2023 Fantasy Football Contract Year Players

by Dennis Sosic
2023 Fantasy Football Contract Year Players

Welcome Fantasy friends and foes as we look at the 2023 Fantasy Football Contract Year Players.

One fantasy football axiom that seems to have a high success rate is to follow the money. Seek out players that are playing in their contract years. Every player wants to be paid for what they are worth. His contract year allows them to explode that season to a huge payday.

Let's look at the contract-year players who will make the most significant fantasy impact this season in the 2023 Fantasy Football Contract Year Players.

2023 Fantasy Football Contract Year Players

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Quarterbacks

Jacoby Brissett, QB, Washington Commanders

Jacoby Brissett is your quintessential journeyman quarterback. Brissett will provide some impactful plays, but his game is limited. Therefore, he will continue to bounce from team to team. This season, Brissett landed in Washington, where he will serve as insurance as the backup to sophomore quarterback Sam Howell. His inclusion here surrounds the fact that Brissett might take over for Powell if he falters and Brissett blossoms in the Commander's offense.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Cousins signed a one-year deal to stay in Minnesota and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The much-maligned Cousins is vastly underrated. The former Spartan has produced three consecutive 4,000+ passing yard seasons and has averaged 30+ passing touchdowns during that span. The 2023 season will likely be his last hurrah in Minnesota, but he should be a hot commodity on the free-agent market heading into next season.

Sam Darnold, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Before you stop laughing, the addition of Sam Darnold arises from his recent development in San Francisco. Darnold has exhibited flashes in the past, but the glowing reports out of camp should lend themselves to allowing Darnold to find a job somewhere outside of the 49ers next season.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Speaking of last chances, Baker Mayfield seems to be facing his last chance at a starting quarterback job in Tampa Bay. If replacing Tom Brady wasn't pressure enough, Mayfield is playing for his NFL life as he battles Kyle Trask in Buccaneers camp. If, and that's a big if, Mayfield can succeed this season, he should play himself into a new contract in Tampa Bay as they utilize Mayfield to transition into their next franchise quarterback.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans

Tannehill picked the wrong season to start playing his worst football. With the Titans looking like playoff contenders, Tannehill fell apart last season. Some of the horrible play can be attributed to a midseason ankle injury. The fact is that Tannehill was faced with the challenge of having no one to throw the ball to. The Titans' wide receiver room is among the worst in the league. However, this season Tannehill welcomes in De'Andre Hopkins, who will take plenty of pressure off sophomore wideout Treylon Burks and Tannehill. We should see improved stats from Tannehill this season,  making him undervalued for fantasy football. It also makes him more valuable, as we look forward to next season if he bounces back.

Running Backs

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Akers climbed out of the doghouse to finish last season with three consecutive 100-rushing-yard performances. Akers will be the featured back for a Rams offense that will see the return of quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp. If Akers continues to ascend, look for him to capitalize and probably stay with the Rams.

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

Barkley proved he is finally healthy with an outstanding 2022 season. Barkley finished as the RB6 with his 1,310 rushing yards and ten scores. The former Nittany Lion displayed his discontent with his current contract status by sitting out the start of camp. Barkley finally returned but not without a chip on his shoulder. He is the focal point of the Giants' offense and should continue to be one of the top fantasy backs in the league.

A.J. Dillon, RB, Green Bay Packers

AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones have proven to be a lethal rushing combo. Dillon is the power component who serves as the short-yardage and goal-line option for the Packers. With Jones signing a contract extension, Dillon will continue in a similar role in Green Bay. However,  Dillon might not see more touches with Jordan Love now running the Packers' offense. Hard to fathom Dillon making enough of an impact to upgrade his contract hopes.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Dobbins exploded in his rookie season, averaging six yards per attempt and punching in nine touchdowns. However, Dobbins has missed more games than he has played in his NFL career, including the entire 2021 season, due to a torn ACL. Dobbins finally arrived in camp after sitting out waiting on a new contract. If Dobbins proves healthy, the contract will be there for the former Ohio State Buckeye.

Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Edwards played a pivotal role as a carrier backup with the Ravens. His ability to stay on the field is frustrating, but while on the field, he provides a stable rushing force that owns a career of 5.2 yards per carry.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

CEH has shown flashes but has been quite a disappointment in Kansas City Chiefs. Hard to see him getting a worthy contract.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Austin Ekeler won many fantasy championships for his fantasy managers last season, and maybe Ekeler rostered himself in fantasy. Ekeler finished the overall RB1 with ridiculous stats of 13 rushing touchdowns, 107 receptions on 127 targets, and five more receiving touchdowns. The injuries to the Chargers' weapons provided Ekeler the path to be the Chargers' offense, and he was an actual bell cow that will probably not see the volume this season. However, who is going to stop him?

Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders

The lack of production of Antonio Gibson should anger fantasy managers. However, the anger should be directed at the coaching staff in Washington. Gibson continues to miscast as a running back who doesn't get looks in the passing game, and that's from a player that shined as a receiver while playing at Memphis. Considering the everyday turmoil in Washington, Gibson is probably praying for the end of this season so that he can move on that can better utilize him.

Damien Harris, RB, Buffalo Bills

Damien Harris left the New England Patriots but stayed in the AFC East by signing a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills. Harris takes over for Devin Singletary, who left for the Houston Texans. Harris dealt with injuries last season, resulting in his downturn in fantasy production from his 15-touchdown effort in 2021. In Buffalo, Harris will share touches with sophomore running back James Cook, limiting his ceiling and his goal of a substantial new contract.

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

There were rumblings that Derrick Henry would be moved in the offseason, with his contract expiring after this season. However, the Titans are all-in for this season, with Ryan Tannehill hopefully rebounding from a horrible 2022. The Titans added wide receiver De'Andre Hopkins to an offense desperately needing another weapon. Henry might not see the volume of touches he has recently, but that also could equal Henry playing an entire season of total usage. Look for Henry to have another fantastic season leading to a playoff contender showing him the money to join their team's playoff journey.

Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders

Josh Jacobs is already showing his hand as being disgruntled about his contract situation. Jacobs wants to get paid as one of the top backs in the league, and deservedly so. Jacobs was the bell cow back with the Raiders last season and finished as the RB3 in fantasy. Eventually, we will see Jacobs carrying the rock in Las Vegas, piling up fantasy stats, and producing top-five RB numbers on his way to piling up the cash after he plays his butt off for his new contract, whether in Las Vegas or elsewhere.

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

Tony Pollard is one of "my guys" as we head into the 2023 season. The Dallas Cowboys finally made Pollard their guy by making him their featured back last season and pushing Ezekiel Eilliot to the backseat. After this season, Pollard plays on a one-year deal and will be a UFA. Pollard should shine as the RB1 in Dallas with zero competition for touches and cash in with a gigantic contract after he pushes for the top overall running back in fantasy this season.

Wide Receivers

Marquise Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Marquise Brown is the prototypical home run threat at wideout. He can break an extended play at any moment and did that numerous times with Lamar Jackson behind center in Baltimore. The Arizona Cardinals traded for Brown last season to reunite him with Kyler Murray. Unfortunately, Brown had a disappointing season, mainly due to the season-ending ACL tear suffered by Murray. Murray is still a question mark on when he will be able to suit up this season which leaves Brown catching passes from Colt McCoy. It seems unlikely we will see Brown in a different uniform anytime soon.

Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills

We also witnessed the potential of Gabriel Davis. See his record-breaking four-touchdown performance in the playoffs. Fantasy managers sought out Davis in drafts anticipating more of those types of performances. However, they were left disappointed in 2022. He is an excellent complement to Stefon Diggs as the WR2 in the Buffalo Bills' offense. Davis will provide plenty of boom-or-bust game productions you will be forced to live with. Davis emphasized that his injured ankle hampered him throughout last season, and we will see what he can produce this season. Coincidentally, this also happens to be his contract season.

Mike Evans, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Evans seems to be always underappreciated. Evans has produced 1,000+ yards in each of his nine NFL seasons. His elite consistent production should not go unnoticed. There were rumors of Evans being moved in the offseason, but there is still a chance he gets moved during this season when the Bucs fall out of playoff contention. You can count on Evans producing fantasy stats regardless of what uniform he will be wearing beyond the Buccaneers.

Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Tee Higgins is one of the best wideouts in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals must figure out how to retain the elite wide receiver to keep the great combo together with Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase.

Michael Pittman, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Pittman took a step back in his overall fantasy production last season. However, Pittman did have 99 receptions, although his yardage (925) and touchdowns (4) took a slight dip. The inconsistent quarterback play was a significant factor last season and could also affect his 2023. The Colts drafted Anthony Richardson as their franchise quarterback, and we should witness plenty of growing pains. The development of Richardson will be a critical factor in Pittman's fantasy production. The talent is pretty evident, but his stats might not accurately reflect it, which could affect his ability to sell himself.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Calvin Ridley is playing for more than just a new contract. Ridley is playing for redemption. His one-year suspension provided the ammunition for him to bounce back with a vengeance. A trade to the Jacksonville Jaguars should propel Ridley into a great 2023 season with the surging Jaguars offense and the ever-improving Trevor Lawrence. Ridley is going to get paid!

Tight Ends

Gerald Everett, TE, Los Angeles Chargers

Gerald Everett benefitted from injuries to the receiving corps with the Chargers. Even still, Everett only finished as the TE15 in fantasy. Everett produced career-highs in receptions (59) and receiving yards (555) but scored only four touchdowns. With the Chargers healthy at the outset of this season, look for his fantasy production and value to drop.

Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams

Fantasy managers should also be cautious in buying in on Tyler Higbee. Higbee was a benefactor of many injuries to the Rams' offense, which led to the tight end being the only viable option. The stats showcase that Higbee produced 72 receptions (fifth-highest), but he only scored three touchdowns on his way to a TE9 finish. Higbee will not be a hot commodity on the free agent market. He also should not be a highly sought-after tight end in fantasy football.

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Minnesota Vikings

Hockenson picked the wrong season to emerge as a valuable pass-catching option at the tight end position. After being traded to the Minnesota Vikings at midseason, Hockenson appeared as a fantasy elite tight end, producing TE3 numbers. He finished with 900+ receiving yards and six touchdowns total last season, and look for those numbers to ascend in a Vikings offense that needs a second option outside of Justin Jefferson. Hockenson will be screaming, "Show Me the Money," after this contract season.

Dalton Schultz, TE, Houston Texans

Dalton Schulz signed a one-year deal with the Houston Texans to be the go-to guy for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. Schultz should see plenty of targets, with rookie quarterbacks tend to lean on their tight ends in their rookie season. Schultz finished as the TE10 last season with the Dallas Cowboys as he continued to be the security blanket for Dak Prescott. He recorded 57 receptions on 89 targets for 577 yards and five touchdowns last season. Similar projections are in store for Schultz this year, with the F6P crew ranking the Texans tight end as their TE11. Schultz will continue to be a TE1 for fantasy managers and should be rewarded with a new contract.

Irv Smith, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

Frankly, this is not an exciting choice. However, Irv Smith presented tons of potential when he arrived as a 2019 second-round pick out of Alabama by the Minnesota Vikings. His first two seasons were average at best, but he was sharing touches with Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph departed Minnesota in 2021; however, Smith suffered a significant knee injury costing him the entire regular season.

Smith joined the Cincinnati Bengals this season in a crowded offense where he will likely be the, at best fourth option for Joe Burrow. Hayden Hurst saw 68 targets in this offense last season, so the passing volume is available. The question is now, can Irv Smith take advantage?


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