Cassy Aite

When Does Fantasy Football Start? And How To Prepare for the Season

Jul 28
8 minutes

If you frequently ask, “When does fantasy football start?” you’re in the majority. It’s a question that new and intermediate players commonly ask, and more importantly, one that adds a bit of excitement to the dog days of summer.

You’ve suffered through the nearly sports-free season (sorry, MLB) and endured what seems like a lifetime since the NFL season ended. You’re hungry for a new season of bone-crunching tackles, late-game heroics, and record-breaking performances.

But let’s center on the true reason of your meaningless existence — you’re just waiting for fantasy football to return. Whether you’re aiming to avenge a playoff loss, right the ship after a lackluster year, or work on back-to-back titles, the regular season doesn’t seem close enough.

The season’s right around the corner and your preparation starts even before that. Find out when the league might begin and what you can do to prepare for its triumphant return.

When Does Fantasy Football Start Officially?

Two football helmets on a field with a football sitting in between them

The NFL season officially begins on the Thursday following the first Monday of September — or if you’re based in the U.S. — on the Thursday after Labor Day.

Generally speaking, the dawn of your fantasy football season begins with a fantasy football draft party, which is traditionally held in late August or early September — a weekend or two before the start of the NFL season. Labor Day weekend is a popular choice for fantasy football leagues due to the three-day weekend. This gives players a chance to draft, party, and recuperate before the season starts.

However, the choice of when to have a draft is up to your league. Most fantasy players prefer the draft to start after all of the preseason games to provide time to scout and make adjustments for any injuries. Others may favor an earlier draft date so their research isn’t altered or obscured by any preseason performances — although this is certainly in the minority.

Registration for popular fantasy team leagues such as Yahoo, ESPN, and Sleeper can begin as early as April and as late as June. But when your season kickoff starts will vary depending on your league manager’s motivation to start the league and your preferred hosting site’s stipulations and league settings.

Quick note: If you’re part of a dynasty league, you won’t have a draft. Keeper leagues will have a draft, but you may not have as much work to do on your draft picks. As the name implies, you get to keep a handful of players of your choice as a carryover from last year.

When To Start Preparing for Fantasy Football

If the thought of ending the season on a down note or without a fantasy trophy irks you, you probably want to start prepping for fantasy football ASAP. It’s never too early to start — the more time you put in, the better your chances of winning your league’s Super Bowl title.

While you can certainly start your prep work the day after the season ends, you may want to wait until after the NFL Draft and free agency.

  • Free agency in the NFL starts on the third Wednesday in March.
  • The NFL Draft is traditionally held on the last Thursday of April.

By waiting until after these integral events, you can hone in on your potential draft picks for your preferred starting lineup.

You should also use the preseason as a way to gauge potential sleepers and adjust your player rankings and draft positions accordingly. The NFL preseason starts with the Pro Football Hall of Fame game, which kicks off on the first Thursday in August.

Though you can always start early, starting late is a death sentence. Sure, NFL stars are sure to add touchdowns and points each week, but it’s those secondary players — the supporting cast if you will — that can make all the difference.

6 Tips To Prepare for the Start of Fantasy Football

Two footballs on a field with a stack of $100 bills between them

Now that you’ve answered “When does fantasy football start?” you’re ready to get down to the nitty-gritty of your preparation. Every person has their own unique strategies to prepare for fantasy football, but if you’re new or just need a refresher, these tips should put you on steady ground come Week 1.

Quick Tip: Make a mental note that you may adjust your strategy based on your league’s scoring methodology and whether you play in a superflex league (2 QBs), a flex league, or a PPR league.

1. Do Your Research

Every great fantasy football season starts with research. Yet you shouldn’t confine your research simply to player rankings. Although player rankings are crucial to your mock draft, you have to look beyond the obvious.

Find out who the experts and Vegas odds favor to win a division and what their potential record might be. You should also look at upgrades to the offensive line during the offseason, as this can catapult a quarterback or running back to a career season. Great teams have playmakers and the X-factor that can make a selection even more valuable — especially if overlooked by your opponents.

2. Go Heavy on the Running Backs

The NFL has certainly tilted toward a pass-heavy league. Aerial attacks are at the forefront of the offense, accounting for a majority of the offense. However, the running game has undergone somewhat of a revival in recent years. While quality running backs are in short supply, these backs are getting more touches. For a fantasy player, this is more reason to go for a running back or multiple running backs early in the draft.

If you have a top-5 pick, you almost certainly have to select a running back (in non-PPR leagues). The scarcity of such quality backs necessitates it. You shouldn’t necessarily skip a prized wide receiver in later rounds. But with more than enough quality wide receivers to select throughout the draft or draft auction, put your season on the back of an ankle-breaking, stiff-arming behemoth.

3. Forget Your Favorites

Every NFL fan has their favorite players, but if you want to hold the fantasy football trophy at the end of the year, put your allegiances in check. Separate your love for your favorite NFL team or player and focus on your research and individual performance. League-end punishments go hand-in-hand with playing favorites, so you’re best served to avoid them — unless they’re part of your draft plan.

4. Don’t Put Too Much Credence on Bye Weeks

During your research, you’ll inevitably look at bye weeks during the NFL season. Bye weeks can take a huge chunk of points away from your head-to-head matchup if you’re not careful. But you also shouldn’t plan your entire draft around them.

If you have two players with the same bye week, select the better player on the board. Worry about who to select from the waiver wire to fill in the gaps when the bye week comes around.

5. Add Depth

Toward the end of the draft, you may see all of your preferred picks come off the board. One thing you shouldn’t do is shut down your strategy and simply draft a second defense (D/ST). It’s essentially a waste of a pick, especially if you have elite or even middle-of-the-road selections at this position.

Instead, focus on depth at wide receiver, tight end, and running back. If injuries set you back, you have players to slot into your lineup without losing too much production. Answering “When does fantasy football start?” should also have contingency plans and adjustments during the draft process.

6. Once the Season Begins

Hopefully, you were able to grab a few sleepers on your draft board. But if you have a few players trending upwards on the waiver wire, now is the time to seize them in early weeks. Using Wise Guys Edge, you can easily compare up to five players each week — it’s quick and easy.

In addition, you can use daily fantasy sports (DFS) to tweak your lineup for each fantasy NFL game. Log onto DraftKings or FanDuel. From here, you can see the cash value of each player during the current week, which adds some insight into which players are valuable additions on any given week.

Set the tone early, have a hands-on approach from Week 1, and you should see results.

When Does Fantasy Football Start? As Soon As You Learn the Right Tools

Football player standing on a lit field

You can begin your fantasy football season whenever the urge may strike you, but the earlier you start, the better results. Researching the best NFL players — from wide receivers to running backs to even kickers —- can help you add the pieces that dominate your seasonal head-to-head matchups. But without the right tools to decide who to start each week and which waiver wire  pickups can put you over the top, all of your hard work can be a futile effort.

Unless you’re in a best ball league, you need to consistently select the best team to put on the field. Using Vegas odds and the five-player comparison tool from Wise Guys Edge, you can cut down on the stress that can plague you each week.