One of the best ways to predict a “breakout player” in sports is to look for those that are coming into contract years. It never seems to fail that when a player’s contract is about to expire, they magically seem have some of their best years. Call it what you want, but the motivation of the dollar sign can take players to the next level, and in fantasy football, that makes them players to target in your drafts.
Last year we saw several guys who, in contract years, took their games to the next level. Jeremy Maclin, Mark Ingram, and Demarco Murray managed to stay healthy and produce great numbers, and in return were rewarded with contracts this off-season. Randall Cobb, Dez Bryant, and Demaryius Thomas all continued to play well, and put up eye popping numbers for fantasy purposes as they work towards future big pay days. Justin Forsett seized his opportunity and played at the highest level of his career, and got a new contract to match.
Now just because a player is in his contract year does not make them an immediate fantasy star, nor is he someone that you necessarily have to draft, but it does make them players that you should keep an eye on. At your draft, the fact that a player is coming into a contract year can help you if you are trying to decide between two players to draft. Not all of the following guys will have great seasons, but they should all be playing with the next contract in mind, and they should all be motivated to take their games to the next level. To the savvy fantasy owner, these are guys that you keep tabs on and take a chance on, as they are all playing for their own personal pay days.
Here is a list of players that will likely become free agents and are heading into contract years in 2015:
Alfred Morris - RB, Washington Redskins
Doug Martin - RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Michael Floyd - WR, Arizona Cardinals
Rueben Randle - WR, New York Giants
Mohammad Sanu - WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Dwayne Allen - TE. Indianapolis Colts
Vernon Davis - TE, San Francisco 49ers
Coby Fleener - TE, Indianapolis Colts
Players that COULD hit free agency, depending on situation:
Eli Manning - QB, New York Giants
Phillip Rivers - QB, San Diego Chargers
Sam Bradford - QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Lamar Miller - RB, Miami Dolphins
Matt Forte - RB, Chicago Bears
Players that WILL NOT hit free agency, but are still playing for a long term contract, and will be motivated to put up monster numbers to guarantee that contract:
Ryan Tannehill - QB, Miami Dolphins (Signed this week)
Cam Newton - QB, Carolina Panthers
Andrew Luck - QB, Indianapolis Colts
Russell Wilson - QB, Seattle Seahawks
Demaryius Thomas - WR, Denver Broncos
Dez Bryant - WR, Dallas Cowboys
AJ Green - WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Julio Jones - WR, Atlanta Falcons
TY Hilton - WR, Indianapolis Colts
Alshon Jeffery - WR, Chicago Bears
This article was written by Ryan Thyer. Follow him on Twitter @bignoahd05.