Starting Fantasy Football Late – Can You Play After Week 1? (Yes)

Playing fantasy football is challenging but also a lot of fun.  There are many different types of ways to play fantasy football from office leagues to playing online with complete strangers, and also multiple types of formats like season-long and daily fantasy. 

Fantasy football can be a great way to take a break from life and play general manager of a team. What happens though when you get too busy and miss signing up for any leagues and have to start fantasy football late? Can you play fantasy football late?

Yes, you can start fantasy football late even after the regular season has started. There are a lot of different ways you can play fantasy football late, including both season long fantasy football and daily fantasy football. These are your best options.

The cool thing about daily fantasy sites, like FanDuel or DraftKings, is you get to draft a new team weekly, so you don’t have to worry about an injury to a player ruining your whole fantasy season.

There are many sites that still offer season-long leagues many weeks after the season has started, and there is also Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) that are done on a daily/weekly basis. In this article, we discuss the many ways you can start fantasy football late even after the regular season has started.  

How Late Can You Start Fantasy Football?

Starting Daily Fantasy Late

If you are wanting to start fantasy football after the regular season has already begun, season-long leagues may or may not be an option depending on how late into the season you are (more on that in the section below).

But one option you always have is Daily Fantasy (DFS). You can start playing DFS any week during the season. The premise of DFS is that you aren’t obligated to play every week – and you do not have to draft a team to start the season. Every week in daily fantasy football stands alone as its own sort of season.

For example, you can play starting week 5 with no issues at all (or week 10, etc). DFS is played week by week. That means that week 4 (or 3, etc) has no carry over to week 5 whatsoever. Week 5 is a new week – its own sort of season.

You draft a new team each week, and have no obligation to play that week if you do not want to. You can play week 3, take week 4 off, then play again week 5. DFS is like 17 different one-week seasons (more than that if you count playoff action).

You are free to play (or not play) any of those weeks. This is one thing that makes DFS so popular is it is very flexible to fit your schedule. If you have no time for fantasy one week, then just pass it by and play again the following week when you have more time.

If you are new to daily fantasy, and somewhat skeptical of it, you can read our article here about whether or not daily fantasy is worth playing. One good things about daily fantasy is that you can actually play for free – both DraftKings and FanDuel allow you to register an account and play in free games without making a deposit – if you want to read more about how this actually works and how you can do this, you can read our article on this issue by clicking here.

Starting Season-Long Fantasy Late

So now we know that you can start daily fantasy football any week you wish, but what about season-long fantasy football? How late can you start fantasy football season-long leagues?

Websites will update their own league rules and schedules every year, but the general rule of thumb is you can start fantasy leagues as late as 4 weeks into the season. 

So if you love fantasy football and have missed the deadline, you can still start fantasy football late and play in a season-long league.  Once you get past the 4 week mark though, most websites stop offering season-long drafts, at least public ones.   

Players usually get hurt or perform differently than expected, which means you need to manage your team every week, often times even daily.  These leagues have waivers that allow you to pick up new players each week to fill the holes created on your roster, or to replace under-performing players. 

Waiver wire management is a huge part of season long leagues, and helps showcase the skill of individual team owners, so once you get too far into the season, this matters less and less.  This is part of the reason why season long leagues stop after four weeks into the season – it takes away the need and skill of a major part of being a season-long fantasy owner. 

Yahoo Fantasy Pro Leagues

Yahoo Fantasy Pro Leagues are, in my opinion, the best way to play paid fantasy season-long leagues online. How do they handle late starts for fantasy football?

For the upcoming season, Yahoo fantasy is offering team and league registration “from April 23, 2019 until October 12, 2019“, with these associated draft dates:

  • First day for live draft – May 30, 2019
  • Last day for live draft – September 29, 2019 (Source)

Pros and Cons to Starting Fantasy Football Late

If you are starting fantasy football late, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages.


  • If starting a season-long league late, you will know who is and who is not performing well.
  • In season-long, you can see who is actually playing. Before the season, many teams have toss-up position battles. After a couple weeks into the season, you should have a clearer picture who is getting the most reps.
  • If you choose DFS late, then you have the benefit of playing daily fantasy which doesn’t make you commit to playing every week. This is an advantage over starting and paying for a season-long league, then getting a few weeks in and realizing you don’t have time for it.


  • Starting season-long leagues late takes some of the overall skill and fun out of fantasy football.
  • Your competition has a better idea of who is and who is not performing well. This means that if you had a better feel for your draft before the season than your competitors, being able to see how players perform to start the season will help those competitors catch up to you.
  • If you are truly the best player in your league, this means less weeks to separate yourself. Fantasy football seasons are short even when you play the full season, shortening that season even more makes it harder for you to show your skill.
  • Starting DFS late has very few disadvantages, but one of them is those that have played every week will have a better grasp of how players have been performing up to that point, so you will need to make sure you prepare yourself accordingly to make up for this.

Starting Fantasy Football Late: Season vs DFS

If you are looking to start fantasy football late, the decision to play season or DFS basically comes down to two things:

  • Is it close enough to the start of the season where you can still enjoy the season-long format? This, of course, will be up to your own personal opinion.
  • Will you be available to play every week? What kept you from starting week 1? Will it affect you again? If so, perhaps DFS is better since you don’t have to commit to playing every week.

Starting Daily Fantasy Football Late in the Season

If you have missed your season-long cutoff and still want to play fantasy football, as we have mentioned, all hope is not lost.  There are many daily fantasy sports (DFS) sites that offer the opportunity to play fantasy football every week. 

If you have never played daily fantasy, overall, the concept and scoring is pretty much the same as season-long, except for each week is its own entity – there is no carryover.

Popular sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings offer many different types of games and fantasy football formats.  With daily fantasy sports, the primary way of drafting teams is choosing any set of players you want as long as you stay under your allotted salary cap. 

In this format, you have a set salary cap and each player costs a set amount of money for anyone who wants to roster him.  The cost to roster an individual player differs based on that players overall value and projected fantasy impact – the better the player, the more they cost. 

This allows each fantasy owner access to all players, instead of drafting a player based on your position in a draft cycle (like season-long leagues).  This format means there will be multiple owners that have the same players and often times in the large tournaments there are different owners who draft the same teams. 

The less common format in DFS is snake drafting.  Although snake drafting is common in season-long fantasy, it isn’t very common in DFS. Neither FanDuel nor DraftKings currently have snake-draft formats.

Basic DFS Game Formats and Strategy

If you choose to start fantasy football late by playing DFS, there are different types of game formats. The main types are broken out into two formats: cash games and tournaments. 

Cash games refer to 50/50 contests, double up contests, and head to head contests.  These are formats where you aren’t trying to have the best score but rather trying to finish in the money (with the exception of heads up where to finish in the money you obviously have to score the most points).  In these formats, you are basically trying to finish in the top half of the field. 

In 50/50 games, teams that score in the top half of the field win money, while the bottom half of the field loses their buy in.  The winning teams won’t quite double their money because the fantasy site will take a small portion of the buy in, also known as rake. 

It is known as 50/50 because 50% of the teams will win money and 50% of the teams will lose their money.  The goal in these games isn’t to finish first but rather to finish in the top 50 percent because all the winning teams receive the same amount of money. 

Double up games are just slightly different, and are exactly as you would think, the winning teams double their money.  As noted earlier, since the fantasy site will take a portion of the buy in, to win double your money you will need to finish slightly better than the top 50%. 

Head to head leagues, all you need to do is to beat the team you are playing against.  These formats are much different than tournament formats because of the way they are paid out and the scores it takes to make money. 

Since you don’t have to score the most points to win in these double-up and other cash game formats, fantasy players will usually try to find players that are safer plays (referred to as ‘high-floor’ plays).  Safe plays are players that consistently score a lot of points every week. 

Fantasy players will try to find a few safe players mixed with a few high reward players.  This gives them a chance to have a high floor and a high ceiling. 

DFS Tournaments are a bit different – you are playing in a tournament so you need to score the most points to get the highest reward.  Most of the tournaments will have very large fields, and so it takes an extremely high score to win. 

Large tournaments will usually pay out around 25% of the field, but they are almost always heavily weighted for the top few spots (which draws criticism from DFS players).  Since these top few spots are so rewarding, it makes sense to select players that are really high risk but have really high potential. 

Another strategy in fantasy football tournaments is stacking players.  In fantasy football, stacking is when you select many players from the same game and often from the same team.  The idea being if you can find a game that scores a lot of real life points, many of the players will score a lot of fantasy points.  Stacking players in games that have the highest under/over lines is very popular.

Joshua Lloyd

Joshua is lead content creator for basketball and golf at Sports Fan Focus. Golf is a passion of his and he enjoys both playing and watching golf in his spare time. To read more about Joshua, visit the SFF About Us page.

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