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32 Fantasy Training Camp Battles to Watch

Kenny Pickett

Kenny Pickett

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Training camp has finally arrived, which means we get our first chance to stop wildly speculating on roles and actually see things play out. This is our last shot at making adjustments to the rankings and projections before the season starts. Here are 32 battles, questions, or situations worth monitoring as training camps open up.

Buffalo Bills

James Cook vs. Devin Singletary

Singletary turned into a three-down back at the end of last year, handling 14.6 carries and three targets per game over his final nine contests. He looked capable as a runner but his pass-catching chops were more than questionable. He ranked second-to-last in yards per route run and Pro Football Focus receiving grade. Only Sony Michel fared worse as a receiver. The bar for rookie James Cook to clear is set incredibly low. Any flashes of the talent that propelled him to a 67/730/6 receiving line in college should be enough to earn him a large role on third downs.

New York Jets

Receiver Deployment

The tight end battle could’ve made this article, but I expect the receiving talent in New York to block out any tight end production. Instead, we just want to know how the receivers will be deployed. Elijah Moore was better as an outside receiver as a rookie, averaging .33 more yards per route run from out wide than in the slot. However, that was flipped in college. He hit 3.85 yards per route run from the slot as a junior. Garrett Wilson can also play both inside and outside, but it’s possible that 12-personnel sets are used to limit his playing time early. That would put Moore and Corey Davis on the field for most downs with Wilson’s impact curtailed until later in his rookie season.

New England Patriots

Battle Royale for Third Down Duties

James White was placed on the active/PUP list to start training camp while recovering from the hip injury that knocked him out for most of the 2021 season. Previous reports have indicated that he would open the regular season on the PUP list, sidelining him for at least four games. If that’s the case, New England will need to find a new third-down back. Rhamondre Stevenson, who left Oklahoma with a solid receiving profile, will be the bet of every fantasy drafter on Twitter. However, Bill Belichick has never shied away from using three backs, and the Pats have plenty of capable pass-catchers in their stable. Pierre Strong and J.J. Taylor are both competent pass-catchers while Ty Montgomery has been an actual wide receiver.

Miami Dolphins

Goal Line Work

The Dolphins wouldn’t give Chase Edmonds $12 million to not let him score the touchdowns…right? Edmonds only has six carries inside the five-yard line in his career. Raheem Mostert, who played under head coach Mike McDaniel in San Francisco, saw six carries inside the five in 2020 alone. He played just eight games in that season. Sony Michel, who was also brought in as a free agent, was fourth in red zone carries last year.

Dallas Cowboys

Which Receiver will Step Up?

Michael Gallup is recovering from a torn ACL and may not be ready for Week 1. The Cowboys also traded Amari Cooper and let Cedrick Wilson walk in free agency. That leaves two starting spots open for Week 1 and one available for the entire year. Rookie Jalen Tolbert has already received some positive buzz while James Washington has missed some light offseason work because of a foot injury. If Tolbert separates himself as the team’s long-term WR3, his ADP will hit the stratosphere by the end of August.

Philadelphia Eagles

Boston Scott vs. Kenneth Gainwell

The Eagles have a fairly certain offense as far as the starters go. However, the backfield is open to some interpretation. With Miles Sanders consistently underwhelming as a receiver, it’s possible that Gainwell takes a step forward in his second season. On the other hand, Gainwell was essentially the team’s RB4 for much of his rookie season, working behind Sanders, Scott, and eventually Jordan Howard. Gainwell was even a healthy scratch late in the year. Scott has the trust of the coaches, but Gainwell would be the more exciting back as a fantasy option.

Washington Commanders

RIP to Antonio Gibson?

Last summer, all of the cool kids were taking Gibson as the next elite fantasy back, propelling his ADP all the way into the second round. The Commanders ultimately used Gibson as a two-down grinder while he struggled through various injuries early in the year. After bringing back J.D. McKissic and drafting Brian Robinson, Gibson could be getting squeezed for touches on all sides. Robinson’s role in camp will be important to watch as he could steal goal-line work.

New York Giants

Who is the Giants’ Third Receiver?

With Brian Daboll as their offensive coordinator, the Bills used three or more receivers on 81 percent of their snaps last year. Kenny Golladay will play every snap and Kadarius Toney likely earned a similar role through a string of electric performances as a rookie. That leaves the third slot down to Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Wan’Dale Robinson. With Shepard opening camp on the PUP list, it could quickly come down to a two-player race. Slayton is your typical burner while Robinson profiles as a gadget-plus option as a rookie.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Kenny Pickett vs. Mitchell Trubisky

Initial reports have placed Trubisky squarely in the driver’s seat for the Week 1 start. Trubisky may be an upgrade over Ben Roethlisberger, but Pittsburgh’s ceiling as an offense runs through a good outcome from Pickett. If the rookie keeps things close throughout training camp, Trubisky will have an incredibly short leash in the first quarter of the season.

Baltimore Ravens

Devin Duvernay vs. James Proche

The Ravens have Rashod Bateman locked into a starting role but next to nothing in their receiving room is set in stone after that. Devin Duvernay and James Proche are the best bets to start, though neither was particularly effective last year. Among receivers with at least 150 routes, those two ranked 122nd and 123rd in targets per route run. Tylan Wallace could elevate his game as a sophomore, but we will likely see Baltimore lean heavily on two-receiver sets if Duvernay and Proche don’t impress in camp.

Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon‘s Backup

Samaje Perine enters as the incumbent, having been with the team for the past three years. Perine was the backup to Mixon in 2021 but didn’t see much action. Chris Evans and Trayveon Williams may get their chances to usurp Perine, who is currently on the active/PUP list. Evans was an elite pass-catcher on a limited sample as a rookie and could even push Mixon for work on third-downs with a strong camp. If he does dethrone Perine as Mixon’s direct backup, Evans will quickly become one of the most valuable ZeroRB targets late in drafts.

Cleveland Browns

D’Ernest Johnson vs. Kareem Hunt

Hunt is the clear No. 2 running back in the Cleveland offense and plays a large role even when Nick Chubb is healthy. However, Johnson doesn’t need to overthrow Hunt to take his job. He just needs to show enough for the Browns to choose his skills at his cost over Hunt and his contract. With Chubb and fifth-round pick Jerome Ford both locks to make the roster, Cleveland could look to trade one of Johnson or Hunt to get down to three running backs. Trading Hunt would save Cleveland more money, but Hunt also has more value to the Browns.

Green Bay Packers

All of the Wide Receiver Spots

You could name almost any combination of Packers receivers to start in Week 1 and it wouldn’t surprise me. Allen Lazard is the only player all but locked into a role as he can play anywhere on the field and has plenty of experience with Aaron Rodgers. Second-round rookie Christian Watson is currently on the PUP list, paving the way for a surprising name like Romeo Doubs or Sammy Watkins to emerge.

Minnesota Vikings

Pulse Check on Ihmir Smith-Marsette

K.J. Osborn should have the WR3 gig in Minnesota locked up, but the Vikings supposedly held off on selecting a receiver early in the 2022 NFL Draft because they liked what they had in Smith-Marsette. With Kevin O’Connell bringing the Rams’ scheme to the Midwest, it’s possible that he wants to use ISM’s speed to replicate Van Jefferson‘s role. It’s a long shot, but something to look out for.

Detroit Lions

D.J. Chark vs. Jared Goff

Chark is a picturesque downfield player while Goff has an uncanny ability to ignore anyone farther than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Per Next Gen Stats, Goff had the lowest target depth last year and was bottom-five in 2020. Chark, on the other hand, had an aDOT of 16.3 last year and 14 the season before that. Chark has elite speed, but we will need some confirmation in training camp that Goff plans to use his skills.

Chicago Bears

Justin Fields vs. the Ghost of Matt Nagy

The Bears have a relatively uninteresting depth chart. The top spot at all positions is spoken for and it’s possible that even their WR2 isn’t fantasy viable. Instead of focusing on a player in camp, I just want to see Bears OC Luke Getsy set Fields up for success. Last year, the Bears were below-average in play action rate, RPO rate, the use of pre-snap motion on pass plays, and pass percent on early downs. Nagy also refused to scheme runs for his uber-athletic quarterback. Fantasy drafters should feel far more confident when selecting Fields if Getsy gives us a glimpse of a forward-thinking offense.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Who Plays on Third Downs?

James Robinson is currently on the PUP list while recovering from the torn Achilles’ he suffered late in the season. If he is able to play in Week 1, beat reporters have speculated that his value as a pass-blocker will earn him the job on third downs. If that is the case, Travis Etienne may struggle to live up to his soaring ADP.

Houston Texans

This Dreadful Backfield

Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead, and Dameon Pierce all have a shot at starting for the Texans. Mack has 32 carries in the past two years, but he’s also the only member of this backfield with a 1,000-yard season in the past five years. Burkhead is currently making more money than him while Pierce is the only member of the bunch under 26 years old. It’s truly anyone’s guess as to who emerges victorious in this battle.

Tennessee Titans

Treylon Burks vs. Junk Food

Burks showed up to offseason activities seemingly out of shape, struggling to make it through practices. This doesn’t change the fact that he is an elite prospect on an offense in need of a play-making receiver, but it could force Tennessee’s coaches to limit his role to start the season. Early reports have already noted that Burks looked better at the start of camp. As long as the issue doesn’t resurface, Burks should quickly cement himself as the team’s top receiver.

Indianapolis Colts

Mo Alie-Cox vs. Jelani Woods vs. Kylen Granson

This battle is Alie-Cox’s to lose. He was re-signed to a three-year, $18 million contract in the offseason and has been efficient in a limited sample since Indy drafted him. If he puts space between himself and his backups in training camp, MAC could finally secure the every-down role that has eluded him through four NFL seasons.

Carolina Panthers

D’Onta Foreman vs. Chuba Hubbard

In all contests without Christian McCaffrey over the past two years, the Panthers’ lead back has averaged 14 carries and four targets per game. Hubbard played that role last year but was not efficient as a runner or receiver. Foreman was brought in as a free agent to compete for one of the most valuable backup jobs in the league.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cameron Brate vs. Kyle Rudolph

Cameron Brate saw 20 red zone targets last year and that was while playing a backup role for all but a handful of games that Gronk was sidelined for. As the incumbent, he enters camp with an edge to earn the Week 1 start. Neither tight end will pile up yards as the starter, but a prominent scoring role on Tom Brady‘s offense is still immensely valuable.

New Orleans Saints

Taysom Hill vs. Society

In this age, we have rigid norms on what positions are part of modern football. Hill doesn’t conform to these rules, so making projections for this team is a nightmare. Saints head coach Dennis Allen has already said Hill will take reps at quarterback, but tight end remains his primary position. Hill saw 28 red zone touches from 2018 to 2019. If he plays a larger of the amorphous role that allowed him to score seven touchdowns in 2019, the scoring potential of Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas could take a slight hit. Hill will also get a big boost on sites that allow him to be played at tight end if he can be a modestly consistent contributor at tight end.

Atlanta Falcons

Cordarrelle Patterson vs. a Normal Role

Unlike most camp battles, Patterson may actually want his backup to do well. After opening the 2021 season as a hyper-efficient gadget player, Patterson was slowly forced to play a grinder role down the stretch. In an ideal world, Tyler Allgeier has a good camp and secures early-down work while Patterson returns to his position-less role.

Kansas City Chiefs

What’s Going on with the Receivers?

No team lost more targets in the offseason than the Chiefs. Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson, and Byron Pringle are all gone, leaving zero starting receivers on the roster. We don’t know who will take the field for three-receiver sets, but we’re also in the dark as to how those players will be deployed. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster have both played specialized roles throughout their careers, but Patrick Mahomes could be the one to unlock more from the duo. A good camp performance from second-round rookie Skyy Moore would also be a positive sign for the offense.

Denver Broncos

KJ Hamler vs. Tim Patrick

Hamler has a level of speed that no one else on the Broncos possesses, making him a better strategic fit as Denver’s WR3. However, Patrick is making $10 million a year and has a better history of production. With Hamler opening camp on the PUP list, Patrick is a strong bet to be the team’s third receiver and could even take the field for two-receiver sets.

Las Vegas Raiders

A Patriots Tribute Backfield?

The Raiders hired New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to be their next head coach, and we can expect him to run things as if he was still in Foxborough. He has already added a fullback and a pass-catching back, both of whom played under him last year. Don’t be surprised to see three different running backs getting reps with the first team this summer.

Los Angeles Chargers

Josh Palmer vs. Jalen Guyton

Palmer has already gotten some buzz in minicamp and OTAs. As a rookie, he worked in as the Chargers WR3 but ultimately ran 100 fewer routes than Guyton. If either receiver emerges as the clear third option in LA, they will have some spike-week value in best ball leagues.

Los Angeles Rams

Does Darrell Henderson Steal Receiving Work?

Cam Akers came back from a torn Achilles’ in just five months, but that may have been a bit early for the young back. He looked sluggish in the playoffs and ultimately gave way to Henderson on passing plays during the Super Bowl. Henderson played on 32 percent of the team’s snaps and saw five targets in the win. He will become a prime late-round target if he can provide some stand-alone value as a pass-catcher throughout the season.

Seattle Seahawks

Kenneth Walker vs. Rashaad Penny

All of the Seattle reporters have pegged Penny as the primary back in Seattle. That’s the likely outcome for the start of the year, but how long will it last? A good camp from Walker could foreshadow Penny’s workload decreasing sooner rather than later. If a backfield-by-committee is formed on one of the worst teams in the league, it’s possible no one emerges as a weekly fantasy option.

San Francisco 49ers

Is Elijah Mitchell a Workhorse?

Mitchell isn’t battling for a starting spot. He locked that up with an incredible rookie season. The only thing left to be decided is how much of the backfield he controls. If Tyrion Davis-Price shows well in camp, he could push for a committee early in the year. Conversely, Jeff Wilson could ultimately slot in as the backup, giving us even more confidence that Mitchell can crush his RB23 ADP.

Arizona Cardinals

Please, for the love of god, can we see more of Rondale Moore?

With no personal bias whatsoever, I think I speak for this entire nation when I say we deserve a full-time role for Moore. As a rookie, Moore was top-15 in yards after the catch over expectation and yards per target. With DeAndre Hopkins out for the first six weeks, Moore should be given every opportunity to earn a starting job in the slot.