Fantasy Football Nerd

NFL Training Camp Battles to Watch

Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2019


Watching the NFL is fun in and of itself, but it's particularly interesting to watch training camp from a fantasy football perspective. Yes, there will be wide receiver battles in Oakland for example, but even though he starts the camp on the NFI list, there's no reason to even consider Antonio Brown as part of that discussion. In fact, the picks that will come off the board in the first few rounds of your draft are not really relevant to the "training camp" battles. What we're really looking at are the mid to late round picks and how those guys will jostle for playing time.

Tevin Coleman49ers Running Backs
There's a lot going on in the Bay area to try and pay attention to. Expectations from the backfield were incredibly high last August with Jerick McKinnon's arrival from Minnesota. When he tore his ACL, the grand plan unraveled. This year, McKinnon is back and healthy but the starting gig isn't automatically his. San Francisco brought in Tevin Coleman from Atlanta who spent two seasons with Niners coach Kyle Shanahan and was one of those fantasy handcuffs that we targeted in our drafts. Mix in Matt Breida and you've got three talented backs all vying for touches. Coleman already knows the offensive scheme and and is perhaps the most durable of the bunch, but Breida is easily the most effective averaging an impressive 5.3 yards per carry. Although McKinnon has three years left on a fat contract, the starting gig is not guaranteed. All three are viable running backs for the team, but if this gets into a running back by committee, they lose a great deal of their fantasy value. Nobody wants to play the weekly guessing game as to which player to start.

Judging by the FFN rankings, Coleman already has the job as he's being ranked 29th - clearly ahead of McKinnon at #41 and Breida at #50. This is a training camp battle to watch.

Philadelphia Eagles Backfield
By now, the Zero RB Theory should be firmly put to rest. Running backs often come with a premium price tag - especially the first few rounds, so landing a consistently-producing RB is critical to your fantasy success. The Eagles have a few guys who will be fighting to contribute to the team. Jordan Howard has been named the starter entering camp. An argument could be made that he was underutilized in Chicago, but he still tallied 935 rushing yards. His projections this year show a significant regression, but the guy is only 24 years old and has only missed one game in three seasons. He's ranked 37th among running backs on FFN with an easy schedule ahead of him. If Howard is your 3rd or 4th RB, count yourself fortunate.

The rest of the mix in Philly revolves around Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, and recently re-signed Darren Sproles. All have the ability to eat into Howard's carries, but mostly from a third down perspective. Sanders is the most intriguing option here as some pundits have already proclaimed him ahead of Howard. He's ranked 38th on FFN just behind Howard and he's projected for 0.1 points more per game, so the battle between Howard and Sanders is real.

Marquez Valdes-ScantlingGreen Bay Packers Wide Receivers
Davante Adams is being drafted as one of the first three wide receivers in early fantasy re-drafts this year, and for good reason. His 1,386 yards last year was more than the next three receivers on the depth chart...combined. With a new head coach and Aaron Rodgers throwing to you, the #2 WR in Green Bay has fantasy value. We're watching Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown. Of the three, our early pick would be Valdes-Scantling who averaged 15.3 yards per catch last year and has spent his off-season training with HOF WR Randy Moss. Right now, Allison leads in the FFN rankings at #47 among WR's with Valdes-Scantling at #49 and Brown at #103.

Who To Throw To In Seattle?
For the first time in a long time, there's no Doug Baldwin leading the pack in Seattle. While this isn't a team that threw a lot last season, this should be the Tyler Lockett show. He was uber-efficient turning 70 targets into 57 receptions, 965 yards, and an impressive 10 scores. Averaging three and a half catches per game, he wasn't a PPR-monster by any means, but he made the most of each of those receptions. There are a number of guys that will push him for targets including David Moore, Jaron Brown, Amara Darboh, and rookies DK Metcalf and Gary Jennings. From a fantasy perspective, Lockett's the easy pick here at #20 among WR's, but it's the rookie Metcalf that has our attention. He's ranked ahead of all the other guys (#57 among WR's) and for good reason. While Russell Wilson didn't throw it a lot last year, when he did, he often threw deep. Metcalf is the type of freakishly-fast receiver that can make that combination tantalizingly good. Think of him as a young DeSean Jackson - explosive speed and talent. While he won't likely start the season as the clear #2, he may finish the season that way.

Pass Catching in New England
Gronk is gone. Ignore the rumors of an impending return from Gronk - it's not going to happen, which is what makes the receiving corp in New England so interesting. They still have SuperBowl MVP Julian Edelman, but the rest of the cast is largely absent. Gone are Gronk, Chris Hogan, Josh Gordon (technically still part of the team but let's not go there), and Cordarrelle Patterson. That's 40% of the targets from last year. Brady will have his choice of receivers, so after Edelman comes off the draft boards, who should we be looking at? N'Keal Harry is an intriguing option. He holds the distinction of being the first wide receiver ever drafted in the first round by Bill Belichick. Look for Harry to see the most reps with Edelman out for most of training camp. He's currently ranked #45 among WR's on FFN - essentially being drafted in the same mix as Keke Coutee, Geronimo Allison, and Golden Tate. That's pretty decent company making him the 3rd or 4th WR on your team. He should see plenty of action with Brady, but he will have to fight for targets against legitimate threats Philip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman, and of course, the Patriots backfield. At 31 years, we're not banking on Thomas to even make the team, but even though he's ranked 90th, Dorsett has potential to see his share of targets - particularly with Edelman banged up.

Courtland SuttonOffensive Attack in Denver
With quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Drew Lock under center, the receiving corp has a lot of questions. Emmanuel Sanders has been one of the most dynamic and talented receivers in Denver the past few years, but he's not healthy and won't likely be healthy when the season officially kicks off. Someone's going to get a heck of a bargain on Emmanuel Sanders if he can come back strong from a torn Achilles. That's because he should get taken after 110th overall, where the risk is tiny and the reward is huge. But Achilles injuries are tough to come back from, especially for 32-year-old slot receivers. Courtland Sutton would seem to be a lock to see more action in 2019 after a decent rookie season where he hauled in 42 catches for 704 yards and 4 scores. He's ranked 37th among WR's on FFN and should see his targets rise this year. DaeSean Hamilton didn't see much usage last year, but that should change in 2019 when he lines up in the slot.

While the receivers will be interesting to watch, perhaps the biggest fantasy battle exists in the Denver backfield. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman both have fantasy relevance after last season. The problem will come down to usage. At this time, it's fully expected to be a committee approach which makes it difficult to project which back will emerge as the better fantasy option.

Which WR Will Be a Steel in Pittsburgh?
Alright - perhaps not the best pun we could have come up with, but we'll be watching the receivers in Pittsburgh to see who emerges as the #2 behind JuJu. Donte Moncrief, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson could all step up and claim that spot. At 6-foot-2, Moncrief gives Pittsburgh a big-bodies receiver to work the sideline and haul in high-percentage passes from Ben Roethlisberger. Before Moncrief suffered some nagging injuries, he was a good touchdown target for Andrew Luck. While Moncrief (ranked 55th) has the experience, it's Washington that we think has the bigger upside. He had a disappointing rookie season, but with Antonio Brown's 168 targets ready to be spread about on a team that led the NFL in pass attempts last year, Washington could be a steal in your drafts with a late-round pick. He's currently ranked 50th among WR's on FFN so expect him to be on plenty of fantasy owner radars next month.

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