Guillotine Leagues: Week 3 Recap

I lost my first Fanball league, the one I’ve named Team Ali LaPointe. Eulogy below. This brings my total number of guillotine leagues down from 9 to 7, only three weeks in. Here’s my losing lineup:

QB: Andy Dalton
RB: Latavius Murray
RB: Nyhiem Hines
WR: Josh Gordon
WR: Odell Beckham
TE: Vernon Davis
FLEX: Mike Williams

How did I end up with a lineup this putrid? Well, here was my draft, from the 14 spot:
1: Odell Beckham (week 3 starter)
2: Antonio Brown (out of the NFL)
3: Hunter Henry (injured)
4. James White (didn’t play for joyous family reasons)
5. Rashaad Penny (injured)
6. Latavius Murray (bad pick)
7. Nyheim Hines (bad pick)
8. Josh Gordon (good pick, but too early)
9. Devin Singletary (great value, but injured week 3)
10. Albert Wilson
11. Ryan Fitzpatrick
12. Andy Dalton

Vernon Davis was a substitute tight end, and Mike Williams a value pickup. This was my first draft of the year, from late June. I don’t think I did a terrible job drafting, but I now think I should have picked a decent QB early. Five more points and I would have survived, which makes me think that if either Penny or White had played, I would have made it.

A couple more teams are making me nervous. In my Team Sydney Carton, my good RBs are Melvin Gordon (acquired for 4 FAAB last week – just a stroke of luck) and Matt Breida (bye). My other RBs are Carlos Hyde, Darrell Henderson, and Ty Johnson. Hyde is the obvious starter, but a scary #1 RB. I will probably have to risk a 3-touch game for Melvin Gordon unless it is announced he’s not playing. At quarterback, I had to pick up Kirk Cousins (after losing a tie-breaker for Minshew) because of a rumor that Stafford – my starting QB – may not be okay. Here’s the current lineup:

QB: Kirk Cousins
RB: Carlos Hyde
RB: Melvin Gordon
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Brandin Cooks
TE: Zach Ertz
FLEX: Larry Fitzgerald (or Josh Gordon)

Scary. I’d feel slightly better if Ertz had had a big Thursday night game, but he only had an okay game.

My other team is even worse. This is the team I’m calling The Bourgeoisie. It’s my other Antonio Brown team. Here’s the lineup I’m looking at:

QB: Jameis Winston
RB: Mark Ingram
RB: Miles Sanders
WR: Dede Westbrook
WR: Preston Williams
TE: Travis Kelce
FLEX: Paul Richardson

Unlike Team Sydney Carton, which is temporarily set back by the bye and the Melvin Gordon situation, The Bourgeousie just sucks (see what I did there?). My bench is Corey Davis, Antonio Brown, Geronimo Allison, Latavius Murray, and Kirk Cousins. If I survive this week, I might need to actually spend some serious FAAB money to remain in contention.

Spending Report

I think I still have access to all the details of my league, even after Team Ali LaPointe has been eliminated, so I’ll continue to report on all the (over)spending in my leagues. I would have thought all the spend-happy teams would have run out of FAAB by now, but no. There were six bids of $500 or more, five of $400 to $499, four of $300 to $399, five of $200 to $299, thirteen of $100 to $199, and seventeen of $50 to $99. Feast thine eyes on the players in my 7 leagues who went for $50 or more:

DeAndre Hopkins: 653, 651
Derrick Henry: 581 (runner-up bid: 309), 501 (runner-up bid: 500)
Odell Beckham: 512
Cooper Kupp: 501 (runner-up bid: 257)
Pat Mahomes: 485
Davante Adams: 425, 400
Adam Thielen: 425
Josh Jacobs: 401, 300
Le’Veon Bell: 341
Zach Ertz: 311
Julian Edelman: 300
Wayne Gallman: 298 (runner-up bid: 39), 157, 107, 101, 78, 59
Kerryon Johnson: 277
Daniel Jones: 270 (runner-up bid: 102), 64
Melvin Gordon: 227, 126
James White: 220, 150
Calvin Ridley: 157
Tyler Boyd: 156
Juju Smith-Schuster: 155
Philip Rivers: 154
Austin Hooper: 133
Rex Burkhead: 118
Devin Singletary: 100
Rashaad Penny: 100
David Montgomery: 96
Darrel Williams: 89, 50
Mike Williams: 79
John Ross: 77
D.J. Chark: 76
Peyton Barber: 75
Hollywood Brown: 75
LeSean McCoy: 67
Paul Richardson: 61
Tarik Cohen: 58
T.J. Hockenson: 57
Nelson Agholor: 55
Philip Dorsett: 51

Here is the FAAB distribution among the 7 x 14 = 98 remaining teams in my leagues:

901-1000 FAAB: 33
801-900: 10
701-800: 13
601-700: 9
501-600: 3
401-500: 8
301-400: 7
201-300: 5
101-200: 3
0-100: 7

Quick Tip of the Week

If you are trying to decide between players to drop, drop the one who is more likely to be picked up by another team, to increase the amount of FAAB spent by other teams in your league. If you can’t predict who that is, use the players’ ownership percentage as a proxy.


Ali LaPointe was a real-life Algerian revolutionary terrorist, and one of the main characters in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Battle of Algiers. He was not guillotined, but killed in the Battle of Algiers by the French colonial forces after he was located and refused to surrender. He was hiding out in a false wall in a residential home in the casbah, and the French killed him by bombing the house he was in, causing it to collapse on him. As the last revolutionary leader in the casbah of Algiers, his killing marks the moment that the French won the Battle of Algiers, but lost the war to retain control of Algeria.

I named a guillotine league after him because in the movie (don’t know if this happened in real life), he was transformed from a common criminal to a revolutionary by witnessing a political beheading carried out in prison.

Good luck surviving the guillotine in Week 4!



Guillotine Leagues: Week 2 Recap

Another week, another set of heads rolling in guillotine leagues, which seem to have increased dramatically in popularity over last season. I did well after a rough week 1, in the sense that all eight of my surviving teams continued to survive. Some even prospered.

The good news is that other teams’ overspending continues. In my seven Fanball leagues with a total of 7 x 15 = 105 teams, there were four bids of 500 or over, ten bids of 300 or over, eighteen bids of 200 or over, thirty bids of 100 or over, and forty-seven bids of 50 or over.

Here are the bids in my Fanball leagues of 50 FAAB or over.

Alvin Kamara: 790, 500
Davante Adams: 609
David Johnson: 501
Antonio Brown: 411, 197
Juju Smith-Schuster: 391
David Ingram: 364
Adam Thielen: 350, 300
Aaron Rodgers: 301
Evan Engram: 261
Kenny Golladay: 251
Sony Michel: 226
Cam Newton: 211
Joe Mixon: 209, 200
Stefon Diggs: 203
Brandin Cooks: 201
Tyreek Hill: 158
Russell Wilson: 151
Jared Cook: 143
Tyler Lockett: 126
Christian Kirk: 124
DeMarcus Robinson: 118, 99, 55
Rashaad Penny: 110
Nelson Agholor: 101
Justin Jackson: 101
Will Dissly: 101, 77
Jacoby Brissett: 100, 51
Jarvis Landry: 82
Tyrell Williams: 76
DeSean Jackson: 75
D.K. Metcalf: 71
Raheem Mostert: 71, 50
James White: 66
Mecole Hardman: 57, 53
Chris Thompson: 55
Philip Lindsay: 51
Frank Gore: 50
Jimmy Garappolo: 50

Remaining FAAB: Out of 105 teams left, just about half – 52 teams – have between 901 and 1000 points. Seventeen have between 801 and 900, ten have 701 to 800, eight have 601 to 700, two have 501 to 600, five have 401 to 500, four have 301 to 400, three have 201 to 300, none have 101 to 200, and four have 0 to 100.

Cheap Players

In Fanball, benches are shallow, and it is possible to upgrade incrementally for cheap. Here are some low-cost improvements that some people have made to their teams between weeks 2 and 3.

Vernon Davis (for an injured Njoku): 2
Jaylen Samuels (for Kareem Hunt): 2
Danny Amendola (for Jack Doyle): 2
Case Keenum (bye week fill-in week 4, for Jamison Crowder): 1
Geronimo Allison (for Albert Wilson): 14
Frank Gore (for Dion Lewis): 11
A.J. Broen (for Parris Campbell): 1
Jordan Wilkins (for DeVante Parker): 2
Hunter Renfrow (for Donte Moncrief): 1
D.J. Chark (for Parris Campbell): 12
Josh Gordon (for Donte Moncrief): 33
Kyler Murray (to replace Drew Brees): 5
C.J. Prosise (for Chase Edmonds): 1
Duke Johnson (for David Njoku): 1
Darwin Thompson (for Darrell Henderson): 6
Darren Sproles (for Jalen Richard): 1
Sterling Shepard (for Jamison Crowder): 17
Will Dissly (for Jared Cook): 1
Tarik Cohen (for Tony Pollard): 12
Alshon Jeffery (for Anthony Miller): 11
Jarvis Landry (for Dare Ogunbowale): 3
Malcolm Brown (for Tre’Quan Smith): 5
Ito Smith (for DeVante Parker): 1
JJ Arcega-Whiteside (for Antonio Brown): 1
Eric Ebron (for Antonio Brown): 1
Mason Rudolph (for Cam Newton): 1
Jordan Howard (for C.J. Anderson): 1
Nelson Agholor (for Parris Campbell): 5
Randall Cobb (for Joe Flacco): 1
Devin Smith (for Robby Anderson ?!): 1
Teddy Bridgewater (for Eli Manning): 1

Not all of these will be to your liking, and you may not view some of them as upgrades. My point is that there are plenty of opportunities to improve your team for a few FAAB points at a time.

Quick tip: I stressed the importance of looking at bye weeks when drafting in my article 7 Tactics for Drafting in Guillotine Leagues. Don’t forget to look at bye weeks when bidding! The trap this week could be Jimmy Garappolo – if he hits your free agents list this week, do not drop your QB for him – he’s got a Week 4 bye! And make sure to plan ahead if you’re relying on George Kittle (week 4 bye) or any other players on the Jets or 49ers (week 4) or Lions or Dolphins (Week 5).

Good luck in Week 3!



Guillotine League, Week 1 Recap

Quick recap typed out on my iPhone due to connectivity issues.

First Loss of the Season

My personal update is that one of my teams – the Fantrax one – lost in week 1. This is kind of a bummer because this was not an impersonal league like the fanball ones, but one of my two leagues in which I was interacting with real live people. Which I can still do, but being out of contention kind of takes some of the fun out of it.

It was also my largest wager, at $50, and it was a 100% payout league, so out of all my leagues it was the biggest financial loss.

Why did I lose? My RBs were Guice, Penny and Breida. My QB was the $80 million dollar man, Kirk Cousins, who threw for just about 1 yard per million dollars. Guice and Penny were upside bets in the late 3rd/early 4th, which I felt okay with because I took two reliable WRs at 1/2, namely Julio and Keenan Allen. For my third WR I added Dante Pettis. So basically my whole team sucked in week 1 except Keenan.

A related strategic thought: some people are counseling drafting for early matchups in guillotine leagues to guarantee survival in the early weeks. I think this is a mistake.

Leave aside whether it is possible to execute reliably on such a strategy, and assume that you can accurately assess which players have good matchups at different points in the season.

By drafting for early season advantage, you are picking players who have less favorable matchup in the rest of the season. That means that you are shifting risk from the early season to the mid-late season.

But this is not a good move. The risk of losing due to bad luck increases as the season goes on, because the fewer teams there are, the less likely it is that someone suffers a freak bad week. If you are doing a good job of putting your team together, you want to concentrate risk as much as possible in the early season, where it is spread across more teams.

The upshot is that the optimal strategy *increases* your chance of early elimination, if others are optimizing for the early season.

Spending Frenzy

If I’ve been pushing one message, it has been: don’t overspend, especially early. To my gratification as a competitor, but not as an evangelist, people are spending like the season’s going to end in 3 weeks.

I’m going to focus on Fanball leagues here. I’m in 7 of them. In these 7 leagues, 35 players have been acquired for $100 or more in the last week. I think all of this is overspending, some of it pretty extreme. Here’s the list:

Juju Smith-Schuster 758
James Conner 562
Todd Gurley 501
Travis Kelce 501
Davante Adams 451
Odell Beckham 450
George Kittle 373, 351
Mike Evans 350
David Montgomery 350, 136
Devonta Freeman 325
DJ Moore 325, 150, 101
Kyler Murray 303 (this one had no other bids – he could have been had for $1.)
Damien Williams 291
Cam Newton 251 (no other bids)
Leonard Fournette 225
Joe Mixon 195
Baker Mayfield 191
Chris Godwin 181
Mike Williams 170
Latavius Murray 148
Tyler Lockett 121
Tyler Boyd 111, 110
Sony Michel 107
Matt Breida 101
Hollywood Brown 101
Chris Thompson 101
Miles Sanders 101
Rex Burkhead 100
James White 100
Darren Waller 100

Fanball’s rake is the equivalent of about 3 teams’ entry fees out of 17. That means if 3 or more teams knock themselves out of contention with bad bidding, then it’s a zero- or positive-sum game. Given the average of 5 overbids after week 1 alone, I like my odds.

Of the 96 teams remaining, 67 (around 70%) have between 901 and 1000 FAAB left. 14 (15%) have between 801 and 900. Two teams (2%) have between 701 and 800. Four teams (4%) have between 601 and 700. Three teams (3%) have between 501 and 600. Four teams (4%) have between 301 and 400. One team (1%) has between 301 and 400, and one has between 201 and 300.

No time for a week 2 preview, but I’ve got some ugly teams out there!

Good luck in Week 2.

Guillotine Leagues, Year 2

I’ve been on a bit of hiatus from writing about guillotine leagues – largely due to family demands, but also because I took some time to create the crowdsourcing app Crowdsorcerer, and to get involved in a tenant organizing effort.

But I signed up for 9 guillotine leagues: Seven Fanball $30 leagues, one new friends’ league on Fantrax that I’m crashing, and my league from last year that has some new rules.

Fanball: I started drafting in June and participated in seven slow drafts over two months. Here are my teams. You don’t name teams on Fanball, so these are fictional, for tracking purposes. These are my current starting lineups for Week 1.

Team Ali LaPointe (Battle of Algiers reference)

Fanball #1425
Drafted: June 20

QB: Andy Dalton
RB: James White
RB: Rashaad Penny
WR: Odell Beckham
WR: Josh Gordon
TE: Hunter Henry
FLEX: Latavius Murray

Bench: Nyheim Hines, Devin Singletary, Antonio Brown, Albert Wilson, Ryan Fitzpatrick

Comments: Not too bad for a first draft. I think I reached too much for James White at the 3/4 turn, and waited too long on QB, with the result of feeling like I had to take two of them. Glad I took a flier on Josh Gordon. Hunter Henry is a TE I really value I guillotine this year, but I think this is the only league where I ended up with him.

This league went a little crazy on the pre-Week 1 waiver wire. Justin Jackson was gotten for $250, beating a bid of $100.Dare Ogunbowale and Frank Gore went for $50.

Team Rusty Blades

Fanball #1523
Drafted: June 24

QB: Russell Wilson
RB: Dion Lewis
RB: Kerryon Johnson
WR: John Brown
WR: Emmanuel Sanders
TE: O.J. Howard
FLEX: Ezekiel Elliott

Bench: Nyheim Hines, Devin Funchess, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Albert Wilson

Comments: I had the #1 overall and went with Zeke before the drama started. I thought drafting Sanders at the 4/5 turn was my one risky move – then Zeke happened and my 2/3 turn guy A.J. Green got injured. Sigh of relief for Zeke signing and Sanders looking okay, but still feels like a bit of a rickety team. Against my own tight end advice, I drafted O.J. Howard, whose relatively early bye meant I felt pressured to get a backup TE to avoid having to blow FAAB on one. I think this is a league I sweat every week in the first half of the season. But if I survive, Green comes back and I can replace Eifert around week 8 or 9.

Team Jacobin

Fanball #1752
Drafted: July 2

QB: Russell Wilson
RB: Todd Gurley
RB: Mark Ingram
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Dante Pettis
TE: Kyle Rudolph
FLEX: Josh Gordon

Bench: Dion Lewis, Kenny Stills, Jamison Crowder, Justin Jackson, Tony Pollard

Comments: I had drafted Lamar Miller and Giovanni Bernard. Bid 21 each on Pollard and Jackson. I thought I’d dropped my bid on Pollard once Zeke signed, but I didn’t… oops. I like my starting lineup in this one.

Team Green Knight

Fanball #2122
Drafted: July 14

QB: Tom Brady
RB: Le’Veon Bell
RB: Todd Gurley
WR: Tyreek Hill
WR: Kenny Golladay
TE: Jordan Reed
FLEX: Rashaad Penny

Bench: Sterling Shepard, Dede Westbrook, T.J. Yeldon, Mike Davis, Vernon Davis

Got good depth on this team. Drafted Tyreek at the 3/4 turn right before he got reinstated, and Westbrook before the hype started. Another team where I’m betting on the health of a talented tight end notwithstanding his injury history.

Team Sydney Carton

Fanball #2481
Drafted: July 22

QB: Matthew Stafford
RB: Derrius Guice
RB: Matt Breida
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Brandin Cooks
TE: Zach Ertz
FLEX: Josh Gordon

Bench: Nyheim Hines, Carlos Hyde, Dion Lewis, Jay Ajayi, Larry Fitzgerald

Comments: I bet on 3 events: Tyreek Hill reinstatement, Josh Gordon reinstatement, and Jay Ajayi signing. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. This draft was before Gordon reinstatement. I seem to be on an island thinking Derrius Guice is a potential stud.

Team The Bourgeoisie

Fanball #3439
Drafted: August 8

QB: Kirk Cousins
RB: Mark Ingram
RB: Derrius Guice
WR: Geronimo Allison (ugh!)
WR: Dede Westbrook
TE: Travis Kelce
FLEX: Miles Sanders

Bench: Antonio Brown, Nyheim Hines, Ito Smith, Preston Williams, Jake Kumerow

Comments: If any of my teams gets eliminated in Week 1, it’s probably this one.

Team Mine Is the Earth and Everything That’s In It

Fanball #4760
Drafted: August 24

QB: Kirk Cousins
RB: Alvin Kamara
RB: Derrius Guice
WR: Will Fuller
WR: Tyler Lockett
TE: Tyler Eifert
FLEX: Kenyan Drake

Bench: Rashaad Penny, Stefon Diggs, Jamison Crowder, Chris Herndon, Michael Crabtree

Comment: Reached a little for Lockett at the 2/3. Benching Diggs due to hamstring concerns. I ignored my own advice and drafted a QB and WR1 from the same team.

Fantrax League: Team William of Occam

Drafted: Mid-late August

I sort of accidentally crashed this friends league with some Minnesotans. It’s 3 WRs, half-point PPR and very shallow benches. They commissioners do a weekly video rundown of the league – I think this will be my most fun league.

QB: Kirk Cousins
RB: Derrius Guice
RB: Sony Michel
WR: Keenan Allen
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Dante Pettis
TE: Tyler Eifert
FLEX: Matt Breida

Bench: Rashaad Penny, Carlos Hyde, Jake Kumerow, Donte Moncrief

ESPN League: Team Madame Defarge

This is my league from last year, with some changes. Basically a flex spot and a superflex spot were added, and the bench was reduced accordingly.

QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB: Derrius Guice
RB: Rashaad Penny
WR: Calvin Ridley
WR: TY Hilton
TE: Zach Ertz
FLEX: LeSean McCoy
FLEX: Sterling Shepard
FLEX: Courtland Sutton
FLEX: Saquon Barkley
OP: Jimmy Garoppolo

Bench: AJ Green, David Njoku, Anthony Miller, Chris Herndon, Rex Burkhead, Chad Kelly, Kyle Juszczyk, Teddy Bridgewater.

Comments: This was an auction with $200. I followed my philosophy of drafting for a resilient team rather than studs and duds. But I think only 1-2 other teams realized how valuable QBs would be in a 17-team guillotine league, so I ended up drafting 4: Aaron Rodgers (a steal at 26) Russell Wilson (a bigger steal at 16), Derek Carr and Garoppolo. I was able to get Saquon from a team that spent more than 80% of its budget on two players – Barkley and McCaffrey (I think he missed the draft and ESPN autobid for him), and ended up with no depth. I traded Wilson, Carr, Peyton Barber and Greg Olsen for Saquon. A steal for me, and a survival move for him. I like my chances in this league.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the fantasy and the football.