15 Contract-Year Fantasy Football Options
There are many good reasons to look at contracts in fantasy football. For example, one of my favorite things to do when evaluating future opportunity for rookies is to look at the contracts of the starters in front of them. See my player profiles on Van Jefferson and La'Mical Perine for more on that.
Additionally, for those drafting early, it’s important to see who might be a cap-casualty heading into the season. Last year, I drafted Devin Singletary late in most redraft leagues after noticing the roughly $9 million the Bills could save by cutting LeSean McCoy.
Most importantly, checking on contract status can clue fantasy owners into which players may be extra motivated while gunning for a new deal. There’s a strong list this season of players who may be looking to next offseason, highlighted by a deep group of running backs. Teams looking for help in the run game should have plenty of options to choose from heading into 2021 free agency. Here is a look at some of the more notable players who may thrive this year with some extra incentive.
In my recent article about whether or not players historically perform better in contract years, I found quarterbacks could experience some boost in production due to contract status. Dak Prescott is the obvious option this year, but since he’s playing on the franchise tag and coming off a career year, I think his ADP should remain unaffected by his potential impending free agency. There’s only one quarterback really worth getting into.
Mitch Trubisky, Bears
I don’t love Mitch Trubisky. I’m not confident he’s accurate enough to be a starter in this league, and Nick Foles was brought in via trade to compete with him. That being said, the pressure is on for the fourth-year player out of North Carolina, and he’s actually in a pretty good position to take advantage of it. Foles will press him, but he’s far from a sure thing. Outside two good partial seasons in Philadelphia, Foles has been largely unsuccessful throughout his career as a part-time starting quarterback. In fact, in his four starts last season, Foles finished with a lower DVOA (Football Outsider’s metric for value per play) than Trubisky. The same goes for his five starts in 2018.
Instead of viewing Foles as a reason Trubisky won’t succeed, perhaps the presence of veteran competition and his pending contract status might light a fire under him and be the reason for improvement. Trubisky was awful last year, but he was quietly 12th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game in 2018 and he has talent around him, including Allen Robinson as his top receiver. If he can hold off Foles, he could be a huge surprise at his current undrafted ADP. Don’t draft him high, but he has considerable upside as a back-of-the-roster stash.
Others prominent QBs in a contract year: Dak Prescott
I didn’t see a tremendous amount of consistency in running back impact during contract years, but with the sheer volume of players at that position who are looking at free agency next year, it’s worth taking a look. I’m going to ignore Derrick Henry in this case since he’s coming off a huge season and playing on the franchise tag. His contract status shouldn’t impact where he’s drafted. I also removed Leonard Fournette from the list, since he and the team seem to be at odds. Perhaps that equates to extra motivation, but it could just as easily lead to less opportunity if there’s friction. Opportunity is still the primary factor for running backs.
I left out James White because he’s in a crowded backfield and will be dealing with a new quarterback situation. His draft slot should be based on those factors more than on his contract status. Chris Carson is an interesting target, but coming off a hip injury, health is the primary factor for him. If he’s healthy, he’s shown he’ll get a full workload and provide steady production.
Continue reading for 14 more contract-year players!
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