate risk. With that being said the intention here is to avoid stacking players from the same team. This is a strategy more commonly used in DFS but it bears mentioning here as well. Sometimes it just happens in a draft where you take the value that is given to you and they happen to play for the same team. That works well until said team runs into a bad matchup or you land on a rough week and you get eliminated. There might be a little too much caution in play here but every little bit helps and diversification is key as we look to spread the risk. 

So, what type of players are we looking for?

By now you should have an idea of the risk profile, and it is as minimal as possible. That doesn’t mean we aren’t after talent, after all that is what brings home the championship, but we want as high a floor as possible. Talent will carry the day and we are going to begin our rankings by looking at the best players. I know that is common sense but that is not where the rankings will stay. 

Upside is important, but a high floor is better than a high ceiling if all things are considered equal. We don’t have the ability to wait six weeks for the more talented running back to possibly win the job or a player to return after missing the first three games of the season from injury. By that point, our season could be over. 

At the end of the day, you don’t always care how or when a player gets their points, just that they produce more often than not. But fantasy football, and especially Guillotine Leagues, don’t compound on themselves each week. Consistency is going to run the day here as we don’t want to deal with the ebbs and flows of inconsistent performers. The key here is to stay as close to the midpoint as possible on a weekly basis with players that put up similar performances from game to game. 

Part of this is avoiding injuries, although they are part of the game, but injury risk in general is what we want to stay away from. There is no need to seek out trouble where it might not necessarily be. If a player is coming off an injury, look elsewhere. If there is a chronic issue that could slow them down in the current season, that also means there could be a better option out there. 

There is often a learning curve or adjustment period for a player when they head to a new team. That could be either as a rookie while adjusting to the NFL or a veteran changing uniforms as they have to adjust to a new home. In this format, we don’t have time to wait. 

Under the same guise when I’m drafting a seasonal team in August, the intention is to do so for the next four months and to be raising that championship flag in December. You don’t need to come out the gates swinging which means you do have a few weeks in which to play the long game. I’m not saying you would be, or should be, deliberately tanking any match-ups but you also never know what will happen in any given week. Here we don’t get that benefit. Waiting for a player to rebound from a slow start is not an option. 


Using Your Fantasy Football FAAB

Should you need to replace a player on your roster, FAAB is available at your disposal. The most important thing to remember here is that you can’t take it with you. Yes, you do need your budget to last for the entire season but as the season progresses you are competing with a decreasing number of teams on the free-agent market. This runs in conjunction with the fact that there becomes an increasing amount of available talent throughout the season. 

There are always going to be players available at some point so there is no need to spend money just for the sake of doing so. Of course, you want to add as much talent as possible but it has to make sense for your roster. Use FAAB to fill weaknesses, look forward in the season, and to account for injuries or poor performances. Don’t spend money just for the sake of doing so, but don’t save it out of conservatism either. There really is no tomorrow here so you do want to maximize the benefit of any additions but don’t overpay either. As the season progresses, the cost to acquire a player will decrease based on supply and demand so don’t overbid after one week just to pick up a marginal player because he is available. Be smart about the composition of your team and its needs. 

Guillotine leagues are a fun alternative to what we generally presume to be the normal seasonal leagues we are all used to, but we can’t treat them the same. The player pool doesn’t change but the strategy does so let’s strap in for what we hope will be a ride all the way to the end of the season.

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