Training Camp Positional Battles to Monitor (2021 Fantasy Football)
In the blink of an eye, we’re already into the middle of summer, and teams around the NFL are beginning to report to training camp. Training camp can shed some light on which players might emerge as the top options on their team when the season starts. This year, there’s no shortage of positional battles to monitor. Let’s take a look at the most meaningful.
Javonte Williams (RB – DEN), Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN)
Will the rookie take the starting job right out of the gate, or will this be a two-man backfield? This is a training camp battle to monitor with keen interest. Gordon put together a strong 2020 campaign despite sharing backfield work with Phillip Lindsay, but Denver’s coaching staff apparently doesn’t want to give Gordon a three-down role. In the final year of his two-year contract with the Broncos, Gordon will be pushed for touches by Williams, and a strong training camp could even give Williams the edge in landing the starting gig immediately.
Elijah Moore (WR – NYJ), Denzel Mims (WR – NYJ), Keelan Cole (WR – NYJ)
After finishing last in total points and yards last season, the Jets offense got a much-needed makeover in the offseason. That included signing Corey Davis and Keelan Cole and using a second-round pick on Elijah Moore. Second-year man Denzel Mims and veteran Jamison Crowder will also be in the mix here. Davis should command a starting role as the team’s WR1, but who will receive targets behind him is still very much up in the air.
Sammy Watkins (WR – BAL), Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL), Marquise Brown (WR – BAL)
The Ravens’ passing game averaged the fewest yards of any team in 2020, so an upgrade at the receiver position was sorely needed. Who will be the team’s WR1 is still unclear, but Watkins and Bateman will be squarely in the competition with Marquise Brown. Bateman is the early favorite, but if Watkins can stay healthy for an entire season, he’s certainly got the skill to lead this team in receiving. Can Hollywood Brown bounce back and prove fantasy naysayers wrong? This will be an interesting camp, for sure.
Detroit’s current receiving corps is unrecognizable from the one the team employed in 2020. Kenny Golladay signed with the Giants, and Marvin Jones will catch passes from Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville. The Lions signed Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams to be the top options in the passing game. The team also kept Quintez Cephus and drafted Amon-Ra St. Brown. One of these receivers will be a steal at ADP, and training camp will be important in getting some insight into who that prized receiver could be for your fantasy football squad.
Michael Carter (RB – DET), Tevin Coleman (RB – DET)
As mentioned above, New York’s offense got a much needed makeover this offseason, which included drafting Carter in the fourth round. His biggest competition for carries will be Coleman, who could have the early edge due to his experience and familiarity with the offensive scheme. Coleman is no lock to be the Jets’ starting RB for Week 1, and Coleman could emerge as the top option out of the backfield if he impresses in training camp.
The Bears didn’t trade up for Justin Fields to let him sit for too long. Though head coach Matt Nagy said Andy Dalton will start the season as the starter, Fields could force his hand with a strong training camp. Chicago traded up in the Draft to take the Ohio State star with the No. 11 pick, and he looks like he could be the franchise quarterback the team has desperately lacked for decades.
This is one of the most fascinating battles to keep an eye on, as Teddy Bridgewater could very easily win the starting job from Drew Lock in 2021. Bridgewater had one of the best seasons of his career in Carolina last season, and in Denver he’ll get an extremely skilled receiving corps and running backs group. Lock on the other hand, disappointed in 2020. Lock will make just over $1M in 2o21, while Bridgewater is on the books for nearly three times that amount, and Denver traded a sixth-rounder for his services. This looks like Teddy B’s job to lose.
Myles Gaskin (RB – MIA), Salvon Ahmed (RB – MIA)
Gaskin came out of nowhere last season, blowing past Jordan Howard and Matt Breida on the depth chart to provide fantasy managers with a set-and-forget RB2 each and every week until a knee injury sidelined him from Weeks 9-12 and time on the COVID-19 list kept him out in Weeks 14-15. In just 10 games, Gaskin averaged 18.3 touches per game and grabbed 41 receptions. He should open up the season as the starter, right? Not so fast. In his absence last season, Ahmed provided some quality performances of his own. In four starts, he posted 294 total yards and two total touchdowns on 17.5 touches per contest.
Coming off a disappointing 7-9 record in 2020, the Patriots will look to bounce back this season. How they fare depends largely on quarterback play, and the competition for the starting job will be between No. 15 pick Mac Jones and incumbent Cam Newton. I love Newton to bounce back in a healthy season with new weapons and more time to learn the offense, and I legitimately view him as a guy with QB1 upside. Jones is still in the mix, however, and his progress will be worth monitoring in training camp.
Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill? That’s been the question since Drew Brees announced his retirement. Though Winston was rumored to have the early leg up, it appears that this competition isn’t a done deal. Hill played well in four games as New Orleans’ starter in 2020, though he did most of his damage as a runner. After a disappointing tenure in Tampa Bay marred by poor decision-making and turnovers, can Winston take the next step in his game under Sean Payton? Will Hill prove to the world that he’s more than just a gadget player in the NFL?
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.