NFL Training Camp Battles to Watch
Training Camp is here! For those of you like me who have been starving for football, we are finally starting to see some action on the field. What can make it even more enjoyable however, is if we know what to look for. That's where I want to help you out.
We already know that Ezekiel Elliott will be the starting back for the Cowboys and Antonio Brown will be the number one receiver in Pittsburgh. That doesn't mean that there aren't any positional battles up for grabs. Those battles could also have some fantasy football implications and so it's important we stay one step ahead of our league mates so we can kick their ass on draft day!
Below are some competitions that are worth monitoring. Check our site daily and also make sure to follow Jim Day (@fantasytaz) on Twitter, because he will be providing daily training camp updates from the top NFL beat writers to help you follow along. Let the Fighting Chance crew help you navigate this NFL Preseason!
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When it comes to the starting quarterback position, the jobs that may be up for grabs all involve rookies that were drafted in the first round. These youngsters will likely become the face of their franchise, but will it start in Week 1? That's something that we need to keep an eye on in training camp.
Baker Mayfield vs Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns. The Browns invested the number one overall pick on Baker Mayfield in this years draft and they are hoping he can be their "slump-buster" and break their streak of 284 consecutive quarterbacks drafted that have been busts. Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but I'm sure that's how it feels to Browns' fans. Prior to the draft, the Browns acquired Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo in exchange for a third round pick and at least early on, Todd Haley has gone on record saying that Tyrod is their starter. While I expect Taylor to be under center in Week 1, if Mayfield thrives this preseason, it may be hard to keep him on the bench.
Josh Rosen vs Sam Bradford, Arizona Cardinals. I'll be honest...I'm not sure this one is necessarily a battle, but with Sam Bradford's history of getting injured, I think it's important to see how Josh Rosen performs in camp. Bradford has only played a full 16 game season twice in his seven year career and is coming off an injury-riddled 2017 where he dealt with a knee issue. Head Coach Steve Wilkes has gone on record saying Bradford is the starter, but it's worth monitoring how Rosen does this summer because if (or when) Bradford goes down, Rosen could have some success with weapons the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson, and Christian Kirk.
Sam Darold vs Josh McCown, NY Jets. Even though he has yet to sign his rookie contract, ESPN's Rich Cimini is reporting that the starting quarterback job for the Jets is Sam Danold's to lose. I guess this depends on how long this contract dispute drags on and how he looks when he does finally get into camp, but of all the rookie quarterbacks, it appears that Sam Darold might have the strongest likelihood of getting the first nod.
Josh Allen vs AJ McCarron, Buffalo Bills. While it's still early in camp, WKBW's Joe Buscaglia writes that Bills rookie Josh Allen has been the best quarterback at camp thus far. He started off playing primarily with the third string, but has been getting more time with the first unit. AJ McCarron is nothing special, so if Allen keeps on performing, he could find himself leaping ahead of the veteran "stop-gap" quarterback.
Lamar Jackson vs Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens. Like the situation in Arizona, I think Joe Flacco will not only be the Week 1 starting quarterback, but could very well hang on to it all season. However, John Harbaugh has stated they are looking for ways to get Lamar Jackson involved in the offense, so he could find his way onto the field one way or another. I listed him on here as well because out of these five rookie signal callers, Lamar Jackson may have the highest ceiling of them all. He has rushed for over 1,500 yards in each of the last two seasons and could be a fantasy juggernaut once he gets the nod.
Rashaad Penny vs Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks selected NCAA leading rusher, Rashaad Penny in the first round of this years draft to hopefully become their bellcow back. It seems like no one gave Chris Carson that memo, because Carson has been running with the first team offense through the first few days of training camp and gleaning praise from Head Coach, Pete Carroll. This is an important one to watch because as of today, Penny is being drafted as the RB21 in the early part of round four on Fantasy Football Calculator. If Carson is going to carve out a role in this offense, Penny's stock could plummet.
Carlos Hyde vs Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns. Cleveland brought in Carlos Hyde on a three-year deal this offseason and many thought that pairing Hyde with Duke Johnson would be a nice running back combo. The Browns muddied those waters a bit went they invested an early second rounder in this years draft on former Georgia Bulldog running back, Nick Chubb. I believe Duke Johnson will still have his third down/receiving back role, but what the Browns do on early downs is still up for grabs.
Ronald Jones vs Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Bucs. In another case involving a rookie, in Tampa we have the rookie Ronald Jones taking on incumbent Peyton Barber. Bucs Beat writer Roy Cummings has said that Barber is running with authority and could run away with the job. That's easy to say because they have been practicing without pads, but Barber has shed about ten pounds from last year and is trying to earn his way into playing time. Jones is currently being drafted in the fifth round of fantasy drafts, so it's important that we pay attention to this situation closely.
Devontae Booker vs Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos. Reports early out of Denver are that we could potentially see a running back by committee situation involving Devontae Booker, rookie Royce Freeman, and even potentially De'Angelo Henderson. People love their rookies and that's evident by the fact that Freeman is currently going as the RB26 in the fifth round of mocks while Booker is the RB49 being drafted in the 12th round. I try to make good decisions on draft day, and right now it appears Booker may be the much better value. Let's see if any of these three can separate from the pack over the next month.
Allen Hurns vs Michael Gallup vs Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys. In case you hadn't heard, Dez Bryant is no longer in Dallas and tight end Jason Witten has retired. That leaves a lot of targets up for grabs in Dallas, so whoever claims the number one receiver gig could have some nice fantasy value. Allen Hurns may have the best shot, but Michael Gallup was drafted in the third round and is looking to make a mark for himself and Terrance Williams has a few years head start in the offense with Dak Prescott. This is definitely worth monitoring this August.
Geronimo Allison vs J'Mon Moore, Green Bay Packers. The Packers have shown in the past that they can support three wide receivers in terms of fantasy production as evidenced by Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. With Nelson now playing for the Raiders, that leaves an opening for someone to play alongside Adams and Cobb. Geronimo Allison may have the initial edge to get the spot, but the Pack selected three receivers in this year's draft which tells me they may not be sold on him. J'Mon Moore was taken in the fourth round and has seen some time with the first team offense already, so I'm keeping my eyes on Green Bay's training camp to see if either starts to shine.
Cameron Meredith vs Ted Ginn. The number two receiver job in New Orleans may be a little more important than I had originally thought. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Saints only ran out of three wide receiver sets 48% of the time last season. To put that in perspective, only seven teams lined up in that formation less than the Saints and the Rams led the league running it 81% of the time. I would have thought it was much higher than, but that means whoever earns the number two spot in New Orleans could be in for a little more work. The Times-Picayune's Josh Katzenstein believes Cameron Meredith is the "best bet" for the Saints' number two receiver job, but Ted Ginn has been around and has a rapport with Drew Brees, so training camp could help us determine who the next best fantasy option is behind Michael Thomas.
There are really two situations to keep an eye on for training camp battles at the tight end position. With Jason Witten retiring, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swain and Rico Gathers are all looking to jump in and take his place. Gathers has been on people's radars since training camp last year, but so far has shown very little this year to let us know he's ready, so who knows who will earn the job. In Los Angeles, the Rams could have a nice competition between Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee. I think Everett would have a little more fantasy appeal, but we could see Higbee stick around and make his life a little more difficult.