Underachievers in Contract Years


When an incentive is front of you no matter how minor it is, you’re going to strive for it. In grade school if the teacher had to pull out candy to get students to answer a question, you raised that hand. If at work you’re involved in a contest for a day off or incentive laden performance goal, you put in the extra effort to try and reach it. The NFL is no different and fantasy owners should take note of the current 2013 players that are in contract years.

These are all considered under achievers for the most part and should have money on their mind each game, instead of before the game on Friday’s when they collect a team check.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The talent has to still be there. When Freeman threw for 25 touchdowns and six interceptions he had me glowing as I had selected him in a dynasty rookie league draft. He was stashed behind Peyton Manning. So when Manning went down for 2011, I thought I was all fine and dandy with Freeman for 2011. Boy was that a rough year for my dynasty league team as Freeman threw just 16 touchdowns to go along with 22 interceptions. He recovered somewhat last year, and he is in a must-prove situation now. I’d classify Freeman as a sleeper as he has about as great a cast around him offensively as a quarterback could hope for, with Doug Martin, Mike Williams, and Vinny Jackson. Remember Doug Martin did not fully emerge for the Bucs offense until after week eight. Look for the offense to flow more running the ball first and then through the air.

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
The storm has occurred via Shaun King for McFadden. King blasted McFadden’s preseason effort on air during week two of the preseason. Obvious reaction to those comments would cause high alert and alarm for fantasy draftees. Maybe he is a bit out of shape and has an injury prone history, but McFadden has shown when on the field he is one of the better backs in football. Sure he truly has only had one great season, but you can say that for other running backs including Doug Martin and Trent Richardson. McFadden is in a contract year which means he may play through a few nagging injuries this season.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans
The injury concerns of Arian Foster may have been just out played by the media. What can not be outplayed is the fact that Foster has been an old school workhorse back the last three seasons. Wear and tear has proven to rear its head and not go away to the detriment of backs like Foster. He may be a year or two away from a decline. For insurance, Houston will likely increase Tate’s carries slightly and figure out if they want to retain him as the complimentary back in 2014.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis just never seems to be able to get a grip of their running back situation since Joseph Addai hit the wall. Donald Brown was drafted and never took off, then Delone Carter who was recently traded, and last year Vick Ballard. Ballard has the keys right now. How long that will last is what gives Brown another chance to take another crack at the role. The Colts have always fluctuated in the backfield and I think that has more to do with the fact that they love to air out the football than anything else. Brown the former first round pick has shown flashes but needs to stay healthy.

Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans
Injuries and non-discipline have turned Britt from a big surprise to a dud instantly. The former Rutgers receiver is who he is. A tall target that can stretch the field from time to time. Teams know what he is capable of as Britt’s offseason market value is already established. I don’t expect him to do anything abnormal with his season coming up.

James Jones, Green Bay Packers
All fantasy football owners should know that Jones touchdown totals and season as a whole were and will be his career year. Jones role in Green Bay is best suited for the third wide receiver role that can spring a few big games a season. As far as an every down receiver he probably can do it for stretches. Having the drops that he does though lowers his on the field value from a coaching standpoint and fantasy standpoint. He benefitted for stretches last season with injuries at receiver to Green Bay and may get that opportunity again.

Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks
Tate is a Seattle guy and Seattle receiver. Can you remember the last Seattle Seahawks receiver that had significant fantasy football value? Seattle has not had a 1,000 yard receiver since Bobby Engram did it in 2007. Quite awhile, but Seattle has a team identity and does not worry about satisfying stats. Tate does his job and will only continue to be a mediocre bench fantasy producer.

Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
Sooner or later you would expect LaFell to have a breakout season. It seems as if Steve Smith has been the only Carolina Panthers receiver to don the uniform with value in quite awhile. Where is Wesley Walls when you need him, so the Panthers can run double tight end formations with Greg Olsen. It sounds funny, but Carolina has failed mightily to get Smith an opposite threat. It looks like LaFell will be the latest. I do not expect him to be back in a Panther uniform. This time next year he will be fighting to make a roster in the preseason.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Indianapolis Colts
Oakland execs and the rest of the NFL new that the Raiders made a horrific high selection pick with Bey. Maybe if he would have been drafted in the third round, his mediocre seasons in Oakland would look better. Possessing speed is still his main asset. Being brought to Indianapolis to be the third receiver seems to be a better suited role for Bey. He was in a poor situation in Oakland, so maybe he can make the most of his one year as a Colt. I’d consider him as a bench fantasy receiver with a sleeper annotation. Reggie Wayne is aging, and teams know what TY Hilton is all about after his season a year ago.

Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens
Dickson gets likely his last shot at being a tight end number one for an entire season because of a season ending injury to Dennis Pitta. In a league that blossomed and transformed tight ends overnight, Dickson is going to have a hard time fitting GM’s new mindset on a starting tight end. He will find a role if the Ravens do not re-sign him, but it’ll be a developmental non-significant premier role. Value for this season on the other hand is promising. Stash him as your tight end two for now, and plan on using him only for a bye week or injury issues.


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