Some fans love training camp; some fans do not. Regardless of which side you fall on, training camp matters. That is simply a fact. It can have a major impact on each team’s depth chart, thus having an impact on your fantasy drafts and approach.
Virtual Offseason and Possible Shortened Preseason
The first thing that we need to address is the current state of the NFL (and our country in general). Teams are currently using a “virtual offseason” due to COVID-19 and while doing things virtually is better than nothing, it is not quite the same as the coaches working with the players live at facilities. This hurts both rookies and offseason signings as their coaches can’t get a real feel for them as players or as individuals. There is also currently a discussion between the NFL and NFLPA in regards to shortening the preseason schedule from four games to two. This, again, would hurt rookies and free agents. It gives the coaches less game action and makes it more likely that they will give more snaps to the guys that they are already comfortable with. It is very important for fantasy players to keep a close eye on all of this.
Football Is Back
The NFL, in a way, dominates the entire calendar. They own the ratings from August-to-February. Then the NFL gets attention with the Draft Combine in March, then free agency around the same time, then the draft in April, and then OTAs and minicamp in May and June. But Training Camp is when football feels back.
As much as you may scoff at the NFL Hall of Fame game, most people will tune in for trashy football no matter who is playing. After all, the XFL garnered solid viewership numbers and was a huge talking-point on social media. The Hall of Fame Game features players that may not make a dent on the season, but it signals that the season is drawing close. Training camps open with about 2,800 players and about half of them get cut prior to the season starting, and you still don’t know a vast majority of the players that crack the 53-man roster.
New Coaches and Schemes
This is a big factor in training camp and something that really needs to be followed. Last season we watched as the Cardinals struggled in camp with the new system that head coach Kliff Kingsbury brought with him. Those struggles carried on into the regular season as the Cardinals started 0-3-1 and Kyler Murray was sacked 20 times while throwing four interceptions. Those four games accounted for 42-percent of the sacks that Murray took last season and 33-percent of his interceptions, despite being only 25-percent of the games he played in. He also only had four touchdowns in that span. It is crucial to pay close attention to team’s that have a new coach and/or new scheme.
This is probably the biggest argument against training camp and the preseason. Like any sport, injuries are a part of the game. They can happen at any point, but football is already one of the more grueling contact sports and injuries tend to pile up. When a player goes down in August it just feels flat-out awful, both for the player and for us as fantasy footballers. Nobody wants to see a player’s season end before it even begins; especially when you have already drafted said player in a fantasy football league. It is part of the game though and we always need to stay on top of what each and every injury means for fantasy going forward.
Training Camp Battles
You can find numerous position battles across NFL training camps. Anything can happen during training camp and a presumed starter can easily lose his job. The best example is Russell Wilson winning over the starting QB job for Seattle shortly after the team signed Matt Flynn to a big contract to be their starting QB. It happens more often than you think. I wrote about Hunter Renfrow last year, as he was able to overtake Ryan Grant for the starting slot job during camp. Renfrow went on to catch 49 passes for 605 yards and four touchdowns, while Grant finished with four receptions for 14 yards. As always, Fantasy Alarm will keep you covered with the most notable battles that could impact your fantasy football team. I cannot stress enough about the importance of being aware about training camp battles that take place.
Fantasy Football Draft Prep
Training camp won’t have any impact on your first few picks in fantasy football, but it’ll open your eyes to players you could draft later on. You can find some really nice late round grabs based on training camp. You can also find players that, while you may not draft them, you can keep an eye on them to see how they progress into a bigger role as the season goes on. On the flip side of things, players can also impress their coaches and gain a bigger role, while means someone else is having their role shrunk. Remember the Dante Pettis hype going into training camp last year? He went from the 49ers number one wide receiver to a non-factor during training camp. If you paid attention to their camp you would have known to avoid Pettis in your drafts. Deebo Samuel outplayed him in camp and Samuel went on to be the team’s top scoring fantasy receiver last season.
Training camp is pretty vital to fantasy football draft prep. It’s a great time to follow beat writers from every team to see who is running with the first team and how the rep distribution is going. There is always value to be found in the later rounds and if you put in the effort to monitor training camp and the preseason, you’ll be able to dominate your draft.