Contract Year Fantasy Targets
Say all you want about NFL players striving to win the big game and a hand full of Super Bowl rings at the end of the day most players are just looking to get paid. This can have a tremendous impact on their fantasy production. The following are five contract year fantasy stars to target in 2016.
Green Bay Packers
After crawling to just 758 yards rushing in 2015, Eddie Lacy heads into the final year of his rookie contract in need of a serious bounce back. Lacy saw his weight closer to 260 lbs last year than his listed weight of 234, and his three year low yardage total came at just 4.1 yards per carry, and he saw just over 12 carries per game after nearly 19 in his rookie year and over 15 in 2014. Lacy is prime to rebound however. Thanks to off season work with the founder of P90x, Lacy looks trim, slim and ready to roll.
The Packers did not invest in the running back position in the draft, though they did add Don Jackson (Nevada) and Brandon Burks (Troy) as undrafted free agents, leaving Lacy with the reliable (though far from explosive) and re-signed James Starks and second year back John Crockett (nine rushing attempts in 2015) as the veterans on the team.
With Jordy Nelson returning from injury, Lacy should also see some favorable defensive fronts after his down year. In 31 career games alongside Nelson, Lacy averages nearly 75 rushing yards per game, while 15 games without him have seen him gain closer to 50. According to the latest MFL10 Average Draft Position, Lacy is currently the 9th running back going off the board, putting him in the low-end RB 1, solid RB2 range. If you can get him here, you’re getting a bargain.
Gridiron Experts 2016 Rankings:
- Eddie Lacy is (as of May 31st) our 9th running back in standard scoring and 11th overall RB in PPR scoring formats.
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San Diego Chargers
Despite the San Diego Chargers investing a 1st round draft pick on Melvin Gordon a year ago, the Bolts running back to own remains to be Danny Woodhead.
While not being helped by an ever changing cast of players on the offensive line last season (ten different players started a game on the Chargers O-line last season), Gordon was a massive disappointment. His 184 rushing attempts garnered just 641 yards, and zero touchdowns. He did reel in 33 of his 37 targets, but for a poor 5.7 yards per reception. With news that Gordon underwent micro fracture surgery this off season far from a comfort, thoughts turn once more to Woodhead. A consistently targeted back, Woodhead’s 200 targets since 2013 are the 4th most among running backs…and he missed all but three games of the 2015 season.
Ken Whisenhunt is back with the team as offensive coordinator, and it was under his stewardship in 2013 that saw Woodhead pace all running backs with 21 targets inside the opposition red zone, for 106 yards and five touchdowns. Woodhead will never his bills as a pure running back, but his talent in the scoring area will never see him go hungry. The prospect of earning a new contract should see him hungrier than ever.
By comparison, Fitz saw an average of less than six targets across the final four games of the regular season, and converted just over four per outing. Floyd has back to back 840+ yard, six touchdown campaigns, despite injury concerns, and the prospect of getting a contract similar to or greater than the five year, $40m contract Marvin Jones signed with the Lions should be spurring him on (Jones has a career high of 816 yards). 27 wide receivers are being selected before Floyd in MFL10’s at present. This is a delightful price to play for a WR2, with occasional forays into low end WR1.
To say Cameron was something of a disappointment in his first year with the Dolphins would be incredibly generous. The free agent acquisition from the Browns caught just 50% of his 70 targets in 2015, for a paltry 386 yards and three touchdowns.
Granted, the offense at times resembled a hot mess, with the team violently alternating between dependence on the passing game and a resolute commitment to the ground game, depending on the week. Cameron did renegotiate his contract for the coming year, ensuring that the team will probably seek to make him a more productive member of the offense.
First time head coach Adam Gase could be just the man to do so. An offensive coordinator that has earned the respect of Peyton Manning, Gase’s offenses in Denver and Chicago featured the tight end prominently. Julius Thomas was the third highest scoring tight end in fantasy football in 2013 and seventh in 2014, while Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller combined for 87 receptions, 878 yards and eight scores in Chicago last year. Only 3% of Ryan Tannehill’s career pass attempts have been more than 15 yards across the middle of the field, as per Rotoviz’s Adjusted Yards per Attempt data, an area in which Cameron thrives. If Cameron can stay on the field, he’s a low end TE1, and should earn himself a new contract and a chance to remain in sunny South Beach a while longer.
Luck was battered from pillar to post last season before injuries finally ended his season prematurely, but it would take an awful lot of massaging the figures to not conclude that he was not right from a playing standpoint. His interception % of 4.1 was the highest of his career, the 5.6 adjusted yards per attempt the lowest. His poor completion percentage and penchant for turning the ball over last season has earned him an unflattering comparison to Blaine Gabbert, at least in the eyes of NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks. But the signs for a return to glory are there. For the first time, Colts GM Ryan Grigson decided to invest in protecting his quarterback, rather than filling the field with speedy pass catchers. Four of the teams eight draft picks were spent on offensive lineman, including their first round selection of Ryan Kelly.
While this was done, no running backs were drafted (though Josh Ferguson was signed as an undrafted free agent), leaving Frank Gore to shoulder the load once more. Entering his age 33 season, Gore is not going to put this team on his back. But with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett and Dwayne Allen around him, plus a commitment to ensuring Luck remains upright, the Colts offense is primed to return to relevance in reality and fantasy, making Luck a strong contender for the rank of QB1 in fantasy points scored. He should already have it by the time the season starts, but the richest contract ever awarded to a quarterback will be his reward if he returns to his 2014 form.
Andrew Luck is currently Gridiron Experts 4th ranked quarterback fir 2016