Training Camp Battles That Affect Fantasy Football

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 6, 2019

Will Aaron Jones be handed the Packers backfield?

Everyone seems to have a concrete opinion on which players will be atop the depth chart of their favorite team, but the truth is that some depth charts aren’t settled yet and training camp will decide who sits where in the pecking order.

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While some are more obvious than others, we’re here to look at the tighter battles that you should be paying attention to once training camps and preseason games start up. Remember all the love we heard about Chris Carson last year? Or how about the undrafted Phillip Lindsay impressing coaches? Here are the battles you should be watching this year.

Quarterbacks

Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Josh Rosen (MIA)
If there’s one quarterback battle that’ll influence my wide receiver rankings heavily, it’s this one. Fitzpatrick has continually shown he can support a fantasy wide receiver – if not two of them – while Rosen does not get that same benefit of the doubt. The Dolphins are in a spot where they must find out if Rosen is, in fact, their quarterback of the future. My expectation: Rosen starts, Fitzpatrick takes over later in the season.

Eli Manning vs. Daniel Jones (NYG)
We have an open competition between these two heading into training camp, but let’s be real. Manning is going to be the starter Week 1. It’s going to take a string of bad games for him to get benched. It’s likely better for Saquon Barkley for Jones to take over, as he at least offers some mobility, which could force teams to use a spy on him rather than all attention shifted to Barkley. My prediction: Manning starts, Jones takes over mid-season (could be Week 12 after the bye week).

Running Backs

LeSean McCoy vs. Devin Singletary (BUF)
We could add Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon to this group as well, though someone is likely to get cut by the start of the season. The Bills did add some pieces to the offensive line and are a run-first team, but this backfield reeks of timeshare, and it’s not as if McCoy did anything last year to warrant a bigger workload in 2019. My prediction: McCoy gets cut or traded, Bills start Gore while mixing in Singletary and Yeldon.

David Montgomery vs. Mike Davis (CHI)
Yes, the Bears traded up in the third-round to get Montgomery, but remember when we saw the Seahawks draft Rashaad Penny in the first-round last year? How about the Broncos taking Royce Freeman in the third-round? The Bears aren’t likely going to have a three-headed monster, so one of these two will share duties with Tarik Cohen. My prediction: Montgomery earns the starting role.

Phillip Lindsay vs. Royce Freeman (DEN)
This is going to be a battle again, and though we have to assume Lindsay has the head start, we mustn’t forget that it’s a brand-new coaching staff in Denver. They may have an open competition, and knowing Vic Fangio is a defensive-minded coach, he may want to pound the ball on the ground, something Freeman is more suited to do. My prediction: Timeshare that’s more evenly split than 2018.

Aaron Jones vs. Jamaal Williams (GB)
Let’s hope that Matt LaFleur learned his lesson while in Tennessee, as he continually trotted Dion Lewis out over Derrick Henry until the end of the season. There’s been talk of a timeshare, but it’s clearly going to be a battle between these two to see who starts. My prediction: Jones wins the job and it’s not a timeshare.

Lamar Miller vs. D’Onta Foreman (HOU)
There are many out there who believe Foreman will steal the job from Miller, as he’s now almost two years removed from his torn Achilles. The issue is that it’s an injury almost no one has successfully returned from and it’s not as if Foreman was a can’t-miss prospect out of college, either. My prediction: Miller retains the starting job.

Kenyan Drake vs. Kalen Ballage (MIA)
This should be a laughable “battle” as Drake is the superior back in every way, though the Dolphins didn’t spend a fourth-round pick on Ballage for nothing. There’s a new coaching staff in town, so the expectation should be that every position is open, though this one should be decided relatively quickly. My prediction: Drake is the starting running back.

Sony Michel vs. Damien Harris (NE)
After another knee scope this offseason, there’s growing concerns about Michel’s longevity in the league. The Patriots took Harris in the third-round and he does a lot of things the Patriots used Michel to do last year, like run downhill, excel on the goal-line, and not be used much in the passing game. My prediction: Michel starts but they won’t hesitate to turn to Harris if he struggles.

Jordan Howard vs. Miles Sanders (PHI)
Let’s do the math here, shall we? Howard was acquired for a sixth-round pick this offseason. The Eagles drafted Sanders with a second-round pick. Who has the edge? It should be Sanders in a landslide, but missing offseason workouts is a big no-no for rookies. Still, we’ve already seen Howard in this offense and know how little the Bears felt he did for them. My prediction: Timeshare to start, with Sanders ultimately getting more touches.

Tevin Coleman vs. Jerick McKinnon vs. Matt Breida (SF)
This is one of the biggest battles to watch, though I’m not certain Breida should be a part of it. Not that he’s not talented – he is – but he wasn’t the locked-in starter over Alfred Morris and Raheem Mostert last year. Now the 49ers went out and spent money to snag Coleman, and then held onto McKinnon despite his big salary? My prediction: Coleman and McKinnon are in a timeshare, similar to the Devonta Freeman/Coleman timeshare in Atlanta, with Coleman around 12-15 touches per game, McKinnon in the 8-12 range.

Chris Carson vs. Rashaad Penny (SEA)
Here we are again, though Carson reportedly had some sort of procedure done on his knee and Penny has been impressing through offseason activities. With Mike Davis gone, it clears out a ton of opportunities, but whoever starts for the Seahawks has RB1 upside. My prediction: Carson starts, but Penny is viable on a weekly basis, too.

Ronald Jones vs. Peyton Barber (TB)
The Bucs drafted Jones at the start of the second-round last year and proceeded to give him 30 touches. It wasn’t likely they were going to simply move on after that, so it makes sense that he should be entrenched as the starter. There will be a battle among the two, but all we’ve heard about Jones is that he’s been phenomenal in offseason workouts. My prediction: Jones gets the starting nod.

Adrian Peterson vs. Derrius Guice (WAS)
I’m starting to get the feeling that this situation is a lot like Miami last year. We all knew Kenyan Drake was the most talented running back on the roster (won’t say that about Guice over Peterson, though), but why would they sign Frank Gore if they weren’t going to play him? That seems to be the case here with Peterson, right? My prediction: Peterson starts, Guice is eased back into action.

Wide Receivers

Zay Jones vs. Robert Foster (BUF)
Some may be wondering why these two are here, but only one can make it into the starting lineup alongside free agents John Brown and Cole Beasley. Jones has played much better when he moves into the slot, but that’s not going to be possible, as Beasley is slot-only. Because of that, Foster may have a better shot at winning the job. My prediction: Jones starts over Foster but has a short leash.

Geronimo Allison vs. Equanimeous St. Brown (GB)
I remember this time last year when Allison wasn’t being valued as someone who would start Week 1. He was a top-30 wide receiver before getting hurt. While many will wonder why Marquez Valdes-Scantling isn’t here instead, he’s likely slated to play in the slot. Allison has played with Rodgers for three years now and should win the job. My prediction: Allison starts opposite Davante Adams.

Chester Rogers vs. Parris Campbell (IND)
Some have already anointed Campbell the starter, but the Colts have said otherwise, as he’s been working with the second-team offense, while Rogers has had what they describe as a great camp. They’re battling for the slot position in-between T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess. My prediction: Campbell starts in three-wide sets.  

Ted Ginn vs. Tre’Quan Smith (NO)
Did the Saints draft Smith in the third-round to play behind the aging veteran? Ginn says he’s in phenomenal shape, but can he stay ahead of the young receiver? The Saints are in win-now mode and might opt to go with safety over upside. My prediction: Ginn starts over Smith.

Donte Moncrief vs. James Washington (PIT)
Another situation that will affect fantasy football in a big way, as these two are battling to be the starter alongside JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s hard to see Moncrief, who is on his third team in three years, beat an up-and-coming receiver like Washington, but he also has experience in the league, something Washington lacks. My prediction: Washington wins the starting job.

David Moore vs. D.K. Metcalf (SEA)
This will be an interesting one, as the absence of Doug Baldwin has cleared out a lot of targets. The winner of this battle will be a starting wide receiver for Russell Wilson, something that comes with plenty of potential in fantasy circles, as Tyler Lockett isn’t likely someone who’ll garner more than 100-110 targets. My prediction: Moore starts but Metcalf takes over by Week 6.

Taywan Taylor vs. A.J. Brown (TEN)
The Titans taking Brown in the second-round likely means they want to start him as soon as possible, though him having to leave mini-camp with a hamstring injury wasn’t a great start. Truth be told, it’s going to be tough for either of them to find targets behind Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and Delanie Walker. My prediction: Brown starts the year as the No. 3 on the depth chart.

Josh Doctson vs. Terry McLaurin vs. Kelvin Harmon (WAS)
The Redskins have said Doctson’s roster spot could be in jeopardy and that he’s definitely being pushed into a competition. Most will add Paul Richardson to this conversation, but he should be a lock to start, while these three battle it out to play opposite him with Trey Quinn lined up in the slot. My prediction: Harmon starts opposite Richardson.

Tight Ends

Charles Clay vs. Ricky Seals-Jones (ARI)
It was odd to see the Cardinals take a shot on the veteran Clay in what’s supposed to be a rapid-paced offense, but here we are. Seals-Jones was one of the least efficient tight ends in the league last year and couldn’t produce even while there weren’t many receiving options. A lot has changed and there’s suddenly a lot of mouths to feed. My prediction: Clay starts due to being the superior run-blocker.

Mark Andrews vs. Hayden Hurst (BAL)
Most don’t see this as a battle, but they should. Hurst was very high on the Ravens board and a broken foot derailed his rookie season. Hurst reportedly put on some weight to become a better blocker, something Andrews could never do, so it could mean he stays on the field more often. This is an underrated competition. My prediction: Hurst out-snaps Andrews, though they are in a timeshare.

Eric Ebron vs. Jack Doyle (IND)
If last year was the norm when Doyle was in the lineup, everyone needs to start fading Ebron. Doyle out-snapped Ebron 331-164 in the weeks he played and even saw 10 more targets. Granted, Ebron scored seven touchdowns compared to Doyle’s two, but that can change in a hurry. It’ll be interesting to see if they have the same usage this preseason. My prediction: Ebron returns just low-end TE1 numbers while Doyle out-snaps him.


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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