Have you ever heard of the NFL contract phenomenon? The idea that a player is going to be motivated to have a monster statistical season because it is the last year of his contract and he wants to land a career-defining new contract in free agency. The theory is not the end all be all. There is no statistical proof that a player’s production increases in a contract year despite money being considered one of life’s great motivators.
How will this information benefit you? In fantasy football simply having an awareness of a player’s status is a critical part of building a roster especially in dynasty or keeper formats, but can also help you in redraft if you are weighing the pros and cons of similarly ranked players. An upcoming free agent joining a new team can have a significant impact on his future value. This is why this information matters before and after your fantasy draft.
This article will focus on four wide receivers who are in great offensive situations who should be on your radar and they look to better position themselves for the 2019 NFL Free Agency period.
Fantasy Football Rankings
Vikings | Wide Reciever
Diggs finished as the WR19 in PPR formats and is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. His statistical body of work suggests Diggs is in line for a substantial contract extension or a huge payday after the 2018 season is over.
Diggs has more receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns than any other Vikings wide receiver since 2015 according to Pro Football Reference. Quarterback Case Keenum had a QBR of 119.2 when targeting him last season. Diggs generated 0.47 fantasy points per route run and 2.09 fantasy points per target according to Player Profiler. It is concerning that he has not played a full season in his three-year career, but Diggs has yet to hit his physical prime.
A player’s age can help us make educated predictions as to whether a player will improve or regress in the following season. Mike Braude, RotoViz writer and founder of Apex Fantasy Leagues, conducted a study around peak seasons for NFL wide receivers which included those who finished with at least 225 fantasy points in PPR formats since the year 2000. This study provided us with a sample size of 291 wide receivers. The average age of this cohort is 27.38 years old. Below is a distribution graph of the ages of the peak seasons.
Diggs turns 25 on November 29th. With quarterback Kirk Cousins now under center in Minnesota he is on the precipice of having a peak season. Diggs is well worth the investment at his current average draft position or ADP.
Packers | Wide Reciever
The trajectory on Cobb’s career has trended down since finishing as the WR8 in PPR formats back in 2014.
Cobb has failed to meet the expectations of the sizeable contract he signed after his break out season. The departure of Jordy Nelson positions him to see a high number of targets as the Packers No. 2 wide receiver in 2018 running routes opposite of Davante Adams. A role over the last five seasons which has averaged 6.73 targets, 4.24 receptions, 60 receiving yards, 0.61 touchdowns per game.
Cobb is an excellent value at his current ADP.
The return of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has averaged 23.6 fantasy points per game since 2013, provides Cobb with a high floor and an even higher ceiling. He turns 28 on August 22 and still has a peak season left in him.
Jets | Wide Reciever
Before missing all of last season with a neck injury Enunwa led the Jets with 857 receiving yards in 2016.
Enunwa should be ready for training camp and will be determined to pick up where he left off prior to his injury, but also to position himself for a massive contract. He will compete for targets with Robby Anderson who is coming off of a career season.
Enunwa’s current ADP and upside make him an attractive target for fantasy players late in drafts. At age 26 he is in a prime position to have a peak season in 2018.
Bills | Wide Reciever
Can Benjamin bounce back in 2018 after being traded to the Buffalo Bills in the middle of the 2017 season? He was never really healthy and only averaged 2.7 receptions, 36.2 receiving yards, and 0.17 touchdowns per game in six games with the Bills last season. Benjamin has yet to duplicate the success he had as a rookie.
Benjamin is entrenched as the Bills No. 1 receiver and will see a high number of targets regardless of which quarterback is under center after the departure of Tyrod Taylor in free agency. Bills wide receiver Zay Jones underwent shoulder surgery in January and recently had a knee procedure. The team will have to lean on Benjamin, even more, this season after Jones caught 41.5 percent of his targets as a rookie last season.
Benjamin is only 27 years old and could see a career renaissance on target volume alone in 2018.
Do you agree or disagree? What did you find most useful? Please leave a comment below or better yet reach out via Twitter @EricNMoody.
Thanks for Reading!
Eric Moody is a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association) and writes exclusively about fantasy football. He has a lifelong passion for the game and played on the collegiate level as an offensive lineman. Eric also participated in Dan Hatman’s Scouting Academy in order to learn the process of player evaluation at an NFL level by using game film. When he provides fantasy football advice he prefers to “play the piano with both hands” using game film, analytics, and statistics to help you understand his perspective. Eric enjoys Netflix, listening to music, playing bass guitar, drinking coffee, and spending time with his family. He lives in Dallas, Texas