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Playing for a contract

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Sure, playing for the "love of the game" comes up in interviews with players from coast to coast, but we all know the truth - sports is a business and players are in it to provide for their families.

Therefore, a player in the final year of his contract figures to put forth 100-percent effort in order to sign that "mega-deal" or at least to keep getting paid for playing a game.

Either way, it's good for his fantasy value.

Quarterback

Drew Brees, NO - This year's free-agent class of signal callers doesn't have many fantasy stars. New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees is already getting star money and barring career-ending injury will get the big contract after this season no matter how he performs. He likely won't do much better than last year's totals (4,620 yards, 33 TDs, 22 INTs) and, in fact, given the team's improvement at the running back position will probably have lower statistics as the team tries to balance out the offense.

Jason Campbell, OAK - Campbell doesn't have "starter-worthy" fantasy value as the Raiders will continue to play their run-first offense. Even the financial incentive of a new contract won't likely improve the team's passing game.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF - Fitzpatrick was much improved in 2010, throwing for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns versus 15 interceptions. He and No.1 receiver Steve Johnson work well together, but the team lacks much else at the receiver spot. The Bills quarterback is a part-time fantasy starter at best and even playing for a contract won't make him that much better.

Running Backs

Arian Foster, HOU - Under normal circumstances, Foster's contract would be a huge incentive for him to reproduce last year's fantasy statistics. But Foster has already injured his hamstring for the second time in preseason and given his contract situation may try to come back too early. Be very wary of drafting Foster No.1 overall.

Matt Forte, CHI - In the final year of his rookie deal which pays around $550,000, Forte is vastly underpaid for his performance level (1,069 yards rushing, 547 yards receiving, nine touchdowns). The team added Marion Barber to the running back group which may steal touchdowns from Forte, but no more than Chester Taylor did in past seasons. Forte should continue to produce good receiving statistics and be a very good PPR league running back. If he stays healthy, he'll almost certainly produce numbers better than his late second round ranking (fantasyfootballnerd.com ranking 20)

Frank Gore, SF - His agent is Drew Rosenhaus which means negotiations won't be easy. But Gore has stated that he wants to stay in San Francisco and the No.1 thing he has to do to get that "fat contract' is play everyday. He hasn't played in all 16 games since his breakout season of 2006. This would be the perfect season for him to replicate that year's statistics (1,695 rushing, 485 yards receiving, nine TDs) and don't be surprised if that happens.

Adrian Peterson, MIN - Peterson has a veteran quarterback under center which can only help his performance this season. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave wants to use him in the passing game too. Now add the financial incentive and "All-Day" should post the best numbers of his career. Given his ability to play every game (missed just three games in four years), Peterson should be the No.1 overall selection in your draft.

Ray Rice, BAL - All the factors lead to Rice having a career year. He's durable, the team let the touchdown-stealing Willis McGahee sign with Denver replacing him with Ricky Williams and Rice has the best hands of any running back in the league. If it's possible for a No.5 overall pick to be undervalued, then Rice is a bargain.

Peyton Hillis, CLE - Hillis, like Forte, will be paid around $550,000 this season and if he posts last year's numbers (1,177 yards rushing, 477 yards receiving, 13 TDs) will get the "big money." His backups, Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty are both question marks from a heath standpoint, making Hillis at No.26 a likely candidate for one of those huge "contract years."

A few of the other "contract year" candidates include; Ronnie Brown, Michael Bush, Tashard Choice, Ryan Grant, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tim Hightower, Marshawn Lynch and Mike Tolbert.

Wide Receiver

Danny Amendola, STL - Amendola has looked very good in preseason and was already a "mini" Wes Welker last season with 85 receptions. He needs to break a few of them to improve on his 8.1 ypc average and then he'll be a huge bargain given his ranking of 146. Don't be afraid to take him in the 11th or 12th round, particularly in PPR leagues.

Dwayne Bowe, KC - Bowe has always had superior talent, it's just that like many "prima donna" wideouts he doesn't show it every game. With offenses primed to stop Jamaal Charles and the addition of Steve Breaston and talented rookie Jonathan Baldwin, Bowe could produce "monster" numbers.

Marques Colston, NO - The mind may be willing, but the knees are probably going to prevent Colston from having the big "contract year" statistics. With all the receivers that Brees has to chose from, if Colston isn't 100-percent. his numbers may actually go down, not up.

DeSean Jackson, PHI - Jackson wants a mega-deal and based on his production in both the passing game and special teams he deserves it. This one could go either way. His lack of practice could lead to injuries during the season and the Eagles have brought in Steve Smith as insurance. On the other hand, if he stays healthy, he and Michael Vick could produce a lot of big plays.

Steve Johnson, BUF - Sometimes it's better to be the No.2 receiver and get one-on-one coverage with the oppositions' second best defender. We will see how Johnson produces now that Lee Evans is gone and he's the primary focus of the secondary. Of course, with few other options, Johnson could end up being a top-5 in targets which would mean a huge year.

Mario Manningham, NYG - Manningham ended 2010 with three consecutive 100+ yard performances and will take over the starting spot opposite Hakeem Nicks. He should be ready to produce "Steve-Smith type" numbers, meaning 85-90 receptions and 1,000+ yards. Given his sixth-round ranking (72) he should be a huge bargain.

Other "contract year" candidates at the receiving position include; Braylon Edwards, Pierre Garcon, Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Robert Meachem, Jordy Nelson, Plaxico Burress, Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Wallace, Reggie Wayne and Wes Welker.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.


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