Fantasy Football: Biggest Training Camp Battles

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INDIANAPOLIS --- In every training camp, there are position battles. Some are to make the 53-man roster, others are to start, and some are for increased playing time. In fantasy football, it's the battles at starting running back and receiver we most pay attention to, and rightfully so.

Many of these competitions involve rookies. Savvy fantasy owners won't dismiss a rookie just because they were selected on day two or three of the NFL Draft. Some quarterback competitions require attention for how they could affect other fantasy assets.

In a couple camps this year though, like in Indianapolis, fantasy fans will want to pay attention more to battles that aren't between individual players. Here is the most relevant training camp battle to watch for fantasy football from each of the 32 teams in the NFL:

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Arizona Cardinals - RB, Andre Ellington vs. David Johnson: The Cardinals have said Ellington is still their feature back. Can he stay healthy though after missing the last four games of 2014 and playing through a foot issue before that? He dropped from 5.5 yards per carry as a rookie to 3.3 in 2014. Here comes 3rd-round rookie David Johnson, at 6'1" and 224 pounds, compared to Ellington's 5'9" and 199 pound frame. How this plays out in training camp is of large significance to fantasy fans looking for value at RB in the middle and end of drafts.

Atlanta Falcons - RB, Devonta Freeman vs. Tevin Coleman: Freeman couldn't get much work under the old coaching staff as a rookie with veteran Steven Jackson still around. Tevin Coleman rushed for 2,000 yards at Indiana University last year. The winner of this competition is going to do wonders for whoever has him on their fantasy team. Why? Because Dan Quinn is the head coach and his offensive coordinator is Kyle Shanahan. If you like Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris, you're probably going to like whoever wins this battle.

Baltimore Ravens - WR, Breshad Perriman vs. Marlon Brown vs. Kamar Aiken: Brown and Aiken aren't on the fantasy radar if they win the #2 WR competition over Perriman to start opposite Steve Smith. The Ravens spent a first round pick on Perriman. It's important to monitor if he'll actually start for fantasy purposes, or if there will be a learning curve here. If he does start, I want him on my fantasy team, with passing offense guru Marc Trestman now the offensive coordinator for the Ravens. Perriman could be the Kelvin Benjamin of 2015.

Buffalo Bills - QB, Matt Cassel vs. E.J. Manuel: For fantasy purposes, neither of these quarterbacks will be on your roster. The reason this battle is important to watch is to gauge WR Sammy Watkins 2015 value. If it looks like he'll get consistent quarterback play, he should improve upon his WR27 finish in standard & PPR. Watkins still had four 100-yard games as a rookie, despite subpar QB play.

Carolina Panthers - Back-Up RB Battle: Jonathan Stewart showed last year, when healthy, he is a solid RB 2 option in fantasy, if not higher. With DeAngelo Williams out of the mix, Stewart rushed for 97 yards/game at a 5.3 yards/carry clip in the last 5 weeks of the season. He also rushed for 123 yards and a score against the Cardinals and 70 yards on just 13 carries (5.4 ypc) against the Seahawks in the postseason. He hasn't been durable though, missing 20 GAMES over the past three seasons. Fantasy owners must see who emerges as the back-up to Stewart: Cameron Artis-Payne, Fozzy Whitaker, Jordan Todman, etc...could be anybody.

Chicago Bears - RB, Matt Forte vs. his new offense: There really are no true fantasy relevant position battles for the Bears, as rookie WR Kevin White is expected to start. The biggest question is how with Matt Forte's role change with Marc Trestman out and John Fox in. Trestman was gold for Forte, adding 74 and 102 receptions to his production the past two seasons. Before Trestman though, Forte was not a top-5 RB. Training camp and preseason will give us a better idea how much Forte will still be utilized out of the backfield. Will Jon Fox equal a decrease in Forte's 368 touches last season? We don't know. He's not catching 100 balls again though. If there's any indication Forte won't be a workhorse under Fox, you can't draft him in the top-15 picks. I expect Forte still will be, but you have to pay attention here when you are picking a player that high in drafts.

Cincinnati Bengals - RB, Jeremy Hill vs. Giovani Bernard: This is another battle that isn't a true battle. In fantasy, we're paying attention to usage here. Hill went from averaging 8.3 carries per game the first six weeks of the season in 2014 to 17.2 carries per game over the last 10 weeks of the season. That landed him among the top-10 fantasy RBs for 2014. Even in the passing game, Bernard only added 23 receptions over the final 10 games to go along with his 10.7 carries per game from weeks 8-17. If indications are Hill will maintain 60% or more of the carries in the Bengals offense, he could improve on his top-10 fantasy RB finish from 2014, given Cincinnati rushed the ball 29 times per game last season (5th in the NFL).

Cleveland Browns - RB, Isaiah Crowell vs. Terrence West vs. Duke Johnson: Duke Johnson is a deep sleeper this season, but we have no idea how the touches will play out in this quandary. There were weeks last year where it was reported Crowell would start then West got more carries and vice versa. What Johnson does add though is pass-catching ability. In the end, you may want to stay away from this potential fantasy headache altogether, but you have to at least keep tabs on it.

Dallas Cowboys - RB, Joseph Randle vs. Darren McFadden: Who will get the luxury of running behind the Cowboys outstanding offensive line? Whoever it is should be at least RB2 viable this season. Early drafts have Randle as the guy who will win the battle, but let's be honest. We have no idea right now. It's July. This is definitely one to watch very closely, in hopes of finding a very helpful middle round RB.

Denver Broncos - TE, Virgil Green vs. Owen Daniels: I'm mentioning this battle because I don't see a RB competition in Denver. I'd be shocked if RB C.J. Anderson isn't the featured back with how awesome he was last season. A Peyton Manning tight end has fantasy relevance. In the quagmire of 2015 fantasy tight ends behind Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, the winner of this battle has the perfect situation to finish as a top-5 fantasy TE. Pay attention though in the preseason. There are some reports that Denver TEs may be required to block much more in 2015, limiting their fantasy upside.

Detroit Lions - RB, Joique Bell vs. Ameer Abdullah: The Lions targeted their running backs an NFL-high 29 times in the red zone last year. Abdullah should push Bell though in camp and the preseason as the primary ball carrier. That's what the reports out of Detroit are. Abdullah could also assume the Reggie Bush role. Even if it is a 50-50 split in carries, don't forget that Reggie Bush role produced 1500+ total yards and 7 touchdowns in 14 games in 2013, before Bush was banged up and missed 5 games last season. This could also be a situation where Bell starts the year as the primary ball carrier as Abdullah learns and grows in the offense. That's why it's one to watch very, very closely.

Green Bay Packers - TE, Andrew Quarless vs. Richard Rodgers: There some sleeper appeal here just based on the offense, but I'm thinking 3rd WR Davante Adams will be targeted more than the Packers top TE.

Houston Texans - QB, Brian Hoyer vs. Ryan Mallett vs. Tom Savage: Like in Buffalo, if the Texans get consistent quarterback play, it really makes DeAndre Hopkins a breakout candidate in fantasy. Hopkins was already a top-15 WR in standard & PPR last year, with Andre Johnson still in town. In a week-to-week format, steady QB play should make Hopkins more reliable for fantasy too, after posting six weeks with less than 8 fantasy points last year.


Indianapolis Colts - 2 TE vs. 3 WR Formations: The annual Colts fantasy training camp question is back. Which will offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton favor? Will it be a pretty even split? If it's 2 TEs, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen become much more likely to both finish as top-10 TEs in fantasy with this high-powered offense. If it's 3 WR, the winner of the battle between Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, and Duron Carter should be on your fantasy radar. It's also possible the 3rd WR snaps are divided, making none of the #3 WR or TE options fantasy relevant, with the production split even more if the Colts do use more 3 WR sets. As for Luck, Hilton, Johnson, and Gore? Lock them in as big-time fantasy weapons.


Jacksonville Jaguars - RB, T.J. Yeldon vs. Denard Robinson: Summer drafters are taking Yeldon in the first six rounds as if he's already won the competition. It still needs to be monitored though when the real battle begins in camp and preseason. Robinson was very effective for a month from weeks 7-10, averaging 15.5 fantasy points per game during that stretch.

Kansas City Chiefs - TE Travis Kelce vs. WR Jeremy Maclin: Huh? Yeah, you heard me right. This is about who is going to get the most targets from Alex Smith. The Chiefs somehow did not have a single touchdown caught by a WR last year. Enter Maclin. Whoever gets the most targets will be helpful in fantasy in 2015. Whoever is 2nd could be a fantasy bust, considering how conservative Smith runs the offense.

Miami Dolphins - WR, Jarvis Landry vs. Kenny Stills vs. DeVante Parker: It's also unclear in Miami who Ryan Tannehill will throw to most with Stills and Parker joining the offense. I'm guessing Parker will emerge by October has a threat. He's a big sleeper of mine. The rookie out of Louisville can do it all. Landry and Stills have shown limitations. If Parker looks good in camp and preseason, I'm going to want to draft him at a cheaper price than the other rookie WRs going ahead of him.

Minnesota Vikings - WR, Charles Johnson vs. Mike Wallace vs. Jarius Wright: Teddy Bridgewater's maturation over the 2nd half of his rookie season has me intrigued in whoever turns out to be his favorite target in 2015. Bridgewater tweeted out a picture of him training with Wallace this past week. Johnson could make the leap in 2015. Don't forget about Jarius Wright either, who had two 120+ yard games last year.


New England Patriots - RB, LeGarrette Blount vs. Jonas Gray: Blount should be the guy but, ya know, Belichick. Would it shock you if Gray has a big week one when Blount is suspended and keeps the job? Blount seems like a good pick after the 6th round, just don't say I didn't warn you. Who knows what the workload will be? It changes quarter to quarter in New England. God forbid Blount fumbles. Then all bets are off.

New Orleans Saints - WR, Marques Colston vs. Nick Toon: Drew Brees needs some new targets with Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills gone. Brandin Cooks will be the top WR. Who will be #2? Keep an eye on Toon. Word in New Orleans is his playing time will increase dramatically, but will it be enough to unseat Colston?


New York Giants - RB, Rashad Jennings vs. Andre Williams vs. Shane Vereen: What a mess. Your guess is as good as mine here. Jennings looked like a top-12 fantasy RB last year before he got hurt. Unless somebody emerges, I'll probably stay away from this, like I am Cleveland's RBs. If it's Williams or Vereen though, somebody is going to get a huge bargain on draft day.

New York Jets - QB, Geno Smith vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick: Like Houston and Buffalo, not the battle itself but what it means for the fantasy relevance of the weapons in this offense. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker will get a healthy amount of targets, but will those targets be on target?


Oakland Raiders - WR, Michael Crabtree vs. Amari Cooper: Cooper was the 4th overall pick in the NFL Draft. He's expected to be the #1 WR right away with Derek Carr. Nothing is guaranteed though. Last year's crazy good rookie WR class was not the norm. Don't just blindly assume Cooper is going to give you 1,100+ yards and 8 touchdowns on fantasy draft day without being informed on how the Raiders receiving corp is playing out this preseason.

Philadelphia Eagles - WR, Jordan Matthews vs. Nelson Agholor: Matthews is the favorite to be the top WR in this offense, and that has meant big numbers since Chip Kelly came to town with DeSean Jackson in 2013 and Jeremy Maclin last year. Don't discount Agholor as a rookie. Read why here. For what it will cost you in drafts, I like Agholor, Perriman, and Parker more than Cooper and White, as far as rookie WRs I'm more likely to pick.

Pittsburgh Steelers - WR, Antonio Brown vs. Martavis Bryant: Again, not a real battle. Both will start, and Brown will be a fantasy stud. Bryant came on strong last year though. If he continues to improve, will it mean enough targets go his way to drop Antonio Brown out of the top-3 fantasy WRs? I'm leaning towards no. Emmanuel Sanders didn't hurt Demaryius Thomas. Randall Cobb didn't hurt Jordy Nelson. There is room for two WRs in today's NFL.


Saint Louis Rams - RB, Tre Mason vs. Todd Gurley: All fantasy eyes will be on Rams camp to monitor the timetable for Gurley coming off a torn ACL. Don't forget Mason was pretty darn good . If Gurley is going to miss significant time (4 or more games), there is no way I'm spending a 5th round pick on him in re-draft leagues. Even if he comes back at some point, is there any guarantee he doesn't split carries with Mason? No. By the time you draft, we probably still won't know Gurley's timetable and probably usage. Mason is looking more and more like a big value to me for 2015. In a keeper or dynasty league? Different story.

San Diego Chargers - WR, Keenan Allen vs. Malcom Floyd: Allen was an inconsistent bust last year. The opportunity is there again for him, especially with Antonio Gates suspended for four games. Can he return to his rookie production when he went over 1,000 yards with 8 touchdowns?

San Francisco 49ers - RB, Carlos Hyde vs. Reggie Bush: Hyde hasn't won the job yet. It's July. Remember when everyone anointed Montee Ball as the guy in Denver last fantasy season, before he ever actually produced. Opportunity does not equal automatic production. Monitor Hyde's progress.

Seattle Seahawks - TE Jimmy Graham vs. RB Marshawn Lynch: What will the addition of Graham mean for each of their production? Less red zone carries for Lynch? Perhaps. Will the Seahawks throw it more with their shiny new weapon? If not, Graham should not be taken as the 2nd TE off the board in fantasy drafts. How the offense looks and what the coaches are saying will be important to follow at Seahawks camp and preseason.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - RB, Doug Martin vs. Charles Sims: There's a new quarterback in town, which hopefully means he can take some of the pressure off the run game. Martin was the the Bucs' leading rusher last year. He didn't crack 500 yards. His 1,454 yards from 2012 seem like forever ago. Martin has dropped weight though. That did wonders for Mark Ingram last year. Sims didn't do enough as a rookie to impress anyone. One of these names could emerge as a viable sleeper if Jameis Winston can be consistent as a rookie under center.

Tennessee Titans - RB, Bishop Sankey vs. David Cobb: Ignore the fact that Sankey was the first RB selected in last year's draft and Cobb was only a 5th round pick. This year's draft class was loaded with RBs. Sankey's class was not. Cobb is a physical runner that could step right in and produce. This is an open battle, and like Tampa Bay, with Marcus Mariota at quarterback, it could make things easier for whoever wins the RB battle.

Washington Redskins - QB, Robert Griffin III vs. Colt McCoy vs. Kirk Cousins: I don't really care who wins this competition. I just want them to play well. Why? Because if they do, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon would easily outproduce where they are being drafted. Jackson was a solid WR2 last year with no help at QB. He has WR1 upside with a 5th or 6th round price tag right now.

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