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Guillotine League Fantasy Football Primer

Looking to do something a little different this Fantasy Football season? You’ve played survivor leagues, but want some way to cross that with a more fantasy football focused angle? Well, a guillotine league might be just what you are looking for this season! There are plenty of great sites you can play on, including right here on Fantrax. While growing in popularity, many still haven’t tried it. But with my  Fantasy Football Primer, you might look to start one now!

This guillotine league primer should help you get started. I’ll let you know some of the basics, as well as some of the strategies for success.

With basketball and hockey nearing the finish line, are you ready to jump into fantasy football? From joining a public league with our Fantasy Football Commissioner to trying one of our Classic Draft Contests, there are plenty of ways to play Fantasy Football on Fantrax!

Guillotine Fantasy Football Primer

Guillotine League: What Is It?

So, what is a guillotine league? The quick answer is that it is similar to a “survivor pool” but set in the context of a typical fantasy football league.

An analogy I’ve heard that might need to be explained a little bit is that it equates to a weekly game of musical chairs but in a fantasy football league. You start with yourself and 17 other fantasy-football-interested folks. Like a regular fantasy football league, everyone drafts a team, but the lowest-scoring fantasy team from each week of the NFL season is eliminated….i.e. they are cut by the guillotine!

If you have trouble finding 17 other interested individuals, you could play with say 10 total teams and have a 10-week season. Or you could even play with 20 teams and have multiple teams eliminated every week. But for our purposes, I will strongly recommend the 18 teams for 18 weeks (or 17 for 17 weeks) version.

There is no trading, but before you know it, that stud on your adversary’s team could be on yours. Once a team is eliminated, the players from that team are dumped back into the free agency pool, usually every Tuesday morning. Between that morning and the next, waivers are run based on whoever bids the most FAAB (Free Agency Acquisition Budget) on each of the free agents in your league.

Guillotine Leagues Settings and Scoring

Traditional guillotine leagues are 14 roster spots with eight starters and six bench spots. Like most fantasy leagues you can play with the settings, but the starting lineup includes a QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, and 2 Flex (WR/RB/TE). However, 3 WR and 1 Flex are equally popular. You could also add a Superflex spot instead.

Guillotine leagues are typically standard PPR scoring. That allows for more players to provide teams with at least some minimal amount of fantasy points. Also, negative points for turnovers are often limited. If a team owner starts a player who puts up a negative score, there is a very high probability he will be in danger of being eliminated that week.

But again, you can make the scoring and settings as you wish. Want to make turnovers extremely costly or have a TD-dependent scoring system? Do as you and your league-mates wish.

Guillotine Leagues Playoff Format and Other Options

There are two basic formats for the “playoffs”. One is the “Last Man Standing” Format and the other is the “Final Four” format.

For the latter, once you get down to the final four, there is no further elimination and simply the highest cumulative scores for the last three weeks determine the order of finish.

Last Man Standing is exactly what it sounds like. You continue chopping all the way until the final week and the last team standing wins in this winner-take-all format.

Which one is better? It really depends on your personal risk level. The “last man standing” format is much truer to the game format, but if you have a bunch of beginners in your league, I would recommend the final four format.

Other Options

Like any typical fantasy football league, you can make your own variations. Want to play with DSTs and Ks instead? Have at it. Want to add another wrinkle and make it a TE-premium league or make your league and make it TE optional? Go ahead. Want to make your guillotine league an auction? It will take a lot longer than a usual 12-team or even 14-team auction, but you do you!

Nearly any variation you have with a traditional league, you can layer onto a guillotine league. Another option that I’ve never tried but would like to do so is a guillotine league with a best-ball format. Another option I don’t like but you could do is to run waivers with the typical inverse record priority order.

Heck, I’ve never heard about a league doing it, but you could even have a buy back in option. However, I wouldn’t even consider that option unless I was playing with the same guillotine league owners year after year and looking for something new to give it a spark. But again, that’s up to you. The only real requirement of a guillotine league is that owners and their teams get eliminated each week. That one basic requirement is just one of many benefits of guillotine leagues, which brings us to those.

Benefits of Playing Guillotine Leagues

There are a number of great benefits of guillotine leagues, but these are just a few of my favorites.

It Aint Over Till It’s Over

Unlike many leagues where the outcomes are usually known before the MNF game even kicks off, there are typically at least two or three teams in danger of feeling that cold hard steel on their necks on Monday nights. I can even tell you personally that sometimes who is hitting the chopping block is still unknown even with two minutes left in the MNF game!

Lineup Anguish For All

Every week requires extra attention to your lineup, because one false move and you could be chasing Ichabod Crane. A game-time decision player could easily be the difference between advancing and being out.

Deep Diving With Decreasing Pressure

One of the beauties of playing in a guillotine league is that you are essentially playing in an 18-team league….but one that gets progressively EASIER to find players rather than harder. But it begins with drafting a team that can stay afloat in an 18-team league. Unless you are playing with more morons than smarties, no team will be loaded and every team will have a weakness. The draft, often one of the best parts of a league, rewards those in who prepare in advance!

Free Agency Yahtzee!

In traditional leagues, most players, barring a blockbuster trade, will often remain on one team all year. But in a guillotine, you could easily see any of the top 20 picked players not only available late in the season but even half a dozen times in one season!

Sometimes they are injured studs, who can help you last until the end but offer no immediate help. Sometimes they are underperforming studs or overhyped players who could be a trap play that sends you to an early doom. Guillotine owners are forced to choose whether to spend big early on a stud who can give you a larger margin of error while the field is large versus sitting on your FAAB dollars to give an extra advantage late.

Guillotine Fantasy Football Primer: Basic Guillotine League Strategy

I’ve now likely whetted your appetite to play in a guillotine league, right? Well before you rush into a league, here are some basic strategy tips to keep in mind. 

Aim For High Floor Flex Options

High-scoring potential is always attractive, but remember, as long as you’re not last, you’re first! You don’t ever have to win a week… just don’t lose one. And that brings us to the next recommendation.

Avoid rookies

I can promise you that Bijan Robinson will be drafted. The same goes for Jamyr Gibbs, Jordan Addison, Zay Flowers, and so forth. However, while most players have peaks and valleys, rookies are even more volatile. And that is especially true in the earlier part of the season. Henceforth, I never draft rookies at the usual market value and they are generally best left for your competition to grab. So few rookies are consistent throughout the season. And an unexpected goose egg will have you looking at a very low team total. Therefore, it’s likely best to avoid rookies when drafting your guillotine league team.

Look for Players with Late Bye Weeks

As mentioned above, you will constantly be playing a balancing game with your roster. When the bye weeks hit, your decisions become even tougher. But if you choose players with later bye weeks, you can push those decisions until later in the season and when there are fewer owners competing for those players who can help you cover a bye week.

Avoid All-Scar players

Players who start the year with a questionable status or those players who seem to be constantly GTD might as well be wearing black cloaks and carrying a scythe.

That brings us to the end of our Guillotine Fantasy Football Primer. If you enter a guillotine league this season, may you have a neck of iron. Good luck!

For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis, check out our full 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!

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