Fantasy football has become an instrumental part of how and why we watch the NFL. The process of preparing for the upcoming season starts well before the games, though. So, when does the 2023 fantasy football season start?
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When Does Fantasy Football Start in 2023?
In terms of statistical accumulation and Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), the fantasy football season starts when the NFL season begins on Sept. 7. However, for those of us playing in fantasy football leagues, we’ve got lots to do well before then.
The most common fantasy football format will always be redraft. Major fantasy platforms like Yahoo, ESPN, and Sleeper open up for league formation as early as April. Those leagues have been forming all offseason.
While there are often predraft processes and things to iron out for your league, the fantasy football season truly kicks off when your fantasy draft occurs. Typically, that will be in late August/early September.
The two most popular fantasy draft weeks are the week before and after Labor Day. This year, Labor Day is Monday, Sept. 4. You can expect the vast majority of drafts to occur between Aug. 25 and Sept. 6, with the weekends of Aug. 25-27 and Sept. 1-4 as the most popular draft dates.
There’s a very good reason we see drafts occur during this roughly two-week period. Fantasy managers need to get their drafts in before the season starts but prefer to wait until after the preseason ends, removing any risk of players getting hurt between your draft and the start of the regular season.
Labor Day weekend is especially popular because of the three-day weekend, giving people an extra day off from work. Given that Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, that is often a light work week, affording fantasy managers time to dedicate to drafting their fantasy teams.
Of course, there’s no rule about when you need to conduct your fantasy draft. Technically, you could draft the day after the Super Bowl if you wanted to. But the later you do it, the more information you have at your disposal.
Dynasty and Best Ball Fantasy Football Is Already Underway
Dynasty fantasy football can’t ever start because it never ends. Dynasty startup drafts occur at various points throughout the offseason but often are held much earlier than redraft leagues hold their drafts.
The situation is often the same for rookie drafts. Managers hoping to use their college football knowledge to beat the competition will push for drafts to take place as early as possible, sometimes even before the NFL Draft.
However, there is frequently a bit of a moratorium on activity, even in dynasty leagues, during the period following the conclusion of the NFL regular season and the start of free agency. As very little typically goes on in the NFL, managers take the time to step back from the 24/7/365 fantasy grind and relax a bit.
Once free agency hits in March, and more importantly, following the NFL Draft in late April, that’s when dynasty season really kicks into high gear. At that point, NFL rosters are pretty much set. Other than the occasional late-summer signing or training camp injury, not much is going to change in terms of fantasy-relevant personnel.
Best Ball fantasy football is in a similar situation regarding a 2022 start date. Best Ball leagues can be drafted all year. This includes during the season itself. In-season Best Ball formats can be either one-off weekly games or longer formats spanning the remainder of the season.
When it comes to Best Ball leagues for the upcoming season, some even start immediately following the conclusion of the regular season. Others see the Super Bowl as the time to look ahead to the next season.
After the conclusion of the first wave of free agency — or the end of NFL draft weekend — is when a number of eyes turn back to Best Ball fantasy football for the upcoming season.
Since Best Ball leagues don’t require any action by fantasy managers after the draft, they are an excellent way to satisfy that draft itch while not burdening yourself with more teams to manage throughout the season. They are most popular toward the middle part of the fantasy offseason.