Is Cutthroat the Best Redraft Fantasy Football Format?

In the early 2000’s (I believe it was 2000, actually) I came up with a radical fantasy football format. I had been playing fantasy sports for a few years at this point, and I was ready to take it to a new level.

(If you don’t want to read the story, jump to the league format and rules or join Cutthroat Fantasy Football league)

I imagined a fantasy football league that was completely opposite anything that I’d ever seen. Instead of rewarding losing teams and inactive owners with high waiver claims positions and hoping your opponent would forget to set their lineup, my league would reward weekly high scorers and punish losers and aloof owners.

The idea of Cutthroat Fantasy Football was born!

Excited with my new creation, I hit the internet forums in search of owners to join my league. Remember, this was ~2000 and fantasy football websites were nowhere as robust as they are today and fantasy football had not yet become a hobby for the masses. In those days, fantasy sports were a hobby for nerds. NFL football fans saw it that way and so did nearly everyone else.

As I was sharing my brilliant new league with the handful of fantasy football forums that were in existence and many NFL forums, I repeatedly received the same feedback, “You’re a f’in idiot. Why would anyone ever want to play in that type of league?”

Literally everyone hated the idea of Cutthroat Fantasy Football at first. Yes, I know the meaning of the word “literally.”

In that first year, I didn’t find a single owner who was interested in playing in a fantasy football league that rewarded top teams and penalized the bottom-feeders. I shelved the idea for a few years.

Every two years (or so), I revisited the concept and shared it with the world. Each time, I received similar responses.

Fast forward to 2015 – “Everyone” plays fantasy football. Fantasy football is no longer a nerd hobby and most NFL fans play in at least one fantasy football league. This time when I hit the message boards and fantasy football groups, the response was mixed. I still received a lot of “that sounds stupid” comments, but now many fantasy football owners were on board. Now that fantasy football had gotten SO popular, serious players were starting to get frustrated that every single league they play in had a handful of non-responsive owners. With the mass popularity, fantasy football leagues were now filled with owners who forget to set lineups, owners who never respond to trade offers, owners who put injured players in their starting lineup and owners who flat-out don’t give a crap.

As well, serious players started getting sick of league commissioners allowing, inviting  and even encouraging these know-nothing lazy-assed owners. Serious players are in it for the hobby, not to win a few hundred bucks. Fantasy football is a 6+ month hobby and serious fantasy football hobbyists were sick of commissioners who only cared to win a few bucks from crappy aloof owners.

I had already recruited half of the league from the current fantasy football leagues I played in, so I only needed to find six more owners for the 12 owner league. I only needed six owners to participate in this grand experiment – and I had finally found them after 15 years of searching!

Finally, I found enough “nerds” to join my journey

The Cutthroat Fantasy Football Format

The principles driving Cutthroat Fantasy Football have always been simple. Active owners and winning teams are rewarded. Inactive owners and losing teams are punished.

2017 Cutthroat Basics

2017 marks the third year of Cutthroat Fantasy Football and the rules have evolved and changed year to year. Each year we have turnover of 4-5 owners, but every owner who leaves the league says it was their favorite league the year before. Simply, the owners who leave the league recognized they may not have the time to commit to the Cutthroat for the upcoming season.

Read the complete 2017 Cutthroat Fantasy Football Rules and feel free to copy the rules and start your own league. If you do start your own Cutthroat Fantasy Football inspired league, leave a comment below and tell me about it.

Cutthroat Fantasy Football Entry Fee & Draft

  • The Cutthroat fun begins with the entry fees. Each year I recruit 15+ owners who want to play. Once I have 15 interested owners, I open up the payment portal and the first 12 owners to pay their fee (11, plus me) get to play in the league. The other wannabe owners are out of luck for the season.
  • Owners from the previous season are allowed to place a $25 deposit to guarantee their spot in the league.
  • The Cutthroat entry fee is flexible. Owners can choose to buy-in for $25 up to $75.
  • The Cutthroat draft order is determined round by round via draft lottery. For the base entry fee of $25, each owner receives one ping pong ball per round in the draft lottery. For each additional $1 of entry fee, the owner receives 1 additional “ping pong ball.” The additional ping pong balls may distributed throughout the rounds of the draft lottery however the owner wishes.
  • Take a look at the screencast of the live 2017 Cutthroat Fantasy Football draft lottery.

  • I hope you’re ready to draft. The Cutthroat draft timer is only 60 seconds per pick, and if you miss your pick, there’s no going back. You don’t get a player. The longest Cutthroat draft has been one hour, one minute and thirty two seconds.

Don’t be an Inactive Cutthroat Owner

  • Fighting owner inactivity is one of the primary features of Cutthroat Fantasy Football. Owners are required to “check-in” at least once every 24 hours. In 2017, owners must post a message in their team-specific “check-in” thread on the message board.

Cutthroat Fantasy Football league owners must check-in at least once every 24 hours by posting a message in their team’s thread on the league’s message board.

  • When an owner fails to check-in within any consecutive 24 hour time period, their upcoming opponent has the chance to “lock” a player on their roster. A locked player is not allowed in their starting lineup for the upcoming fantasy game.
  • Locked players may be traded, but the players a team receives in return for their locked player cannot be protected in the upcoming player stealing process – more on that later.
  • Owners may have multiple players locked each week if they are inactive for multiple 24 hour periods.
  • If an owner is inactive for a 72 hour period, they will be removed from the league and forfeit their entry fee. Yes, I have a list of owners who are ready to take over an abandoned team.

It’s not all about Winning each Week

  • In Cutthroat, sometimes scoring lots of points is more valuable than the win.
  • After each fantasy week, there is a player stealing process in Cutthroat Fantasy Football. During player stealing, the previous week’s highest scoring teams get to steal a player from the lowest scoring teams. In turn, the bottom scoring teams steal a player from the top scoring teams. The bottom six scoring teams get to protect 2 players that cannot be stolen. In return, the top six scoring teams get to protect 5 players that cannot be stolen.
  • If an owner misses the deadline to protect players, no players are protected.
  • If an owner misses the player stealing deadline, no player is stolen.
  • Now, it may sound as if the bottom scoring teams in week one would be decimated from the beginning and it would snowball out of control, rendering the bottom six teams completely worthless. This was my worry from the very beginning. However, we found that, in reality, fantasy scoring varies immensely week to week and when a team does actually end up at the bottom a few weeks in a row, the opposite is true. Teams finishing at the bottom in scoring in consecutive weeks actually get stronger because the bottom team’s #3 player is (many times) worse than a top scoring team’s #6 player.
  • Another bonus for high scorers – the weekly claims priority is ranked using the highest to lowest score from the previous week.

Cutthroat Fantasy Football Playoffs

  • Most of the Cutthroat Fantasy Football playoff setup is pretty common to most “normal” fantasy football leagues, starting in week 14, with the championship in week 16.
  • The owner inactivity time period jumps from 24 hours to 12 hours in the playoffs. During the Cutthroat playoffs, owners are required to check-in every 12 hours. In 2016, a locked David Johnson actually changed the outcome of the championship!
  • The top two Cutthroat playoff seeds receive bye weeks, but still submit lineups. The highest scorer of the bye week teams get to select their week 15 opponent from the playoff winners in week 14.
  • Cutthroat has a Losers’ Bracket, where the bracket winner gets 25 extra ping pong balls for next year’s draft lottery. Even though Cutthroat is not a keeper league, the league is all about activity and the wonderful hobby of fantasy football. The Losers’ Bracket prize of bonus ping pong balls allows the league to keep player stealing going throughout the playoffs and adds more fun and hobby value for all league owners.
  • Player stealing is still going strong in the playoffs, with Championship bracket and Losers’ Bracket team intermingled. All teams that are alive in either post-season bracket participates in player stealing, with the same format as the regular season. Teams that have been eliminated from either bracket do not participate in player stealing.
  • As well, free agency is active in the playoffs, but teams who have been completely eliminated from competition will have their rosters frozen and do not participate in free agency.
This #CutthroatFantasy league format sounds like the perfect fit for me! #FantasyFootball Click To Tweet


Cutthroat Fantasy Football Strategy

No. I’m not going to tell you MY strategies – hopefully we’ll play together one year.

That said, the Cutthroat format leads to many different strategies.

  • Locked players have been traded for pennies on the dollar.
  • Owners have benched their QB heading into Monday Night Football, hoping to be matched up with a “better” player stealing partner team.
  • Five for one player trades, so another team can beat a division rival.
  • Teams not carrying kickers or defenses for weeks at a time.
  • Text messages at 4am telling another owner that their opponent hasn’t checked-in for 24 hours.
  • Deciding not to steal a player from an opponent.
  • …and many more seemingly “crazy” strategies!

The Cutthroat Fantasy Football Website of Choice

Choosing a website to run the Cutthroat Fantasy Football league was a tough and in-depth process. Even though I had used My Fantasy League to run my Kansas City Keeper fantasy football league for years, it was important to research all available fantasy football website options available to make sure the Cutthroat league’s fantasy football website provider could handle a majority of the unique Cutthroat rules and settings.

After a month of researching and testing nearly two dozen fantasy football websites in 2015, I selected to run the Cutthroat Fantasy Football league. We have used My Fantasy League ever since.

(if you want to check out My Fantasy League – setup a test league. If you decide to use My Fantasy League, they will give us a discount on the Cutthroat league fee)

Fantrax came in a close second. If I wasn’t already playing in four other leagues already using My Fantasy League, I would have selected Fantrax to run the Cutthroat Fantasy Football league. I had used Fantrax to run my fantasy baseball league for years and it is a super-impressive platform with tons of options and capabilities.

Of all the fantasy football websites I tested, My Fantasy League and Fantrax were easily the two most robust systems available. Fantrax actually had the advantage with the free agency waiver claims options available, but the slight deficiency of the My Fantasy League system wasn’t enough for me to give up the convenience of having all of my own personal fantasy football leagues located in the same place. Note – In 2017, My Fantasy League made big updates with their waivers claims system, now equaling Fantrax.

I doubt there will ever be a fantasy football website system that can handle all of the Cutthroat Fantasy Football requirements. So, if you decide to start up your own “Cutthroat” inspired league, make sure you’re prepared to spend time each week managing the league.

Join Cutthroat Fantasy Football League

If Cutthroat Fantasy Football sounds like your type of league, send me a message and I will put you on “the list” of interested owners.

If you’re on “the list,” I will send you an email if an owner abandons their team. As well, I will send you an email when we start recruiting owners for next season.

Start your own “Cutthroat” Fantasy Football League

You are welcome to copy my Cutthroat Fantasy Football league rules and start your own league. Tell me about it in the comments section below! Let me know which rules you kept and which you changed.

I'm starting a #CutthroatFantasy league! Who wants to join my SUPER-ACTIVE #FantasyFootball league?! Click To Tweet

What do you Think about Cutthroat?

Do you have any questions or thoughts about the Cutthroat style fantasy football league? Ask questions and tell me what you think in the comments section below.