Avoiding the Guillotine
By Paul Charchian @paulcharchian
Guillotine Leagues are new enough that there isn’t a “playbook” for winning this new format. But, as a veteran of four guillotine leagues (including one championship), I can pass along a few words of advice that will apply to most of you.
Strategy No. 1: Build a roster of safe players
Fantasy owners don’t understand this, because it’s so foreign to how we normally think: You’re not playing to win. You’re playing not to lose.
You win a guillotine league by not losing for 16 weeks.
The players who help you not lose are the ones who perform predictably well every week (or as close to every week as reasonable).
Conversely, the guys who put up dud games kill you. When three of your players stink in the same week, you’ll need three touchdowns from your tight end on Monday night to avoid getting chopped.
The poster child for reliable players is Michael Thomas, who finished as a top 30 wideout in 13 of 16 games, and has performed similarly for years.
Last year, Lamar Jackson had 16 of 16 games as the 18th best quarterback or higher.
Strategy No. 2: Retain FAAB until midseason
Unless your team is in trouble early in the season (see No. 2 below), avoid the temptation to spend your free agent budget ("FAAB") dollars through the first third of the year. You can make minor moves, but ideally you want to retain 80% of your FAAB budget by Halloween.
Each week, better and better teams get cut. By midseason, awesome rosters are going to hit the waiver wire and you’ll want the ammo to snap up those guys. It’s a massive advantage.
Our CHOP podcast offers waiver wire bidding advice every week of the regular season.
Strategy No. 3: But if your team IS in trouble early…
You should always be making candid assessments of your roster. If you’re in trouble early, there’s no point in taking $920 in FAAB to your grave.
Go ahead and aggressively fix your roster via the waiver wire, by placing high bids on consistent, week-to-week producers with November or December bye weeks.
Strategy No. 4: Avoid early bye weeks
Because there are 17 teams, everyone’s got a thin roster with little quality depth. When an important player goes on bye, often you can’t pivot to a decent backup.
Every bye week is a minefield for guillotine league owners. In my experience, nothing contributes to getting chopped more than bye weeks to your star players. Having to bench a star player, without a suitable replacement, makes you an immediate candidate to be chopped.
So, don’t draft guys with early bye weeks unless you’re getting great value.
Our Guillotine League cheat sheet takes bye weeks (among several other factors) into account with our player rankings.
So, who to avoid?
A) Touchdown-dependent players. When Sony Michel scored, he averaged 15 fantasy points per game. In games when he didn’t, he averaged 6. When Mecole Hardman scored, he averaged 12 fantasy points. When he didn’t, he averaged 1.
B) Rushing-dependent quarterbacks. Excepting Lamar Jackson, who uniquely enjoys designed running plays, quarterbacks who generate fantasy points through scrambling are always a danger for their owners. What happens when a wobbly-armed quarterback doesn’t break off a long scramble or score a rushing touchdown? You’re in trouble.
C) Runners who can’t catch. Most of us (including this site) award points for receptions. Those points help balance out bad rushing games for runners. Last year, Leonard Fournette posted a scoreless 67 rushing yards (or less) in half his games. But, even in those games he managed to average 13 fantasy points because of his prodigious receiving numbers. Conversely, when Carlos Hyde posted a scoreless 67 rushing yards (or less), he averaged 5 fantasy points.
Each of these elements are factored into our exclusive Guillotine Danger Grade that we assign every player in our cheat sheets.