Fantasy owners use many factors to determine player values in dynasty leagues. Past performance, ability, opportunity, age, draft capital etc. Do we sometimes overlook player contracts in that evaluation?
We usually pay attention when a player signs a big new deal or extension. Some of us may know which players are in a contract year. That’s about as far as most of us go. Perhaps there is more to be gained from spending a little more time understanding how contracts affect dynasty values.
Teams continue to structure player contracts such that any guaranteed money is kept to a minimum and/or is front-loaded. We know they do this because it gives them the option to move on from players before their existing deals expire. As a result, productive vets are often replaced with promising, more affordable youngsters. And those younger guys are generally not given as long to prove themselves either.
The net result is that the value of fantasy players changes quickly. So what can we try to learn that might help us fantasy owners in the future?
You probably know the approximate contract duration of each of your star fantasy players, but do you know when the dead money drops to such a point that the team could move on from him if they wanted? Do you know the answer to that question if asked the same of each of player realistically competing with your guy on the depth chart? How about the overall team cap situation? Pending contract renewals for others on the roster may mean your guy isn’t renewed, whether they compete at the same position or not.
I’ve highlighted below a list of guys whose values could increase as a result of factors such as these. 5 on Offense and 5 on Defense.
There has been lots of discussion about Sanders value. You would expect as much from a consensus top 5 rookie pick with an ADP of 72. He may not be as polarizing a figure as other rookies such as DK Metcalf or Mecole Hardman, but few rookie RB’s divide the community quite like Sanders.
It isn’t hard to see why. His landing spot seemed less than optimal. For an Eagles team who were struggling for healthy RB’s at the tail end of last season, they suddenly look quite deep at the position. This point is underscored by the idea that Josh Adams, their leading rusher in 2018, is rumored to be cut. At the time of writing, Philly have Sanders, Jordan Howard, Josh Adams, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey and Boston Scott on the roster.
Many have pointed out Pederson’s tendency to use a RBBC approach. Eagles RB and Assistant Head coach Duce Staley confirmed this point recently. “To have the type of backfield we have now, we’re going to share the ball, and these guys understand that”. It is widely expected that Howard and Sanders will share time in 2019. This adds to the concern around Sanders value.
However, the one thing not mentioned enough is the contract situations of their other backs, including Howard. As things stand only Sanders, Pumphrey and Scott are currently under contract in 2020.
As always, we should exercise some degree of caution. The 2020 draft RB class is both impressive and deep. At some point the Eagles will almost certainly sign additional running backs for 2020. They may extend Howard. They may opt for a different veteran. It’s possible they spend one of their own 2020 draft picks on another back. Whatever the outcome, the uncertainty of the situation stands to help Sanders long-term value, providing he plays well of course.
Emmanuel Sanders seems to be making good progress in his recovery from injury, he should assume the WR1 role in Denver. Former starter Demaryius Thomas left halfway through the 2018 season, so Sutton and Hamilton already moved up a spot on the WR depth chart at that point. Looking forward, Sutton and Hamilton should both continue to fend off Tim Patrick to start 2019 as they ended 2018, as the Broncos WR2 and WR3.
There is some concern. Firstly, many don’t believe in Flacco’s ability to produce this many fantasy-viable WR’s. Secondly, while both Sutton and Hamilton flashed as rookies, they will need to be more consistent in year two.
What may be overlooked by some is that Emmanuel Sanders is in the final year of a deal that carries a $13m cap number. It’s possible the Broncos extend him, possibly on a discounted deal, but he will be 33 this time next year.
While Sutton and/or Hamilton already stand to assume larger roles in 2019, it is 2020 when they may begin to really peak in terms of opportunity and value.
Many have cooled on Davis since he entered the league, those same people have probably been disappointed with Brown’s landing spot too. Few people question the talent of either player. Most cite Mariota’s continued struggles as the obstacle to better WR play. This point was discussed just this week on the latest IDP Guys podcast
2019 is now a contract year for Mariota. If he is mediocre then it’s likely he will get replaced in 2020. If he proves doubters wrong and becomes a better QB then he may get extended. Whichever of these two things happen, it’s likely that the long-term outlook improves for both Davis and Brown. If you believe in Mariota, buy these guys low now. If you don’t, you may be able to buy even lower during the season as the Titans passing game continues to struggle.
Bryan is already predicted to play more in his sophomore year as Malik Jackson and his 627 snaps have now departed for the Eagles. Marcel Dareus remains as one of their top options on the interior of the line for 2019, however, his base salary jumps from $2.8m in 2019 to $9.5m in 2020. This coincides with a sizable drop in the dead money left on his deal, which drops from $8m in 2019 to just $2.5m in 2020.
When you add the $10m roster bonus Dareus is due in 2020, there are potential cap savings of $20m to be had if they choose to move on from him. The bottom line is that it is very, very unlikely they retain him on his existing deal.
They could restructure Dareus’ deal. Even if they did, Bryan has the advantage of being both affordable and under contract for another 3 years. They will give the young former 1st round pick every opportunity to succeed. Abry Jones is still around, but this should be the Bryan show from 2020 and beyond, possibly earlier.
The front 7 of the 2020 Jags should feature Taven Bryan, 2019 1st round pick Josh Allen, Ngakoue (if they re-sign him) and possibly Calais Campbell. Nasty! This line could feast and Bryan should be a big part of that.
The knock on Gary is that he never quite put up the impressive numbers of some of his 1st round counterparts. Irrespective of what the Twittersphere thinks of him, the Packers clearly value Gary, spending the 12th overall pick on him in the 2019 draft. He joins an ascending Packers defense infused with talented young players in recent years.
Mike Daniels has been an excellent servant for the Packers, but he’ll be 32 by the end of the 2019 season. That isn’t too old, but his current deal expires after this season, forcing the Packers to make some tough decisions. Dean Lowry‘s contract also expires after 2019 too.
Daniels and Lowry combined for over 1100 snaps in 2018. You would expect them to retain at least one of those two guys, probably not both. This opens the door for Gary to assume an even larger role. He’ll clearly play in 2019, but due to the expiring contracts of other guys, he should play even more in 2020.
Mack Wilson and/or Sione Takitaki
The Browns D has become very talented in a short space of time, so much so that it could be argued their ILB’s are one of their weaker units. Kirksey has been solid over the years, but is recovering from a knee injury which caused the Browns to shut him down halfway through the 2018 season. Schobert has been a tackling machine himself, but neither guy is irreplaceable.
The Browns projected cap situation for 2020 isn’t nearly as rosy as it was in 2019. If retained on his current deal, Kirksey will carry the 5th highest cap number for the team in 2020. His dead money drops from $10.6m in 2019 to only $2.4m in 2020. Schobert is now in the final year of his contract.
The Browns just selected Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki in the 3rd and 5th round of the 2019 draft. There are rookie ILB’s with more draft capital and more immediate opportunity, but it doesn’t take a genius to point out that the needle points upwards for one or both of these guys. It seems more likely to happen in 2020 than 2019.
It pains me slightly to include a CB in this article. I have done so because we see an increasing number of IDP leagues split out Safeties and CB’s, often requiring at least one CB as a starter.
Trae Waynes has improved since entering the league as a highly rated prospect in 2015. He hasn’t set the world alight, but he showed improvement in 2018, notably in run support. Unfortunately for him this may not be enough to convince the Vikings to retain his services. He is now in the final year of his rookie deal and trade talks have been rumoured:
— NFLTradeRumors.co (@nfltrade_rumors) February 28, 2019
Enter Mike Hughes. The Vikes took Hughes in the 1st round of the 2018 draft. He started very well, returning an interception for a TD in his very first game. Unfortunately he tore his ACL a month later which prematurely ended his rookie season.
Hughes was one of the premier returners in the 2018 draft. CB’s are notoriously difficult to project in fantasy terms, so the potential for additional return points does help provide Hughes with a decent floor. Clearly he would also need to win a starting job before becoming viable as a starting CB in fantasy so keep an eye on Waynes contract situation. If your league rewards return points then Hughes should be on your watch list.
Just missed the list:
He contends with what is now a busy LB depth chart for the Chargers. However, Jatavis Brown is in the last year of his deal and Thomas Davis can’t keep going forever. His best opportunity to become fantasy relevant may be in Adrian Phillips role from 2018. And as it happens, Phillips is in the last year of his deal. Again, monitor this situation closely.
Both John Johnson and Eric Weddle have 2 years remaining on their deals. Johnson will want a lot more money, possibly as soon as this season. If they don’t retain him or move on from Weddle after 1 season, Rapp could work his way onto the fantasy radar sooner rather than later.
Wagner is due a new deal. While Wagner is still a superb player, the Seahawks have shown a propensity for letting defensive stars leave in recent years. Even if Wagner did leave, he faces competition from guys like Austin Calitro. Check out the great article from IDP Guys @JoeyTheTooth for more information about Calitro.
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