What is guillotine fantasy football?

The fantasy football community is incredibly creative and innovative. I can’t imagine the inventors of this game could ever have conceived of the different varieties and types of leagues that exist now. One of the newer iterations is the guillotine format. What is guillotine fantasy football, and how does it work?

Save your draft. Save your team. Win money.

The concept of a guillotine fantasy football league is quite ingenious. There are no head-to-head matchups. The only thing that matters is total points.

Each week, fantasy managers set their lineups as normal. The lowest scoring team is eliminated. That team’s players are then dispersed into the available player pool to be claimed via free agent auction bidding waivers.

This process repeats itself until there is just one team remaining. The team with the highest season-long point total after 17 weeks wins.

On the surface, it may seem like a simple game. You draft your team like any other fantasy football league. You set your lineup and hopefully don’t come in last for that week. Then, you make waiver claims to improve your roster. Of course, it’s never that simple.

In a traditional fantasy football league, when there are clear fantasy starters on the waiver wire, you aggressively pursue them. You can’t exactly do that in a guillotine league.

Managing the waiver wire

Without question, this is the most challenging aspect of a guillotine fantasy football league. We know the most valuable waiver wire additions are early in the season because they’re able to benefit your team the longest. If you add a season-long RB2 in Week 2, he’s way more valuable than an RB2 you add in Week 13.

In a guillotine league, it’s different because you know with absolute certainty there will be several worthwhile additions every week. After each week, an entire roster’s worth of players will be added to the player pool.

Even the worst teams will have at least a couple of difference-making players. As the season progresses, the teams being eliminated will be better and better. Therefore, the caliber of player you can claim will be better. The strategic challenge is figuring out how to spend your FAAB, or Free Agent Auction Budget.

Don’t spend too much early…but also don’t spend too little

Contradictory? Counterintuitive? Nonsensical? All of those feelings are accurate. That’s what makes guillotine fantasy football leagues so interesting.

Your season-long point total matters because that’s what determines a champion. You definitely want to accumulate points early and build a lead. However, as the season progresses, there will be better and better players on the waiver wire. Those players will invariably score more points. Therein lies the challenge.

You can’t ignore the waiver wire early because you don’t want to fall too far behind (or come in last and get eliminated). At the same time, you can’t burn through your FAAB too soon because then the teams that conserve their FAAB will be able to catch up very easily.

Your goal should be to stay out of last place while conserving as much FAAB as possible. By the time you reach the second half of the season, you want the buying power to grab the truly elite players entering the player pool.

In the second half of the season, it’s time to spend. That’s when you gain an edge on your competition. The teams that have spent their budget early will have good players, but you’ll be able to claim great players. There will be plenty of time to make up the difference.

We’ve reached the end of the article and still haven’t discussed the biggest downside of a guillotine league. Someone is going to get to play for exactly one week. That’s it. Season over. Better luck next year.

Of course, that’s no fun. So if you’re playing a guillotine fantasy football league this year, make sure you play in other leagues. No one plans to get eliminated the first week, but it happens. Even if you make it a month, there are 17 weeks every season, and, ideally, we’re all able to play for all 17 of them.

Jason Katz is a Fantasy Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @jasonkatz13 and find more of his work here.

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