After many years of playing fantasy football I have learned a thing or too. When considering starting to prep for draft day one should take into consideration many different aspects of the game. Everyone if familiar with the usual angles to study (ADP, playing time, offensive scheme, etc.) but one area that is not talked about enough is players that will be heading into free agency the following season.
Below are the top players from each position that will be testing the free agent market following the 2013 season, that will have an added chip on their shoulder. In my opinion, these are the type of players you want to target, considering one great season could earn a player a contract of a lifetime.
(TB)--Despite being a serviceable starter in most formats last season, Freeman is on the hot seat after failing to show consistency in his third year as the Buccaneers starter. Freeman's stat line indicates that he was either great or terrible, performing under his season average eight times. Now playing for a contract, he is going to need to step his game up, which could essentially help out those who missed out on a top tier quarterback on draft day. He has the skill and the surrounding cast (Martin, Jackson, Williams) to be successful and the added chip on his shoulder could be just what is needed for him to be a staple in starting lineups this season.
(CHI)--The Bears have announced that they will not be discussing contract extensions prior to the start of the season, so Cutler is going to have to prove himself in 2013 before earning a big payday. With running mate Brandon Marshall and a solid running game (Forte, Bush), Cutler should be able to contribute on a weekly basis, as long as his offensive line can hold up. Cutler is ranked third in the NFL over the last four seasons is sacks (148 sacks) is not something you want to see from your starting quarterback, but improvements along the line should give him added value for those in deep fantasy formats.
(JAC)--After playing in only six games in 2012, there are many questions about Jones-Drew and is health heading into the start of the season. The Jaguars plan to ease Jones-Drew back into action during training camp, with the goal being to have him at 100 percent by Week 1. With the Jaguars changing to a zone blocking scheme, it may take some time for Jones-Drew to adjust to the new system, but should still have plenty to offer those who are willing to take the risk on him. The only threat he has behind him on the depth chart in Justin Forsett, but considering his size, he shouldn't be a threat to take away his red zone carries.
(OAK)--For the fifth season in a row McFadden failed to make it through a full season without suffering an injury, playing in only 12 games and three touchdowns. With a new offensive coordinator on the sidelines, the Raiders are expected to return to a more power running attack, scrapping the unsuccessful zone blocking scheme form a season ago. No one has ever questioned the skill set of McFadden, who is arguably the most talented runner outside of Adrian Peterson, but will need to step him game up this season if he was to join Peterson making the big bucks. He is a high risk, high reward player considering where he is going off the draft board, but playing for a contract should give him some added motivation for success.
(ARI)--The Steelers decided to part ways with Mendenhall following the 2012 season and was quickly scooped by the newly reformed Cardinals. Mendenhall rushed back from an ACL injury and appeared to have lost a step, but at the age of 26, he still has something left in the tank. He will battle Ryan Williams and Stepfan Taylor for the starting spot, but appears to have an early edge considering his last experience. The fact he is only on a one-year contract should give him the motivation to step his game up during training camp to get himself back to the caliber of we grew accustomed to seeing from his in his day with the Steelers. He is going to come at a discount on draft day, considering all the question marks, but he still has some upside if he wins the position battle.
(NYG)--For the first time in a few seasons, the Giants are reporting that Nick is 100 percent healthy heading into Week One of the preseason, which couldn't have come at a better time now that he is playing for a contract. Last season was one he will want to forget, after battling through a nagging knee injury leaving his fantasy owners in a frenzy. Although many consider Victor Cruz the No. 1 target in the Giants offense, let's not forget how Eli Manning love to throw the ball down field to large target (Does Plexico Burress ring a bell?), and Nicks fits that bill. There is still upside in Nicks, as long as he can stay healthy, but that is the key here. He says he is good to go, so consider drafting him as a top 20 wide receiver with top 10 upside.
(DEN)--Decker is coming off of his first 1,00-yard season in 2012, which included 13 touchdowns on 85 receptions making him one of the most productive receivers in PPR formats. Now with Wes Welker in the mix, there are many questions as to whether or not he is going to be as productive moving forward. One thing is for sure, Decker will have a chip on his shoulder as he tries to secure himself a big pay day following the season. Considered his size and speed, he shouldn't have much trouble getting the ball in his hands, despite having more mouths to feed in the offensive attack. Currently, Eric Decker is the third Broncos wide receiver being drafted in early mock drafts, which makes him a great value on draft day if current situations hold true.
(TEN)--Out of all the players heading into free agency following the 2013 season, Britt has the most to prove after suffering torn ACL, MCL and meniscus injuries over the last two seasons. The Titans have stashed a few young wide receivers that have a lot of upside (Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter), so now more than ever he is going to have to step his game up if he wants to get paid. A lot of Britt's fantasy value relies on the arm of Jake Locker, but if he can put it all together Britt should be able to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.
(GB)--Following a 14 touchdown season, the Packers will be relying on Jones to be a big part of their offense once again, but this time he will be playing for a contract. Jones enters the season as the team's No. 3 wide receiver behind both Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, who are also going off the board ahead of his in early mock drafts. It has been tough to roster Packers' wide receivers, considering how Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball around the field, but Jones saw the majority of the red zone targets throughout the year, which is what you want to see from your wide receivers. He may not be the big name in the offense, but his production should be good earn both himself and his fantasy owners a nice pay day.
(NO)--The Saints and Graham are going to have to have a long talk about big numbers with a lot of zeros following the 2013 season when he becomes a free agent. Surprisingly, the team has yet to give him an offer sheet, but we all know that he is going to probably get top dollar and is won't be from a team outside of New Orleans. Graham came up just shy of reaching the 1,00-yard mark for the second season in a row, but has now scored 20 touchdowns over the last few seasons. With Rob Gronkwoski out for the start of the season, Graham will be the No. 1 tight end off the draft board this season, and is worth every penny, especially in PPR formats. One would think the contract talks would be a distraction to him, but that shouldn't make prospective owners shy away from one of the best pass catchers in the game.
(WAS)--The Redskins were able to sign Davis to a one-year deal this offseason after he tested free agency and failed to find anything worth leaving the Redskins. Now that he is going to be fighting for a long-term contract, Davis will have to step his game up, and continue to build a bond with Robert Griffin. There is no guarantee that Davis will be ready for Week 1, with many more rehab goals to reach, so health is the biggest obstacle between him and a new contract. In terms of fantasy, Davis still have upside, but should be looked at more as a TE No. 2 until we get confirmation he will be ready for the start of the season.
(ATL)--The ageless wonder is on a one-year deal with the Falcons, but has already stated that this will be his final season in the NFL. We have heard this all be for right? Assuming he continues to produce as the main goal line threat in the Falcons offense, Gonzalez may decide to come back for another season, and if that is the case, he will probably get to name is price to anyone wanting his services. He may not be the sexy pick, but his reliable skill set is worth owning once again this season.
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Matthew Beck is a Fantasy Sports Columnist for Rotoinfo.com. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail him at email@example.com. Also follow him on Twitter @MatthewRBeck for up-to-date Q&A and fantasy information. And, to make setting your Fantasy Football lineup easy, be sure to utilize RotoInfo.com’s new NFL Lineup Grids.