After being born, raised, and educated in Wisconsin, I had the good fortune to land a job working on the island of Kauai, arguably the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands. I inexplicably returned to the Midwest after one year in paradise, and while it was (probably) the right decision for me, I always question that decision around this time of year. It’s mid-February in the Midwest, the time of the year when the weather, much like fantasy football, feels stuck in a deep freeze that seemingly has no end. But fear not, both the weather and fantasy football begin heating up soon. Here’s what we have to look forward too in the weeks and months to come.
February 19: Franchise Tags
The franchise tag date kicks off the NFL offseason roller coaster. A year ago it was applied to the likes of Le’Veon Bell and Jarvis Landry, two players that ultimately didn’t play a single snap for the team that tagged them. As far as fantasy football is concerned, there aren’t a lot of relevant players expected to be tagged this season. Most of the notable franchise tag candidates fall on the defensive side of the ball this season, but there are a few offensive players worth mentioning.
Nick Foles could be tagged, but Philadelphia would apply it in hopes of trading the Super Bowl LII MVP. Robby Anderson is a candidate for the Jets, and Le’Veon Bell is even rumored to be considered for the slightly modified transition tag. The franchise tag date isn’t the most exciting date on the NFL offseason calendar, but it signals the unofficial beginning of upcoming NFL season.
February 26-March 4: NFL Combine
The annual Underwear Olympics are the epitome of rookie hype. It’s a hit-or-miss event when it comes to fantasy football; see Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki one year ago. They were the two big “winners” from the 2018 combine and had drastically different fantasy outputs in their rookie campaigns. While the value of the NFL Combine results can be debated, it opens up a welcome discussion in the fantasy football community revolving around rookies that may make a significant fantasy impact as they enter the NFL. Notable players to keep an eye on this year include Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, D.K. Metcalf, and Josh Jacobs.
March 11: Free Agency
This is the date when NFL teams and agents are officially allowed to begin negotiating. While there may not be a plethora of offensive talent worthy of the franchise tag this offseason, there is an abundance of fantasy relevant free agents. The 2019 free agent period appears destined to be the Le’Veon Bell lottery. Other offensive free agents of note include Golden Tate, Mark Ingram, and Tevin Coleman. While there will be plenty of fantasy hype surrounding skill positions, it will also be important to monitor offensive linemen movement, as they can have a significant impact on the offensive success of any NFL team.
March 13: League Year Officially Begins
This is the date that Joe Flacco will officially become a Denver Bronco. It’s also the date that all of the free agent contracts become official. Much of the negotiating with free agents will be unofficially completed before this Wednesday in mid-March, but it’s always exciting when everything becomes “official.”
April 1: New Coach Offseason Workouts
As usual, there have been plenty of coaching changes leading into the 2019 NFL season. Our very own @DFF_Shane wrote up a comprehensive breakdown of the 2019 head coach hires with @FantasyProsNFL. The NFL allows new coaches to get a bit of a head start on the rest of the league when it comes to offseason workouts, so at this point maybe we can glean some insight as to how some offensives will function under new leadership. The rest of the league will be allowed to begin offseason programs on April 15.
April 25-27: NFL Draft:
The NFL draft represents the apogee of NFL offseason speculation. We get a window into the potential scheme of every NFL team. Whether they draft the future workhorse running back or quarterback project, we get an idea of what to expect from each franchise in the upcoming season. Rookies may not always make an immediate fantasy impact; for every Sony Michel there’s a Ronald Jones, but as a fantasy community, we finally get to connect the talented rookies to a definite NFL team and situation. Once the NFL draft is complete, the NFL fantasy offseason is in full swing.
May 3: Rookie Mini-Camps
This is the first day that teams can get a first-hand look at the future of their franchise. They can also elect to hold their rookie camps a week later, beginning on May 10. This is the first time we see reports of the rookies fitting into their new offensive schemes.
Mid-July: Training Camps
Ah mid-summer, when we get to endure triple-digit temperatures and a new version of the reality hit “Hard Knocks.” At this point of the season, it’s impossible to ignore the volume or rumors and reports coming from NFL training camps. Rookies and veterans are fighting it out to continue their NFL dreams, while fantasy owners try to decipher who might be the most valuable sleeper in the 2019 NFL fantasy draft class.
August 1: Hall of Fame Game
Finally, we get a glimpse at real(ish) football for the first time since the Super Bowl. It may not be much, but it’s something. Start composing your fantasy draft big board, if you haven’t already.
August 31: Cut Down Day
This is a day of reckoning in the NFL. All teams must reduce their rosters to 53 active players, so your deepest of sleepers may have been cut. Hopefully, if you’re in a redraft league, you haven’t had to draft quite yet.
September 5: Season Kickoff
By now you’ve drafted your fantasy team, and since you’ve been paying attention all offseason, you’re undoubtedly headed towards a championship in the NFL’s 100th season.