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How Contract Length and Term Impact Dynasty Player Value (Fantasy Football)

by Matt Barbato | @realmattbarbato | Featured Writer
May 25, 2020

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The most fun part about a dynasty or keeper fantasy football league is that it allows you to think like a real NFL general manager. One of your biggest responsibilities is contract management. Just like in the pros, players on your roster are assigned contracts with length and term.

Contracts are an important factor when assessing a player’s short-term and long-term value. Here’s a breakdown of how contracts typically work in fantasy football, as well as some tips for optimal contract management.

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How Contracts Work

Generally speaking, each team is given a set number of contracts to assign players on their roster. The length of these contracts can vary, but the standard time frame is two or three years. If your league really wants to feel authentic, you can establish a salary cap and “pay” players a monetary value during the length of their contract. Any player who does not receive a contract goes back into the draft pool the following year.

How Contracts Impact a Player’s Fantasy Value

Contracts play a significant role in a player’s overall fantasy value. Younger players become more valuable, as the goal becomes to lock up as many rising stars as possible. Veteran players still have value, but they should be evaluated on more of a short-term basis.

For example, Tom Brady might be a better quarterback than Josh Allen right now. But when deciding who to give a contract to, Allen is likely the smarter choice because he has more years left in the league.

How to Sign Smart Contracts

The best sports franchises always have a pipeline of exciting young talent, and that concept is just as important in fantasy football.

Just like in the NFL, there are good fantasy contracts and bad fantasy contracts. Timing and value are the best ways to define them. The best contracts are given to players who are coming off of breakout seasons and have exciting long-term potential. Chris Godwin and Josh Jacobs are great examples. Both were excellent in 2019 and have insanely bright futures.

When deciding who on your roster deserves a contract, you need to consider two key factors. First, determine where each player is in their respective careers. Are they in the early stages of their career? Are they in the midst of their prime? Or are they exiting their peak and entering the twilight? This is an important question to answer when deciding on giving them a long-term contract.

The other factor to consider is the player’s long-term fantasy upside and downside. Rate on a scale of 1-to-10 how confident you are in the player being a top performer at their position over the next several years. Think about their individual talent, durability, and their current team’s offense.

Todd Gurley is a great case study. Gurley is a gifted tailback who probably has a better offensive line blocking in front of him in Atlanta than he had in Los Angeles. However, concerns about his chronic knee issues muddle his long-term fantasy outlook. His ceiling is a top-three back in what could be an explosive Falcons offense. However, his floor is incredibly low given his injury concerns. Given the risk, I’d prefer Gurley on a one-year rental, not a long-term contract.

The more players you have on good contracts, the stronger your roster will be for years to come. However, good contracts can also help if your team isn’t in playoff contention. Leverage your good contracts to make trades with fantasy owners who are going all out to win the title. When making a deal, target players with intriguing long-term potential and try to gain as many draft picks as possible.

How to Shed Bad Contracts

Unfortunately, we can’t predict the future, which means even decisions that felt like safe bets can backfire. Potential doesn’t guarantee anything, so signing players to bad contracts is inevitable.

Imagine if you signed David Johnson to a three-year contract in 2016 after he finished as the No. 1 fantasy running back. Nobody could’ve seen his free fall coming. The point is, things change rapidly in the NFL. You need to be nimble and adapt quickly when player values start to sour.

So how do we get rid of our bad contracts? Most of the time, the best way to erase a bad contract is through a trade. Depending on how bad the contract is, it might cost you draft compensation to get a deal done. That’s not the only route, though. Look for potential diamonds in the rough on other fantasy rosters. Every fantasy football roster has at least a couple of disappointing players. See if there’s anyone worth taking a flier on, and try to get them in a deal.

It won’t work every time, but getting even a decent contributor in exchange for a bad contract player is an enormous win.

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato.

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