Fantasy contract-year players to watch in 2016

Fantasy football analytical topics have sure grown in recent years. From breaking down a wide receiver's route tree to a player's average fantasy points per touch totals, there are oodles of new ways to determine a player's value. But not all topics and trends are on the field.

The National Football League is a business after all, so the almighty dollar can often be a motivating factor in how a player performs between the white lines. With that in mind, here's our look at the top fantasy players looking to fatten their wallets this season.

1. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: The biggest concern with Bell is the health of his knee, but it is notable that the talented runner is also in a contract year. If he can stay on the field and out of the trainer's room, the Michigan State product could be looking at quite a nice pay day in his future.

2. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars: Robinson busted out in the stat sheets last season, posting 1,400 yards, 14 touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points among wide receivers. Whether or not he can duplicate those numbers remains to be seen, but Robinson will still want to prove that he was no fluke.

3. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears: Jeffery has all the tools to develop into an elite fantasy receiver, but he needs to avoid injuries to reach his potential. He'll have added motivation to do that in 2016, as Jeffery has been franchise taggedd and is for all intents and purposes now in a contract year.

4. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: NFL Media insider Albert Breer reports that Lacy's physical transformation is "remarkable," so he's hopefully past last season's weight issues. A legitimate bounce-back candidate, the Alabama product should enter next season atop the Packers' depth chart and motivated to produce.

5. Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders: Murray was one of very few running backs to hit the 1,000-yard mark last season, but he wasn't at all consistent in the stat sheets. Whether the Raiders add competition remains to be seen, but Murray needs to have a solid season to secure a new (and bigger) contract.

6. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: The last two years of Fitzgerald's contract (2017-18) are voidable, so he's in a unique situation. Entering his age-33 season, the future Hall of Famer will want to produce in the stat sheets. Keep in mind, the Cardinals also have a lot of young talent at wideout.

7. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos: Sanders could be in a tough spot next season, as he'll be looking to make an impact in the stat sheets with major question marks at the quarterback position. Still, you could argue that the durable and talented playmaker's contract status is a positive situation.

8. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals: With Fitzgerald getting older, Floyd seems to be next in line as the future No. 1 wideout in Arizona. If he can put together a solid year and prove that he can in fact fill that role, it would be a good thing not only for his bank account but for fantasy footballers as well.

9. Drew Brees, QB, Saints: Brees, 37, has seen his yardage and touchdown totals decline in each of the last three seasons. Still, it would be a shock to see the Saints let him walk following the 2016 campaign. Their cap situation could force them to let Brees play out his contract year, though.

10. Steve Smith Sr., WR, Ravens: Smith will be 37 at the start of the new campaign, and there's a good chance this will be his final season in the NFL. Most of the questions about his value will be based on his return from a ruptured Achilles' tendon, and not his contract situation in Baltimore.

11. DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins: The final year of Jackson's contract is an auto-void year, so he could be looking for a new NFL address in the near future. He'll be 30 in December, so the Cal product still has room for one more sizable contract in his career ... if he performs well this season.

12. Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers: Woodhead, 31, is coming off his best statistical season at the NFL level. Of course, he's not going to break the bank no matter what he does in the stat sheets in 2016. In fact, Melvin Gordon will no doubt be the favorite to lead San Diego's backfield in touches.

13. Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys: The addition of Ezekiel Elliott put a massive dent into McFadden's fantasy stock. The veteran also turns 29 in August, so there's little to no chance that he'll garner a significant contract moving forward. Run DMC won't have more than very late-round value in 2016.

14. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills: I am a big fan of Taylor, who had one of the better fantasy-points-per-touch averages among quarterbacks last season. Taylor will be looking to make a major statistical splash moving forward, in an effort to prove himself to be a legitimate starter at the pro level.

15. Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Panthers: Ginn was a useful fantasy option at times last season, but the return of Kelvin Benjamin (ACL) should mean a decrease in his offensive role. With Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess also in the mix, Ginn will be hard pressed to make a major fantasy impact next season.

16. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers: Wheaton has a huge opportunity ahead of him next season, as he'll see more work in the absence of a suspended Martavis Bryant. I'd still be surprised to see him break out in fantasy land, but Wheaton will have some added motivation to produce attractive totals.

17. Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: Jackson, who missed six games in 2015 and turned 33 earlier this year, appears to be on of the downside of his career ... at least from a fantasy perspective. This is also very likely to be the final season that he's paid in the range of a No. 1 wide receiver.

18. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions: Riddick, 24, led all running backs in catches and finished second in receiving yards at the position last season. While he's going to be in a timeshare with the likes of Ameer Abdullah, Stevan Ridley or Zach Zenner, Riddick is still a potential bargain in PPR drafts.

19. Kendall Wright, WR, Titans: This could be Wright's last season as a Titan, as the team fields Dorial Green-Beckham and Rishard Matthews and drafted Tajae Sharpe.

20. Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles: Sproles will be entering his age-33 season with the Eagles, but he's still been quite effective as both a pass catcher and a return-team specialist.

Other notables

21. Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins: Cousins needs to put up another strong statistical season to prove that he is in fact a legitimate and valuable starter ... in real football and fantasy.
22. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers: Williams is no lock to return to the Steelers (or the NFL) in 2017, but he's still one of the most valuable fantasy handcuffs in the league right now.
23. Kamar Aiken, WR, Ravens: The return of Steve Smith and the addition of Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson will put a good-sized dent into Aiken's targets (and value) for the new season.
24. Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins: Garcon's production and fantasy value have both declined since his breakout campaign of 2013. The Redskins are also likely to draft a wide receiver.
25. Chris Johnson, RB, Cardinals: Johnson will be a popular fantasy handcuff for those owners who draft David Johnson, but that's about the extent of his value in 2016 fantasy drafts.
26. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots: Blount will return to the Patriots as their big, bruising runner out of the backfield. Dion Lewis is the New England runner to target, however.
27. Steven Hauschka, K, Seahawks: Hauschka has been a valuable kicker for fantasy fans in recent seasons, and posting a nice line in 2016 would go far to ensuring an attractive contract.
28. Martellus Bennett, TE, Patriots: Bennett, 29, must be thrilled to be entering a contract year with Tom Brady throwing him the football. He'll be on the late-round radar in drafts.
29. Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins: Stills is a long shot to make much of a fantasy impact in South Beach as long as Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker are ahead of him on the depth chart.
30. Rueben Randle, WR, Eagles: Randle will compete with Nelson Agholor to start in the Eagles pass attack. He's in a "prove-yourself" situation as far as a future contract is concerned.
31. Justin Tucker, K, Ravens: The Ravens slapped the franchise tag on Tucker this offseason, so he's in a virtual contract year. He'll be drafted as a No. 1 fantasy kicker in 2016.
32. Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks:Thomas Rawls looks like the next featured back in Seattle, so Michael could be hard pressed to see enough touches to make a significant impact.
33. Lance Dunbar, RB, Cowboys: Dunbar is a talented pass catcher, but he's coming off an ACL tear and figures to be limited at the start of training camp and could be a PUP candidate.
34. Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: Ellington went from a potential sleeper to third on the Cardinals depth chart in the matter of one year. He's likely done in Arizona after 2016.
35. Stevan Ridley, RB, Lions: Ridley, a former 1,000-yard rusher, will compete with Zach Zenner to fill the role of Detroit's big back this season. He's in a "prove-yourself" situation.

Why wait? CLICK HERE to get your 2016 NFL Fantasy season started.

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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