Demaryius Thomas among those playing for future

Training camps are here!

That's right, it's time to get ready to root for your favorite team and of course ... draft your fantasy football squad as well. Part of the preparation involves knowing the players who will be entering the 2014 campaign in a contract year.

While a Super Bowl championship is the ultimate motivation for most players, professional sports is still a business. So when a player is in a contract year, he has extra incentive to find statistical success. As a result, that player could also have added fantasy draft value.

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Here's a look at the most notable players who are slated to become free agents in 2015 ... but could be your fantasy heroes in 2014.

1. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Bryant's value is on the rise after the addition of pass-happy offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, so the fact that he'll be playing in a contract year makes him more valuable. Bryant could be a top-three wideout based on fantasy points.

2. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos: Thomas has ranked in the top five in fantasy points among receivers in each of the last two seasons, and there's nothing to suggest he won't be there again in 2014. As long as Peyton Manning is in Denver, Thomas will be a star.

3. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Murray is coming off his best season as a pro, rushing for 1,121 yards with 10 total touchdowns and over 200 fantasy points. Another campaign with those type of numbers should help Murray, 26, secure a long-term deal with the Cowboys.

4. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers: Cobb was on pace to finish with over 1,200 yards after five games before suffering a broken leg last season. At 23 he's still one of the best, young wideouts in the league and could be a steal in 2014 fantasy drafts.

5. Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers: Mathews had a solid season in 2013, rushing for a career-best 1,255 yards with seven total touchdowns. While his durability remains a cause for some concern, drafting Mathews as a No. 2 fantasy running back now makes sense.

6. Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos: Welker will be 33 in May and is coming off a season that saw him miss time due to concussions. Still, the potential loss of Decker to free agency could make Welker a real fantasy asset. He's playing for his last big contract in the NFL.

7. Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos: Thomas is coming off a career season with 65 receptions, 788 yards, 12 touchdowns and a solid 150.80 fantasy points. Should the Broncos let Eric Decker leave as a free agent, the big tight end could be even bigger in the stat sheets.

8. Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers: Speaking of Crabtree, he will also be looking to make an impact in the stat sheets as he attempts to secure a new contract. Coming off a season that saw him miss several games, putting up a monster campaign is huge for his future.

9. Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots: Vereen would do well to reach his statistical potential during his contract year, though the Patriots don't freely open their wallets. Still, he's now the Patriots running back to draft from a fantasy perspective.

10. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers: Gore, 31, has little chance at getting a big contract. He'll also compete for carries with Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde.

11. Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens: Smith is in the final year of his rookie deal and a virtual lock to earn a significant contract as Baltimore's clear No. 1 wide receiver.

12. Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns: Cameron is coming off a breakout season, but will the loss of coach Rob Chudzinski and OC Norv Turner turn his value in the wrong direction?

13. Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots: Ridley is coming off a medicore 2013 season, but the loss of LeGarrette Blount should mean more opportunities moving forward.

14. Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: Smith is coming off a stellar performance in the postseason and looking to get paid. He'll be motivated to deliver in the regular season.

15. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Wayne, who is coming off a torn ACL in his right knee, will be hard pressed to earn another significant contract entering his age-36 season.

16. Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills: Jackson was a surprise top-10 fantasy runner last season, but at 33 he has little chance to earn another big contract in Buffalo or elsewhere.

17. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: McFadden as all the talent in the world, but he's missed a combined 19 games over the last three seasons due to a varity of injuries.

18. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelpahi Eagles: Maclin will be in a position to post nice totals in the offense of coach Chip Kelly, especially with DeSean Jackson out of the mix.

19. Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: Playing in the last season of his rookie contract, Shorts needs to remain healthy and productive if he wants the Jags to invest in him.

20. Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: After years of disappointment at the NFL level, Ingram has looked outstanding in the preseason and is currently No. 1 on the depth chart. The time is now to deliver so he can secure a new contract.

21. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins: Moreno will be motivated in a contract year, but nothing can stop his stats from dropping after moving from Denver to Miami this offseason.

22. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Nicks was a disappointment in 2013, but he will have motivation for a bigger contract. That is, as long as he can rebound with the Colts.

23. Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins Clay is coming off a breakout season and is now on the radar as a low-end TE1 in fantasy land. Being in a contract year could help his value.

24. Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans: This may be Locker's last chance to prove he can be relied upon as a starting quarterback in the NFL after several injury plagued seasons.

Other notables

25. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis Colts
26. Miles Austin, WR, Cleveland Browns
27. Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders
28. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
29. Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England Patriots
30. Andre Brown, RB, Houston Texans
31. Kendall Hunter, RB, San Francisco 49ers
32. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta Falcons
33. Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins
34. Michael Vick, QB, New York Jets
35. Eddie Royal, WR, San Diego Chargers
36. Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans
37. Brian Hoyer, QB, Cleveland Browns
39. Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets
38. Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins
39. Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
40. Kenny Britt, WR, St. Louis Rams
41. Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons
42. Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Cleveland Browns
43. Alex Henery, K, Philadelphia Eagles
44. Jason Avant, WR, Carolina Panthers
45. Owen Daniels, TE, Baltimore Ravens
46. Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets
47. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Seattle Seahawks
48. Bobby Rainey, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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