Fantasy football players entering a contract year

Fantasy football players entering a contract year

Fantasy football strategy

Fantasy football players entering a contract year

Updated: Tuesday, July 17, at 1:36 p.m. EDT

While simply entering a contract year is not a guarantee of increased fantasy football production, players look for any extra motivation to put their fake squads over the top.

The key when evaluating such data is to treat it as another piece of the puzzle and not get too caught up in this extra data. We’ll focus on players with the highest odds of using this incentive to put their best foot forward in an effort to land a huge deal on the open market.

All data is based on USA TODAY Sports partner Spotrac.com’s free-agent charts, and the sorting is factored from the highest 2018 salary atop each chart.

Each player is an unrestricted free agent as of March 2019. Ages listed are as of July 16. The * represents a restricted free agent.

(Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

Quarterbacks

Player
Age
2018 team
Player
Age
2018 team
Tyrod Taylor
28
CLE
Brock Osweiler
27
MIA
Josh McCown
39
NYJ
Brandon Weeden
34
HOU
Teddy Bridgewater
26
NYJ
David Fales
27
MIA
Matt Schaub
37
ATL
Austin Davis
29
SEA
Ryan Fitzpatrick
35
TB
Sean Mannion
26
LA
Colt McCoy
31
WAS
Tyler Bray
26
CHI
Landry Jones
29
PIT
Matt McGloin
28
KC
Tom Savage
28
NO
Bryce Petty
27
MIA
Ryan Griffin
28
TB
Taylor Heinicke
25
CAR
Matt Cassel
36
DET
Kevin Hogan*
25
WAS
Robert Griffin III
28
BAL
Jake Rudock*
25
DET
Joe Webb
31
HOU
Brett Hundley
25
GB
EJ Manuel
28
OAK
Nate Sudfeld*
24
PHI
Geno Smith
27
NYG
Trevor Siemian
26
MIN

Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns: The drafting of Baker Mayfield means Taylor’s days are numbered, and at 29 years old next offseason, he still has enough runway to secure a fairly lucrative deal in a situation offering a starting job. No other quarterback has a chance to excel in 2018 and realistically earn a shot at a starting job in ’19. Everyone else on this list works as a backup or is on the verge of retirement.

(Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports)

Running backs

Player
Age
2018 team
Player
Age
2018 team
Le’Veon Bell
26
PIT
Christine Michael
27
IND
Latavius Murray
27
MIN
Fitz Toussaint
28
PIT
Marshawn Lynch
32
OAK
Kerwynn Williams
27
KC
Mark Ingram
28
NO
Stevan Ridley
29
PIT
Bilal Powell
29
NYJ
Ty Montgomery
25
GB
Mike Gillislee
27
NE
David Johnson
26
ARI
Corey Grant
26
JAC
Raheem Mostert
26
SF
LeGarrette Blount
31
DET
Thomas Rawls
24
NYJ
Charcandrick West
27
KC
Javorius Allen
26
BAL
Spencer Ware
26
KC
Terrence Magee
25
ATL
C.J. Anderson
27
CAR
Kapri Bibbs
25
WAS
Jacquizz Rodgers
28
TB
Rod Smith
26
DAL
T.J. Yeldon
24
JAC
Mack Brown*
26
MIN
Doug Martin
29
OAK
Alex Collins*
23
BAL
Darren Sproles
35
PHI
Malcolm Brown*
25
LA
Mike Davis
25
SEA
Peyton Barber*
24
TB
Robert Turbin
28
IND
J.D. McKissic*
24
SEA
Fozzy Whittaker
29
CAR
Jay Ajayi
25
PHI
Damien Williams
26
KC
Cameron Artis-Payne
28
CAR
Frank Gore
35
MIA
Jonathan Williams*
24
NO
Benny Cunningham
27
CHI
Trey Williams*
25
DAL
Zach Zenner
26
DET
Senorise Perry*
26
MIA
Ameer Abdullah
25
DET
Daniel Lasco*
25
NO
Charles Sims
27
TB
Byron Marshall*
24
WAS
Travaris Cadet
29
BUF
David Fluellen*
26
TEN
Taiwan Jones
29
BUF
Josh Ferguson*
25
IND
Alfred Blue
27
HOU
Rob Kelley*
25
WAS
Brandon Bolden
28
NE
Tre Madden*
24
SEA
Kenjon Barner
29
CAR
Jalen Richard*
24
OAK
Tevin Coleman
25
ATL

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: No other player is as lethal of a fantasy weapon as Bell and in such an intriguing situation to become a free agent in 2019. It appears as though this relationship is heading toward divorce after this year, and at just 26 years old, the star do-all back has plenty of upside for either a new team or a long-term pact with the Steelers.

Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings: The defection of Jerick McKinnon to San Fran and Dalvin Cook’s recovery from knee reconstruction could mean more Murray, particularly early in 2018. He isn’t a receiving outlet in the mold of McKinnon, though Murray could be used more than usual for the tough yards to help shield Cook until he’s fully recuperated.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints: His suspension means gamers will have no more than three-quarters of a season of his utility, which also translates to a depressed draft stock. He could be a fine buy at the right price, and Ingram’s only hope for a last big deal will come in 2019 with a strong return this season.

Spencer Ware/Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs: Both backs are 26 years old and get sprinkled in to help relieve second-year star Kareem Hunt. Presuming last year’s leading rusher stays healthy, Ware and West will fight each other for touches. The winner could find a fantasy-worthy role on the 2019 market as a complementary player.

T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars: It appears as though Yeldon never will be a full-time guy, but it doesn’t mean he cannot deliver quality fantasy points in a supplemental role. Receptions should fuel his fantasy worth in 218 and likely beyond. Target him as a low-cost upside bargain in PPR formats.

Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons: Coleman’s name has swirled in trade rumors, and it possibly could still happen after Ito Smith was selected. Assuming he remains with the Falcons, Coleman’s days in Atlanta are winding down as he will set out to be more than Devonta Freeman’s sidekick. Among the most efficient players over the past few years, Coleman is poised for a strong showing in 2018.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: The 26-year-old Johnson needs to prove he’s the special talent we saw in 2016. Provided he returns to form, look for Arizona to lock him into a long-term deal. He has incentive from several directions.

Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles: A third team in as many years could be the reality of Ajayi’s 2019 career path. Rather one-dimensional, Ajayi is unlikely to have a large role in 2018’s offense that naturally spreads the love anyway. He is an explosive two-downer whose contributions come in spurts, making Ajayi a risk-reward play most any matchup.

(Marc Lebryk, USA TODAY Sports)

Wide receivers

Player
Age
2018 team
Player
Age
2018 team
Larry Fitzgerald
34
ARI
Tavarres King
27
MIN
Randall Cobb
27
GB
Markus Wheaton
27
PHI
Donte Moncrief
24
JAC
Justin Hunter
27
PIT
Tavon Austin
27
DAL
Michael Campanaro
27
TEN
Golden Tate
29
DET
Tyler Lockett
25
SEA
Rishard Matthews
28
TEN
Geremy Davis
26
LAC
Ryan Grant
27
IND
Josh Gordon*
27
CLE
John Brown
28
BAL
Nick Williams
27
TEN
Jermaine Kearse
28
NYJ
Rod Streater
30
BUF
Terrelle Pryor
29
NYJ
Greg Little
29
ARI
Brandon LaFell
31
CIN
Griff Whalen
28
OAK
Cordarrelle Patterson
27
NE
Jeremy Kerley
29
BUF
Kevin White
26
CHI
Marquess Wilson
25
PHI
Mike Wallace
31
PHI
Chris Conley
25
KC
Chris Hogan
29
NE
Sammie Coates
25
HOU
Cole Beasley
29
DAL
Kaelin Clay
26
BUF
Quincy Enunwa
26
NYJ
Justin Hardy
26
ATL
Adam Humphries
25
TB
Josh Huff*
26
NO
Tyrell Williams
26
LAC
Tre McBride
25
NYJ
Odell Beckham, Jr.
25
NYG
DeVier Posey
28
BAL
Cody Latimer
25
NYG
Marlon Brown
27
CHI
Breshad Perriman
24
BAL
Quan Bray*
25
BUF
Brandin Cooks
24
LA
Martavis Bryant
26
OAK
Phillip Dorsett
25
NE
Freddie Martino
26
TB
Aldrick Robinson
29
SF
Bradley Marquez
25
DET
Kelvin Benjamin
27
BUF
Rashad Greene
25
JAC
TJ Jones
25
DET
Vince Mayle*
27
BAL
Josh Bellamy
29
CHI
Jordan Taylor*
26
DEN
Deonte Thompson
29
DAL
Rashad Ross*
28
ARI
Charles Johnson
29
NYJ
Geronimo Allison*
24
GB
Christian Kirk
21
ARI
Damiere Byrd*
25
CAR
Devin Smith
26
NYJ
Stefon Diggs
24
MIN
Devin Funchess
24
CAR
Lucky Whitehead*
26
NYJ
Darrius Heyward-Bey
31
PIT
J.J. Nelson
26
ARI
Russell Shepard
27
NYG
Kalif Raymond*
23
NYG
Jeff Janis
27
CLE
Maurice Harris*
25
WAS
Bruce Ellington
26
HOU
D.J. Foster*
24
ARI
Kenny Britt
29
NE
Rashard Higgins*
23
CLE
Brandon Marshall
34
SEA
DeAndrew White*
26
HOU
Andre Roberts
30
NYJ
Roger Lewis*
24
NYG
Dwayne Harris
30
OAK
Robby Anderson*
25
NYJ
Kendall Wright
28
MIN
Johnny Holton*
26
OAK
Brandon Coleman
26
NO
Tommylee Lewis*
25
NO
Bennie Fowler
27
CHI
Alex Erickson*
25
CIN
Jordan Matthews
25
NE
Chester Rogers*
24
IND
De’Anthony Thomas
25
KC
Cobi Hamilton
27
ARI

Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson’s departure will open looks for Cobb, but he is injury-prone and lacks the explosiveness to take over games. PPR owners may benefit from a drastic increase in receptions. Cobb is a matchup play.

Donte Moncrief, Jacksonville Jaguars: Playing on a prove-it deal, Moncrief is in a critical juncture of his career. Only 24 years old and never “the guy,” this is a prime chance to prove what he is capable of doing as a newcomer in an offense begging for someone to stand out from the receiving corps.

Golden Tate, Detroit Lions: At 29 years old in 2018, Tate is playing as Matthew Stafford’s top target in what should be the former Seahawk’s last chance at a premium deal. Unless an injury derails Tate’s season, look for similar WR2 results from the veteran. We likely have seen his ceiling, however.

Terrelle Pryor, New York Jets: The former quarterback’s self-gamble went bust in 2017 with the one-year deal he signed to join the Washington Redskins. He never looked comfortable in the system, and there was no chemistry with Kirk Cousins. The 28-year-old Pryor will try his luck once again with a single-season pact. Gamers have a low-cost option for a quality rebound target.

Kevin White, Chicago Bears: The offense is promising for opening up the passing game, even if it will emphasize the ground. White, for all of his potential, has shown no ability to overcome even a hangnail. In an offense finding its way, a player with more incentive than just about anyone in the NFL could be a dangling carrot worthy of a bite. If nothing else, he’s cheap. Being practical, White has earned no benefit of the doubt and has burned too many gamers.

Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers: The Bolts will give last year’s first-round pick, Mike Williams, every opportunity to live up to his billing. Tyrell Williams has mostly overachieved, but if he can hold off the Clemson star or capitalize on the Hunter Henry injury, it will go a long way for his 2019 free agency options.

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants: This one could be moot with a stroke of a pen in the coming months. OBJ really doesn’t have much to prove, even after an injury-shortened season, but wanting quarterback money will require another signature season.

Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams: The well-traveled 24-year-old has a chance to score big in free agency, whether it be in LA or another city. The Rams gave up a first-rounder for him and will showcase the incendiary asset. Expect big numbers on a near weekly basis.

Phillip Dorsett, New England Patriots: There probably won’t be enough balls to go around to make Dorsett a consistent fantasy option in 2018, but he will try to leverage every reception to make himself desirable to any team in ’19.

Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo Bills: Few players are in need of a booming season like Benjamin. He has no one of note blocking his path to success in 2018. Chronic injuries, a rookie quarterback, and a run-heavy system present concerns, yet none of them can outright remove him from rebound consideration.

Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers: This offense needs a go-to guy in the red zone, an area where Funchess could butter his bread. The offense has an intermediate weapon in Greg Olsen and a safety valve in Christian McCaffrey. Rookie D.J. Moore will see a ton of looks. Torrey Smith and Curtis Samuel could be the more explosive components. Funchess is a modest possession and scoring target, profiling as a fringe WR3.

Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks: He played all 16 games in 2017 after suffering a broken leg late in 2016. Lockett still battled minor ailments throughout the ’17 season and struggled to display explosiveness. Two years removed from any major injury could help the 25-year-old’s cause.

Martavis Bryant, Oakland Raiders: Several reasons, including a lucrative deal in the 2019 offseason, could incentivize the once-promising wideout. Bryant figures to be the third wheel on any random play behind Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson, though neither player is without his share of downside. Anything reminiscient of Bryant’s first two years in the NFL can be considered a fantasy success.

Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings: The streaky Diggs has to acclimate to a new quarterback and offensive system in Minnesota. He has flashed a number of times but also has induced several fantasy headaches in the past two years. Former first-rounder Laquon Treadwell could press Diggs’ target share in a more meaningful way, yet it is tough to envision Diggs slipping south of WR2 territory.

(David Kohl, USA TODAY Sports)

Tight ends

Player
Age
2018 team
Player
Age
2018 team
Delanie Walker
33
TEN
Sean McGrath
30
DET
Tyler Eifert
27
CIN
Nick O’Leary*
25
BUF
Jared Cook
31
OAK
Tim Wright
28
KC
James Hanna
28
DAL
Jeff Heuerman
25
DEN
Luke Willson
28
DET
Blake Bell
26
SF
Josh Hill
28
NO
Khari Lee
26
BUF
Demetrius Harris
26
KC
MyCole Pruitt*
26
HOU
Marcedes Lewis
34
GB
Xavier Grimble*
25
PIT
Lance Kendricks
30
GB
Ben Koyack*
25
JAC
Benjamin Watson
37
NO
Jace Amaro*
26
KC
Neal Sterling
26
NYJ
Eric Tomlinson*
26
NYJ
Michael Hoomanawanui
29
NO
Chris Manhertz*
26
CAR
Phillip Supernaw
28
TEN
C.J. Uzomah
25
CIN
Levine Toilolo
26
DET
Jesse James
24
PIT
Luke Stocker
29
TEN
James O’Shaughnessy
26
JAC
Maxx Williams
24
BAL
Nick Boyle
25
BAL
Logan Paulsen
31
ATL
A.J. Derby
26
MIA
MarQueis Gray
28
MIA
Gabe Holmes*
27
ARI
Troy Niklas
25
NE
Matt Lengel*
27
HOU
Richard Rodgers
26
PHI
Geoff Swaim
24
DAL
Clive Walford
26
NYJ
Erik Swoope*
26
IND
Logan Thomas
27
BUF
Stephen Anderson*
25
HOU
Gavin Escobar
27
MIA
Mitchell Loewen*
25
NO
Zach Miller
33
CHI
Ben Braunecker*
24
CHI
Tyler Kroft
25
CIN
Ross Travis*
25
IND
Will Tye*
26
NE
Alan Cross*
25
TB
Scott Simonson
26
NYG

Luke Willson, Detroit Lions: A career backup, Willson comes over from Seattle and will fight for the starting job in Detroit. He is primarily credited for his blocking skills, though Willson is an underrated receiver. The biggest question here is just how many passes can possibly go around in this offense.

Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals: A free agent this March, Eifert renewed with the Bengals for one year. Staying healthy has always been his biggest enemy, and even if he plays out of his mind, teams will hold his fragility against him. Eifert offers midrange TE1 talent as one of the riskiest players at his position.

Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers: A better blocker than receiver, James often gets lost in the shuffle of the dangerous weapons in this offense. He’s a capable pass-catching tight end, though he won’t take over games. Perhaps a slight uptick in stats can lead to a larger role elsewhere in 2019.

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