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.



Introducing CrowdSorcerer: The Fantasy Value Crowdsourcing App

Hi everyone! I am excited to announce the roll-out of a new app that I hope you will enjoy, called CrowdSorcerer.

CrowdSorcerer lets the whole fantasy football community (who use the app) determine player values by making a series of choices between players or sets of players.

The app serves up choices between randomly selected players, and the choices made by you and other users are used to update player values and ranks in the database. If you use the app in dynasty mode, the app includes draft picks as well.

After you have done two one-to-one comparisons and one multiplayer comparison, you can view the full rankings and values for a position of your choice – RB, WR, QB, or TE.

As we always do here at the Fantasy Value Project, we have made this app not only about rank, but also about numerical values, which is much more informative than rank.

Here are some screenshots to give you a sense of what the app is like. You start by choosing between redraft and dynasty, and between standard scoring and PPR.

Text: Welcome to CrowdSorcerer: Where your choices help set fantasy football values. Select league type: Redraft 2019 Slider image Dynasty. Select scoring format: standard, slider image, PPR

You then get a choice between two players, like this one:

Choose a player: Todd Gurley; Antonio Brown.

I chose Todd Gurley, so I got this results page:

You chose Todd Gurley over Antonio Brown. The CrowdSorcerer community prefers Todd Gurley. Todd Gurley’s Value in PPR dynasty leagues: 30.10. Antonio Brown’s Value in PPR dynasty leagues: 25.05.

The list you see after making three choices looks like this:

List of top ten tight ends in dynasty PPR format.

What are these values? Well, the total value of all players in the database (in the case of dynasty, the total of all players and draft picks) is 2400. So each player’s value is his portion of that 2400.

That number was chosen because it’s the total auction money in a 12-team league with a $200 budget. So think of it as the amount that the community would spend on the player in an auction league.

Click the link and check it out for yourself. The more people use it, the more accurate the values and ranks get. And please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

7 Tactics for Drafting in Guillotine Leagues

The winning strategy in guillotine league football is Bid Low, Bid Late, which calls for spending as little as possible until late in the season. In order to survive late into the season, players should aim to start with a resilient team.

This article suggests seven tactics for drafting in a guillotine league to build a maximally resilient team in support of the Bid Low, Bid Late strategy. These are the tactics I am suggesting:

  1. Anti-Volatility
  2. Anti-Stashing
  3. Anti-Stacking
  4. Bye Diversity
  5. Singleton the Singletons
  6. Late Bye
  7. Crowded Bye

What follows is a work in progress, representing my best hypotheses, and not a backward-looking analysis of proven tactics. The guillotine league format is only a year old, and the one league I have played in involved an auction, not a draft. I am implementing these tactics, to various degrees, in the leagues that I am playing in this year. I expect to report back on how well they worked out.

Fanball Guillotine Leagues

The tactics I am describing here are tailored to Fanball guillotine leagues. These leagues have 17 teams, each of which drafts 12 players. Starting lineups consist of seven players: QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, TE, and flex (RB, WR or TE). Scoring is conventional PPR, except that passing touchdowns are worth six points, not the conventional four.

The season is structured differently than conventional fantasy football seasons. The first thirteen weeks are the “regular season,” where each week, the lowest-scoring team is eliminated, and its players are dropped to waivers. Weeks 14-16 are a three-week playoff, with the winner determined by the cumulative three-week score. The top three positions pay out.

Continue reading “7 Tactics for Drafting in Guillotine Leagues”

Using Game Theory to Determine Fantasy Value

With this post, we start looking at player fantasy value in a different way.

Up to now, we have been looking at player fantasy value by looking at actual player performances, and comparing their fantasy points with those of their notional replacements.

Starting today, we consider a different approach as well. We will ask: if fantasy teams had a budget of fantasy points, which they had to bid to acquire players, how many fantasy points ought a team to spend for a player with a given production profile?

This is admittedly far removed from the everyday fantasy evaluations that fantasy owners do. But if this blog’s theme is correct, and the ideal way to evaluate fantasy players is in fantasy points, then this approach forms the basis for proper player evaluation. We have to start with the abstract and hypothetical in order to see the principles that can later be used for real world player evaluation, once the techniques have been developed.

Continue reading “Using Game Theory to Determine Fantasy Value”