.With the first NFL training camps kicking off in a little under two weeks, there is plenty of excitement around the old faces in new places, the top fantasy football rookies we’ve been hyping up all offseason, and who will come out on top. We’ve already put out preseason fantasy football player rankings and player projections, but training camp can flip those on its head. Remember when Justin Jefferson was listed as the fourth guy on the depth chart his rookie year and people were fading him in their early drafts? Although it looks silly in hindsight, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention to what’s actually happening in training camp and only listen to the beat reporters looking for clicks. With that, let’s look at some of the battles going down to climb up the depth chart before the start of the 2023 NFL season.


Quarterback Battles

Carolina Panthers

7-10, 2nd in NFC South

Bryce Young vs. Andy Dalton vs. Matt Corral

After the Panthers traded for the number one overall pick from the Chicago Bears, they got their guy in Bryce Young. Young had a stellar career at Alabama, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2021 and leading the Crimson Tide to a National Championship in 2020. He set multiple records, including single-season passing yards (4,872), single-season touchdowns (47), and career five-touchdown games (5). There’s no argument about his college resume, but even as a number one overall pick, there’s no guarantee he’ll start Week 1. Head coach Frank Reich said as much, saying, “He’ll have to earn it.”

Andy Dalton is trying to keep his spot as a starting quarterback in the NFL after coming to Carolina from the Saints. Last year in his 14 games as a starter, he only posted 2,870 yards, with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

We know very little about how Matt Corral will look in this system after he tore his ACL in training camp last year. He did have a great senior season at Ole Miss in 2021 with 3,349 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. It may seem a little far-fetched, but he could make a dark horse run in camp, especially with the rapport he has with rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo from their time in the Grove.

Young will likely be the starter at the beginning of the season, as he is already accustomed to a pro-style offense, and he’s already listed as the QB1 on the Panthers’ depth chart. This battle will likely boil down to who will end up as the QB2.

Update: July 26, 2023

Frank Reich confirmed today what we've known all along. The number one overall pick is the starter Week 1. Now the only battle left to be sorted out is the battle of the backups.

Houston Texans

3-13, 4th in AFC South

C.J. Stroud vs. Davis Mills

While it was thought that the Carolina Panthers could be eyeballing Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud for the number one overall pick, he fell to the Houston Texans. Stroud is a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, and, like Young, he set several records at Ohio State, including single-game passing yards (537), single-season 300 yard passing games (9), and single-season 400 yard passing games (5). The knock on Stroud during the pre-draft process was apparently his low score on the newly developed S2 Cognitive Test. His film speaks for itself, but, like most other coaches at this stage in the offseason, the Houston brass has yet to officially name him a starter.

Davis Mills hasn’t been bad when you consider his sixth-round draft capital and the weapons and protection surrounding him, but with only 3,118 yards and 17 touchdowns in 15 games last year, he doesn’t offer the kind of upside for a team looking to rebuild and correct a years’ long skid.

Stroud has every edge in this battle, and although head coaches don’t want to throw a rookie in when he’s not ready, it’s his job to lose.

Update: August 7, 2023: In a huge step toward starting Week 1, C.J. Stroud has been named the starter of the Texans' first preseason game against the Patriots. He's looked great in camp, and if he looks good in actual gameplay, he should be named the starter shortly after.

Indianapolis Colts

4-12, 3rd in AFC South

Anthony Richardson vs. Gardner Minshew

Anthony Richardson set every record imaginable at the NFL Combine, and his pure athleticism can’t be understated. During his 2022 season with the Florida Gators, Richardson rushed for 654 yards, while throwing for 2,549, 17 touchdowns, and nine interceptions through 12 games. He was inconsistent at times, with games as low as 66 passing yards against Missouri, then throwing for 453 against Tennessee. The issues are likely a result of his inexperience as a starter, and that’s where this battle could get interesting. If he takes more time to develop in Shane Steichen’s offense, he may have to sit on the bench for a while before he’s ready to start.

After deciding to go their separate ways with basically every quarterback on their roster, the Colts brought in Minshew from Philadelphia, and until Richardson was drafted, he was the QB1 on the depth chart. Aside from being purely fun to watch, Minshew has been a serviceable starter, having a 6-8 record with the Jacksonville Jaguars his rookie season, and as a backup for Jalen Hurts, he put up over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns through four games. 

This is one of the more interesting quarterback battles to watch this offseason because of Richardson’s experience and development issues. However, head coach Shane Steichen, who had a hand in developing Jalen Hurts and has worked with Minshew in the past, has hinted that it will be Richardson earlier than later because, after all, you can’t gain experience if you aren’t on the field.

Update: July 24, 2023: Richardson is “splitting first team reps” with Gardner Minshew at the start of camp. He is expected to be their starter “by or before” the Week 10 Germany game, but if he develops more quickly in camp, he could start earlier. It's going to be a very interesting situation to watch in Indy as training camp plays out.

Update: August 2, 2023: Richardson took all the first-team reps in Tuesday's practice, leaning towards him opening the season as the Colts' starter. As fun as Minshew Mania was, it seems that time has passed.

Update: August 15, 2023: Another domino has fallen; Richardson has been officially named as the starter for Week 1.

San Francisco 49ers

13-4, 1st in NFC West

Brock Purdy vs. Trey Lance vs. Sam Darnold

Oof, this battle is as murky as it gets! Brock Purdy is still rehabbing from a UCL injury suffered in the NFC Conference round of the playoffs, Trey Lance hasn’t shown us much of anything, and Sam Darnold has been an underperformer his entire career. The San Francisco front office isn’t doing us any favors either, and speculation has been rampant about who the starter will be.

After becoming the starter out of necessity last season, Brock Purdy won the praises of just about everyone. In the six regular season starts he made, Purdy had a stat line of 1,308 yards, 13 touchdowns, and just three interceptions. While that’s not going to knock anyone’s socks off, he was an effective game manager who protected the ball and moved the offense downfield. 

Trey Lance, on the other hand, has looked pretty bad in the few starts he’s had. Admittedly, it’s a very small sample size, but his highest yardage game has been just 249 yards, and we haven’t really seen the rushing upside he was touted for coming out of college. It also seems that the 49ers front office isn’t convinced that he is the quarterback of the future, so he will have to perform extremely well in training camp to offset their biases.

Then you have Sam Darnold, who is coming over from the Carolina Panthers after spending just one year there after being traded from the New York Jets. Although he did lead the Panthers to a 4-2 record as their starter, his passing was INCREDIBLY inefficient, throwing for only 1,143 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions with a 58.57% completion rate.

The crux here is Purdy’s health; if he’s ready to go, he should be the starter in this offense. If he’s not, that’s where the murkiness comes in. With the first three games against the Steelers, Rams, and Giants, the 49ers may choose to run with Darnold over Lance until Purdy is ready to go.

Update: August 13, 2023: After a disastrous preseason performance, it's pretty clear that Trey Lance will be the third string quarterback. He needs much more development before he's ready to start.

Update: August 23, 2023: Well folks, it's been set in stone with what we already observed to be true. Sam Darnold is the 2nd string quarterback, and the 49ers are set to “explore their options” with Lance. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8-9, 1st in NFC South

Baker Mayfield vs. Kyle Trask

This may be Baker Mayfield’s last chance as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Since his “magical” rookie season, Mayfield has been underwhelming at best, with his yards per attempt and touchdowns dropping every year since 2020. Last year, his yards per attempt (6.5) ranked 29th among eligible quarterbacks, and he threw eight interceptions through just 12 games. From what we’ve seen from the Bucs’ OTAs, he also looks to be struggling, with highly inaccurate throws on what should be easy passes. While anyone would be a downgrade from Tom Brady, this quarterback room looks to be one of the worst in the league.

Kyle Trask’s skill set in the NFL is a big unknown, as we’ve only seen him throw nine passes in regular season games. His 2020 season at Florida was outstanding, finishing with 4,283 yards, 43 touchdowns and only eight interceptions through 12 games. Some could argue that he was buoyed by a supporting cast of Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney, but with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay, he should have plenty of support there.

After two years in this offense working behind Tom Brady, I would not be surprised if Kyle Trask takes the starting job. Baker is too wild with the ball and, instead of showing improvement, has shown steady decline in his last few years in the league.

Update: August 2, 2023: The Buccaneers new offensive coordinator Dave Canales said the battle for quarterback is “absolutely” heating up. He indicated that while Mayfield had the edge in the early days of camp, Trask has “settled in” and is closing the gap. 

Update: August 14, 2023: Well, we're back to square one. After this weekend's preseason game, it looks like Baker Mayfield has the edge once again. This is still an open competition, but with the experience factoring in, it looks like Mayfield will start.

Update: August 22, 2023: It finally happened. Baker Mayfield will start Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings over Kyle Trask.

Washington Commanders

8-8, 4th in NFC East

Sam Howell vs. Jacoby Brissett

Coach speak in the offseason can be one of the most annoying things to decipher, and no statement is more annoying than Ron Rivera saying that Sam Howell is the starter then turning around in the same breath and saying that he could lose the job.

We didn’t see much from Howell last season, and by much, I mean one game. He attempted 19 passes with a 57.9% completion rate and only threw for 169 yards. His college resume was good, but as we know, college is way different than the NFL, and he’s playing in a very tough division. It is entirely possible, however, that Washington and their new ownership is tanking to rebuild the team to their specs, and if that’s the case, he could remain the starter.

Brissett had a surprisingly good year filling in for the suspended Deshaun Watson last season. He wasn’t a super star, by any means, but he was very adequate, posting 2,608 yards and 12 touchdowns with six picks in 11 games. He managed to support a WR1 in Amari Cooper with a strong run game behind him, so if Howell struggles, it wouldn’t be surprising for Brissett to take over the starting job.

Update: August 17, 2023: Head coach Ron Rivera still refuses to name Sam Howell the starter for Week 1, leaving the door open for Jacoby Brissett.

Update: August 21, 2023: Just kidding, y'all. Howell has won the starting job.

Running Back Battles

Dallas Cowboys

12-5, 2nd in NFC East

Malik Davis vs. Ronald Jones vs. Deuce Vaughn

With the departure of Ezekiel Elliott, this backfield belongs to Tony Pollard, but the RB2 position is up in the air. Pollard clearly can’t handle a huge workload, so one of these guys is going to have a decent role behind him.

Leading the list is Malik Davis. He was sprinkled into the Cowboys’ offense at times last year, seeing 38 carries that he turned into 161 yards for a 4.2 yards per carry (YPC) average. He’s decent in pass protection, and he contributes to special teams, and with an overall skill set, the odds improve for a higher snap share.

Ronald Jones had a minimal role with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022, falling behind in the depth chart to seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon, even after Clyde Edwards-Helaire was injured. In fact, he hasn’t had much of a role outside of a few fill-in games since 2020. 

Pint-sized rookie Deuce Vaughn may be small, but his stat line is interesting, finishing the 2022 season at TCU with 1,558 yards and nine touchdowns with an additional 378 receiving yards. At his size, he shouldn’t be asked to pass block, so that will limit his snaps, but if he can show the explosiveness he showed at TCU, he has a decent chance of jumping the depth chart before training camp is over.

Update: August 29, 2023: In a surprise turn of events, Rico Dowdle has come out of nowhere and claimed the RB2, followed by Deuce Vaughn, and leaving Malik Davis on the practice squad.

Miami Dolphins

9-8, 2nd in AFC East

Raheem Mostert vs. Jeff Wilson vs. De’Von Achane

Mike McDaniel came to Miami from San Francisco last year, and he took the West Coast offense to the extreme, with the Dolphins ranking 31st in rushing attempts per game. That could have been due to poor defensive play or the utter disappointment that was Chase Edmonds. Either way, the addition of De’Von Achane should lend itself to more rushing this year; the only thing left to be parsed out is how the depth chart will fall.

Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson put up basically the same statline last year, so it’s very difficult to say who will emerge as the top back between the two. Mostert finished with 860 yards and five touchdowns on 176 attempts, while Wilson finished with 891 yards and three touchdowns on 181 carries. They were basically in a 1A/1B situation the entire season and could still be this year.

The wild card in this year’s training camp battle is rookie back Achane. He’s a smaller back at 5’9”, but he put up 1,102 yards with a 5.6 yards per carry average in his final year at Texas A&M against tough SEC competition. The former track star is also an explosive runner with a 40 time of 4.32, so he should be sprinkled in as a home-run hitter.

It’s likely that Mostert and Wilson remain the main backs in this offense (unless Miami signs Dalvin Cook), but Achane will still have a role in what could be a truly even split.

Update: August 29, 2023: There's no real surprise here. Mostert remains the top back, with Wilson as the RB2, and Achane bringing up the rear.

Minnesota Vikings

13-4, 1st in NFC North

Alexander Mattison vs. Ty Chandler vs. DeWayne McBride

The Minnesota Vikings released Dalvin Cook in early June, leaving some big question marks in their backfield. Alexander Mattison has performed well in Cook’s absence, averaging 79.5 yards per game in that six game sample, while averaging another 36 receiving yards. The issues with Mattison are his ability to shoulder a full workload and his 3.8 YPC average in 2022. 

Ty Chandler only saw six carries in three games last season, and his average wasn’t good at only 3.3 yards per carry, but his college stats show some potential. In his final season at North Carolina, he produced 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns with an average of 6 YPC. He also showed minor receiving ability, tacking on an extra 216 yards and a touchdown on 15 receptions. Even though we didn’t see a lot from him in terms of carries, he excelled in pass protection, ranking third among eligible running backs in 2022, and that bodes well for his chance to see snaps.

Rookie DeWayne McBride had a monster 2022 season at UAB, finishing with over 1700 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s not the fastest running back out there, with a 40 time in the low 4.5s, but his ability to produce speaks for itself. Now will he be able to do it against pro-level competition?

With his YPC average, I don’t expect Mattison to take over as a three-down back. We should see much more of a committee approach with the different skills each back brings to the table. How it shakes out remains to be seen.

Update: August 17, 2023: Reports from training camp tend to show everything shaking out just how we thought, with Mattison working with the first team, Chandler getting second team reps, and McBride with the deep backups.

Update: August 29, 2023: No changes here, aside from McBride being released. Mattison remains RB1 with Chandler as RB2. 

New Orleans Saints

7-10, 3rd in NFC South

Jamaal Williams vs. Kendre Miller

Alvin Kamara is the established starter in the Saints offense, but the RB2 spot is up for grabs. If Kamara’s legal situation goes south, this battle gets even more important.

Jamaal Williams surprised everyone, and I mean everyone, last season with his nose for the end zone, finishing the year with 17 touchdowns. He was decently efficient with a 4.1 YPC, and carried a majority of the workload through D’Andre Swift’s absence. 

Rookie Kendre Miller had an outstanding season at TCU, closing the year with 1,399 yards, 17 touchdowns and 116 receiving yards through 13 games. He could use a little more speed, but he still profiles as a three down back who will likely see immediate work, but he is coming off a meniscus injury suffered in the semi-final round of the college playoffs. While he should be good to go for training camp, any lingering effects could hinder his progress.

Update: August 29, 2023: Jamaal Williams ends up as the RB2, but in a surprise depth chart assignment, Miller is the RB4 behind the unknown Kirk Miller.

Philadelphia Eagles

14-3, 1st in NFC East

D’Andre Swift vs. Rashaad Penny vs. Kenneth Gainwell

The Eagles let Miles Sanders walk in free agency, but they acquired a pair of two new running backs to take him place. The question now is who will come out on top. Both Rashaad Penny and D’Andre Swift have an extensive injury history, and Penny is coming off a broken ankle suffered in Week 5 of last season.

Swift never quite lived up to his potential in Detroit, with only 1,680 rushing yards through his first three seasons. He is a capable receiver, 1,198 through the air during that time span, but with the Eagles targeting their running backs only 61 times last season (last in the league), it’s likely those skills won’t be utilized much, making it that much more important that he shows off his rushing upside during camp.

Much of the same can be said for Penny. His best season was in 2021 where he finished with 749 rushing yards for 6.3 YPC, but it’s hard to say whether or not that was an anomaly since he’s been injured so much. He’s only played 42 games in his entire 5 year career, and that is worrisome, even playing behind a much better line than he had in Seattle.

This will likely start as a 1A/1B situation at first, with Penny taking the bulk of the carries, but one (or both) of the two will be hurt throughout the season, giving the other the opportunity for a larger role.

Update: August 17, 2023: Gainwell has made a splash in training camp, with some beat reporters saying he looks like the team's RB1. We'll have to keep a very close eye on this.

Update: August 29, 2023: Bing bang boom. Swift is the RB1, followed by Penny as the RB2, and Gainwell as RB3.

Seattle Seahawks

9-8, 2nd in NFC West

Kenneth Walker vs. Zach Charbonnet

After Rashaad Penny went down for the season with an ankle injury, Kenneth Walker became the bell cow back that everyone thought he could be. From Week 6 on, he averaged 82.18 yards per game, and he scored nine touchdowns on the year. Before the NFL Draft, it was looking like he was set up for another spectacular season.

Enter Zach Charbonnet, another back with an every down profile. These two are the embodiment of the Spiderman meme with the two superheroes pointing at each other. Charbonnet amassed 1,359 rushing yards with a sky high 7 YPC average and 14 touchdowns, and he tacked on another 321 yards through the air. 

This is going to be one of the toughest training camp battles out of everyone. Both backs are extremely good at what they do, both have the ability to be three down backs, and both have stayed healthy throughout their careers. At this point, it’s impossible to say who will come out on top, making the situation extremely murky for those already drafting their fantasy teams.

Update: August 29, 2023: It's not really a surprise that Kenneth Walker remains the RB1, but it will be interesting to see how their usage is split.


Wide Receiver Battles

Carolina Panthers

7-10, 2nd in NFC South

Adam Thielen vs. D.J. Chark vs. Terrace Marshall vs. Jonathan Mingo

After trading DJ Moore to the Bears in order to acquire the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Panthers’ wide receiver room is full of brand new faces. Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark were acquired in free agency, and they chose to add an additional piece with rookie Jonathan Mingo.

Thielen had a huge season in 2020, but his production declined each of the past two seasons, finishing 2022 with 70 receptions on 107 targets for 716 yards and six touchdowns. He’s one of the oldest receivers in the league, and we’re watching his age catch up to him in real time. He may end up as the WR1 on the depth chart, but it’s going to be hard to compete with younger, faster talent throughout the year.

Through five years in the league, D.J. Chark has yet to play a full season. He’s been plagued by a litany of different injuries, and at this point it seems like more of an inevitability that he’ll be injured than just a normal risk. He did rank fourth in the league in average depth of target (aDOT) last year with the Lions, so he still possesses some downfield ability. He just has to stay healthy, and that seems like a lofty expectation.

Marshall has not lived up to his hype coming out of college, having two downright BAD statistical seasons with the Panthers. How much of that is on him and how much of it is on poor quarterback play and incompetent coaching remains to be seen. He does have 4.4 speed, and that ability to get downfield allowed him to rank second in yards per catch last season, but he does have trouble separating. He may not be in the starting rotation, but at the very least, he will have to see targets if either Chark or Thielen get injured.

Mingo is a polarizing player based on his college stats, but his athleticism shows some promise. He’s a big bodied, speedy receiver with 4.46 speed, and although he wasn’t extremely productive on Ole Miss’ run-first offense, he was able to create yards after the catch. He’ll have to improve his route-running (like most rookies), but his physical talents are enough to make you think he’ll end up with a role in this offense. 

Update: August 29, 2023: Thielen and Chark aren't really a surprise as WR1 and WR2, but the rookie Jonathan Mingo has made his way into the starting lineup as WR3.

Cleveland Browns

7-10, 4th in AFC North

Donovan Peoples-Jones vs. Elijah Moore vs. Cedric Tillman 

Amari Cooper is the clear number one receiver on the Browns’ depth chart, but after that, it’s all up in the air. While Peoples-Jones was the WR2 last year, the acquisition of Elijah Moore could put that in jeopardy. Then it becomes a three-way battle for the WR3 spot.

As WR2, Peoples-Jones had a relatively solid year, seeing 96 targets and 61 receptions for 839 yards and three touchdowns. It was by far the best year of his career, even playing the majority of the season with backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

Although we didn’t see a lot of Moore last year due to whatever philosophical differences he had with the Jets’ coaching staff and quarterback room, he did show flashes of his potential in his rookie season. Through Weeks 8-12 of that campaign, he scored five times and put up an average of 78.4 yards per game. Reports from Browns’ beat writers have heaped praise on the third-year man, saying that he’s quickly becoming Deshaun Watson’s “favorite target,” so he could finally see the breakout season we’ve been waiting for.

Tillman missed half of the 2022 season due to injury, but the 6’3” receiver was well on his way to another huge season, averaging 70.5 yards per game in the first six weeks. With a similar profile to Peoples-Jones, if he shows more of an ability to win at the catch-point, he could leapfrog both veterans.

Watch Moore for the WR2 spot, and although I think Peoples-Jones could start the season as the WR3, don’t be surprised if Tillman challenges that mid-season.

Update: August 29, 2023: It is as we expected; Elijah Moore took over as WR2, Donovan People-Jones falls to WR3, and Tillman is set at WR4.

Denver Broncos

5-12, 4th in AFC West

Courtland Sutton vs. Tim Patrick vs. Marvin Mims

The Denver Broncos were extremely bad last year, but Jerry Jeudy did emerge as the top receiver in an otherwise unremarkable group. With several of their receivers returning from injury and a rookie in the mix, how will the rest of the wide receiver room shake out?

Sutton participated in 100% of routes in the 15 games he played last year, but that didn’t translate to fantasy success. Although he saw 109 targets, he only came down with 64 receptions for 829 yards, and he only scored twice. He’s never been able to recreate the magic of his 2019 season, and with the increased competition in a healthy wide receiver room, he needs to find the talent and ability he showed during his second year.

We know it’s early July and beat writers are hungry for anything, but NFL insider reported that Tim Patrick was the “best football player in that wide receiver room.” That sounds like quite the hyperbole, but maybe he got a bionic ACL to repair the injury that kept him out the entire 2022 season. There were reports that Patrick was Russell Wilson’s favorite target in training camp last year, so maybe this report has legs. Still, with only 734 yards and 51 receptions in 2021, that’s a hard sell.

Rooke Marvin Mims also has the ability to sneak into a starting role. He’s got blazing speed with a 4.38 40 time, and even on a bad Oklahoma team in 2022, he finished with over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. He’s a deep threat option who could exploit coverage matchups that Sutton and Patrick can’t, and if he expands his route tree, he could make a play to be one of Denver’s top receivers.

Update: July 31, 2023: In some very unfortunate news, Tim Patrick is feared to have torn his Achilles on a non-contact injury in practice today. This kicks the door wide open for Marvin Mims to have a large role in this offense from the get-go.

Update: August 29, 2023: With Jerry Jeudy's injury, Sutton is the de facto WR1 for the moment with Mims at WR2, but when Jeudy returns, Sutton is back to being listed as WR2 with Mims at WR3.

Green Bay Packers

8-9, 3rd in NFC North

Christian Watson vs. Romeo Doubs 

A regime change has occurred in Green Bay with the departure of Aaron Rodgers and Allen Lazard, and there is a lot of uncertainty with Jordan Love at quarterback. Who will emerge as the WR1 in this offense between Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs?

While Watson showed some sparks in a few games, finishing three games with over 100 yards, but other than that, his highest yardage game was 49 yards. He also lived and died by the deep ball, and we haven’t seen enough from Love to know whether or not that is going to be part of his gameplay. Watson does have the speed and build to be a dominant receiver, but we don’t yet how that will translate in this system.

Doubs, on the other hand, has drawn some buzz, seemingly emerging as Love’s top target. The feeling seems mutual, with Doubs saying that Love can do everything Rodgers can. Is this the case though? In 2022, Doubs finished with a 9 yard average depth of target (aDOT), and honestly, those shallow routes may be more suited for Doubs’ style of play than Watson’s.

Watson and Doubs had nearly identical targets in 2022, so it’s impossible to say who is going to come out on top before training camp starts. However, with the buzz already surrounding Doubs, he could be the top target earner with a solid floor while Watson becomes a big play upside guy. (And that is why we offer dynamic tier rankings…for situations just like this.)

Update: August 29, 2023: I don't know if you can parse out who is going to get the bulk of the targets at this point in time, but on the depth chart, Watson is listed as WR1 with Doubs as the WR2.

Kansas City Chiefs

14-3, 1st in AFC West

Kadarius Toney vs. Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. Skyy Moore vs. Rashee Rice vs. Richee James

The departures of Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman have left this receiving room wide open. Outside of Travis Kelce and Smith-Schuster, the Chiefs basically operated a wide receiver by committee, so it’s hard to tell where these guys end up after training camp shakes out.

Toney is the front-runner for the number one spot, even though he has yet to play a full season. General manager Brett Veach has faith in him, so that’s…something. However, he’s going to have to show that he can stay healthy. He’s undoubtedly talented, with the ability to work all over the field, causing some to compare him to Tyreek Hill, so with a full offseason in the system, he could emerge as the top option.

While he’s been a solid depth option in real life, Valdes-Scantling has never been considered as WR1 material. His target share has never topped 14.1%, and even with Patrick Mahomes as quarterback, he couldn’t post career-best yardage. He only earned 10 more targets than Jerick McKinnon last season, and the addition of rookie Rashee Rice and a potential second-year leap by Skyy Moore could knock him down a few spots on the depth chart if they have a good camp.

Moore was one of the most overhyped players last season, mainly due to his landing spot, but he did produce in the postseason, scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl. He definitely has elite speed, but his lack of playing time last season is a little troubling. He only had a 23.9% route participation through 16 games, and the trade for Toney mid-season could indicate a lack of faith in him. We have seen receivers take significant leaps in their second year, so it’s something to watch during camp.

His physical attributes may not immediately stand out, but Rice’s stat line speaks for itself. In his final season at SMU, he put up 1,355 yards with a 14.1 YPC average and scored 10 touchdowns. He may not be the fastest guy at Chiefs’ training camp, but his strength and vertical ability allow him to come down with 50/50 balls more often than not. Watch his route-running development throughout camp.

Toney will likely enter the season as the WR1 with MVS as WR2, but keep an eye on Rice and Moore to develop and get more reps as the season progresses.

Update: August 17, 2023: The hype out of Chiefs' camp has been at an all-time high, especially for newcomers to the offense like Rice, Ross, and even Richee James. James has been practicing more and more with the first team after a strong preseason performance, so it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

Update: August 29, 2023: This one is a bit of a mess, BUT, according to the Kansas City depth chart, Toney is WR1, MVS is WR2, Skyy Moore at WR3, and Rice and James round out WR4 and WR5. 

Las Vegas Raiders

6-11, 3rd in AFC West

Jakobi Meyers vs. Hunter Renfrow

It’s puzzling why the Raiders went out and got slot receiver Jakobi Meyers in free agency when they already had one in Hunter Renfrow, so it will be a tight battle to see which one emerges as the WR2.

In 14 games last year, Meyers ended up with 803 yards, 95 targets, 67 receptions, and six touchdowns. He operated primarily out of the slot, and that alignment was well-suited for Mac Jones’ lower average yards per attempt. He was able to get separation throughout the season, so that bodes well for his chances to succeed downfield. However, his 4.63 speed is a concern if he’s going to be running outside.

After a breakout 2021 season, Renfrow had a pretty horrific 2022, finishing as WR92 after missing seven games and losing out on targets to Davante Adams. He ranked 94th in aDOT and 84th in yards per target, so whatever magic he made with Derek Carr the year prior was gone with Adams in town. 

It’s entirely possible that the two split slot snaps and work as a WR2a/2b. Meyers has the height advantage on the outside, but Renfrow is slightly faster and a little better at creating separation. 

Update: August 29, 2023: It looks like Meyers has beaten out Renfrow for the WR2 spot.

Minnesota Vikings

13-4, 1st in NFC North

K.J. Osborn vs. Jordan Addison

The departure of Adam Thielen in free agency left a wide open spot behind Justin Jefferson, and the battle will be between K.J. Osborn and rookie Jordan Addison.

Osborn put together a decent outing as the Vikings’ WR3 last year, finishing with 60 receptions on 90 targets, 650 yards, and five touchdowns. The Vikings also ran a ton of 11 personnel, so he saw an 81.3% route participation rate. The dig on him is that he ranked fifth in slot snaps, so his ability to work downfield and outside remains to be seen.

Addison comes in as a former Biletnikoff Award winner in 2021, and although his stat line declined a little at USC, he still had a solid season with 59 receptions on 84 targets for 875 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s an exceptional route-runner, but he can tend to lose more often than not in man coverage due to his size.

As a first round pick, it’s likely that Addison comes out on top in this battle, with Osborn remaining in his role as the main slot guy.

Update: August 29, 2023: Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner! Addison comes out on top as WR2 in Minnesota. 

New England Patriots

8-9, 3rd in AFC East

Juju Smith-Schuster vs. DeVante Parker vs. Tyquan Thornton vs. Kendrick Bourne

The Patriots wide receiver hierarchy is completely up in the air after losing Jakobi Meyers in free agency. They just signed DeVante Parker to a three-year contract, but they brought in Juju Smith-Schuster from Kansas City to fill the void. So who looks to come out on top?

Juju was the top wide receiver target in Kansas City last year with 101 targets and he improved his aDOT a full yard from the year prior in Pittsburgh, but he still failed to eclipse 1,000 yards and only scored three touchdowns on the most prolific offense in the league. That said, his skill set may work well in New England’s offense, where Mac Jones had one of the lowest yards per attempt in the league last year. He should be able to fill in the slot role vacated by Meyers and command a huge target share.

Parker is listed as the WR2 on the Patriots’ current depth chart, but with most of his new contract based on hitting incentives, he’s going to have to step up and become the player we saw in 2019. With his age, though, that’s a hard mark to hit. He barely had 500 yards last season, and his injury history is getting lengthier as the years go on.

Having speed is great, but Thornton couldn’t translate that to production last year. He only finished with 22 receptions and 247 yards through 13 games, and he profiles to be more of a special teamer than a bona fide WR3. He could take a big leap in his second year, but it will have to be the size of Mount Everest to jump Parker or even Bourne.

Bourne didn’t do anything special last year, but he has been a solid option in prior seasons. His career high in yardage was 800 with five touchdowns in 2021, so he could be a sneaky mover up the depth chart if he returns to form. He’s surprisingly good at creating separation, ranking first among all wide receivers last year, and that fits right into what Mac Jones needs to succeed.

Update: August 6, 2023: Patriots' beat writer Evan Lazar said that Bourne has been standing out in camp and may have the edge of Tyquan Thornton.

Update: August 29, 2023: The beat writer was not wrong. Currently, the order is Smith-Schuster, Parker, Bourne, and Thornton.

New York Giants

9-7, 3rd in NFC East

Isaiah Hodgins vs. Darius Slayton vs. Parris Campbell vs. Wan’Dale Robinson vs. Sterling Shepard vs. Jalin Hyatt 

Typically, wide receiver battles are just for a particular position within the offense, but this Giants’ corps is completely wide open. You’ve got Isaiah Hodgins, who was on the waiver wire last season before being signed, Darius Slayton, who was a cut candidate before the start of the 2022 season, Wan’Dale Robinson and Sterling Shepard, who are coming off of ACL injuries, Parris Campbell, who has never finished with more than 623 receiving yards, and a rookie in Jalin Hyatt.

It’s wild that Hodgins is currently listed as the WR1 on the Giants’ depth chart. Yes, he joined the team after the season started, but he still only had 37 receptions for 392 yards. And this is the guy you have as your WR1?! There’s no way this lasts through training camp.

Slayton is listed as the current WR2, but he had nearly double the yards as Hodgins, with 724 yards on 46 receptions. He has a much better chance of taking over as the WR1, but he still has very limited upside with Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley taking control in the red zone.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Giants have apparently been using Campbell as a running back as well as a wide receiver, and if he garners that snap share, he could be a sneaky candidate to have a big role on this offense. The concern with that, however, is his injury history, as last season was the first year he’s played a full year. He could very well suffer an injury during training camp and derail his chances to move up the depth chart.

Behind these three, you have Sterling Shepard. When he’s been on the field, he’s great, but after suffering an Achilles injury and an ACL tear in back-to-back years, his conditioning and ability to perform is in question. If he’s fine, he’s the obvious choice for their WR1, but we have to wait and see what he looks like when camp starts.

Another receiver who suffered an ACL tear last season is Robinson. He mainly operated as a slot guy prior to his injury, but he wasn’t highly effective, and the addition of Campbell and Hyatt could put his future in jeopardy. 

Finally, we get to Hyatt, last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner. He had a great season last year with Tennessee, finishing with 1,267 yards and 17 touchdowns, but before that, we hadn’t seen much from him. He has the potential to be a good receiver, but his size and limited route-running ability could hinder him in his first year.

Update: August 29, 2023: Okay, this is going to be a long one. Slayton, Hodgins, and Campbell are the starting three, with Robinson, Hyatt, and Shepard rounding out the backups.

New York Jets

7-10, 4th in AFC East

Allen Lazard vs. Corey Davis vs. Mecole Hardman

Aaron Rodgers came into town and brought all his buddies with him, leading to a wide receiver controversy for the Jets (and yes, I know he also brought over Randall Cobb, but let’s be real). Garrett Wilson is the clear WR1, but how will the WR2 position shake out?

Lazard has been Rodgers’ security blanket for several years, especially in the red zone, so he’s currently a frontrunner for the WR2 spot. He ranked in the top 20 in red zone targets over the past two seasons, and although he did earn 100 targets last year with the Packers, he only finished with 788 yards and six touchdowns. We all know Rodgers likes his buddies, but if he can’t produce in a tough AFC East, look for him to get leapfrogged in the depth chart.

As the Jets’ WR2 last season, Corey Davis had struggles of his own. Between injuries, lack of target share, and very poor quarterback play, his results were disappointing. He’s tall, but he’s a little skinny for that height, and that hinders his ability to gain yards after the catch; last year, he ranked 92nd among all wide receivers. 

After coming over from Kansas City in free agency, Hardman is listed ahead of Davis in the depth chart as the WR3, but he has dealt with his own share of issues. He has elite speed at 4.33, but he only finished 2022 with 297 yards and 25 receptions through eight games on the most prolific offense in the NFL. That’s kind of been the story of his entire career, as he’s never topped 700 yards, but maybe a change of scenery will break that. I just need to see it to believe it.

Update: August 23, 2023: In somewhat shocking news, Corey Davis has announced his retirement from the NFL. It looks like Allen Lazard will be the WR2 with Mecole Hardman edging out Randall Cobb for the WR3 position.

Update: August 29, 2023: I'm actually ashamed that I didn't include Randall Cobb in the initial battle, because now he is ahead of Mecole Hardman as the WR3, with Wilson as WR1 and Lazard as the WR2. 

Seattle Seahawks

9-8, 2nd in NFC West

Tyler Lockett vs. Jaxon Smith-Njigba

As good as DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have been, Seattle has never had a true WR3 to complete their wide receiver corps. They changed that this year by drafting Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first round of the NFL Draft. The question that has been debated since then is if Lockett’s role as the WR2 is safe.

Lockett is one of the most perennially underrated receivers in the entire NFL. He turned 30 years old last year, but he’s continued to see over 100 targets and put up over 1,000 yards in each of his last four seasons. His numbers are better than several WR1s across the league, and he’s only missed two games his entire career. He should be locked in as the Seahawks’ WR2.

With Smith-Njigba, you know you’re getting an incredibly talented receiver, but after missing most of the year in 2022 and only playing seven games in 2020, it makes you wonder if his breakout season could have been a one-off with the presence of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. I don’t think it’s that extreme, but he’s going to take time to develop in Pete Carroll’s system and will likely be the odd man out in two-receiver sets. I’d be surprised if he jumped Lockett for that WR2 role, but it’s definitely something to watch.

Update: August 29, 2023: This isn't to say JSN can't supplant Tyler Lockett, but right now, Lockett wins this battle.

Tight End Battles

Arizona Cardinals

4-13, 4th in NFC West

Zach Ertz vs. Trey McBride

The Arizona Cardinals were snakebitten with the injury bug last year, and one of the unlucky recipients of that was Zach Ertz with a torn ACL in Week 10. After that, Trey McBride jumped into the fold as the starting tight end, and although it wasn’t great, the quarterback play could be to blame. Now with Ertz saying he “aiming to be available Week 1,” will he reassume the starting role?

Ertz has been one of the best tight ends in the league for several years when he’s healthy. He’s a target hog, he’s efficient in creating yardage, and his slot usage creates huge mismatches for slot defenders. However, with Kyler Murray likely missing the first part of the season, will the Cardinals rush him back?

As the first tight end off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft, Trey McBride had high expectations going into the year. Unfortunately, when he was thrust into action after Ertz’s injury, he also had to deal with poor quarterback play from backups, and the offense just kind of gave up. However, he showed incredible promise as a pass blocker and receiver, ranking third amongst all tight ends in pass block grade and having a catch rate of over 74%. Even if Arizona is tanking, McBride is a bright spot on this offense, and he may even end up sharing the field with Ertz in 12 personnel sets.

Update: August 29, 2023: Despite not knowing whether or not Zach Ertz is going to be ready for Week 1, he remains atop the depth chart.

Dallas Cowboys

12-5, 2nd in NFC East

Jake Ferguson vs. Peyton Hendershot vs. Luke Schoonmaker

Who knows what to make of this tight end room? Ferguson and Hendershot are only in the second season, and Schoonmaker is a rookie, so there is still a lot of development to be made by all.

Ferguson was a marginally better pass blocker, ranking 70th overall to Hendershot’s 89th, but Ferguson holds the clear edge in receiving, ranking 18th overall in receiving grade from PFF.com where Hendershot only ranked 52nd. So while they could both see playing time as part of Dallas’ 24% usage rate of 12 personnel, it will likely be Ferguson edging out Hendershot in the single tight end sets.

As a second round pick, Schoonmaker has a chance to make an early impact, as his 4.63 speed is incredibly fast for someone who is 6’6”. He didn’t have a huge role at Michigan, but based on his pure athletic potential, he could be the tight end of the future. But as the other side of that two-edged sword, he’ll likely fall behind the other two as he takes time to develop as a pass catcher.

Update: August 29, 2023: Ferguson comes out on top here, but it's surprising that the rookie jumped Hendershot for the TE2 position. Maybe we should keep our eyes peeled after all.

Green Bay Packers

8-9, 3rd in NFC North

Luke Musgrave vs. Tucker Kraft

Green Bay went all in on tight ends in this draft after losing Robert Tonyan to the Chicago Bears, taking Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft on day two. 

Musgrave’s speed is in the 88th percentile for his 6’6” height, but while he has a great athletic profile, he didn’t factor in as a big playmaker at Oregon State. In 2021, he only saw 40 targets and 303 yards with one touchdown and in his final year, he only had 169 yards on 11 receptions and just one touchdown after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 2. He still has the tools to be an explosive playmaker, but on a very young offense, there are going to be growing pains as he develops.

Very little is known about Kraft and what he can bring to the table. He only played two games over the past two seasons, with a combined six receptions across that span. With this little information, it’s impossible to evaluate his chances in training camp.

Musgrave should easily win the starting job, garnering the majority of the receptions while Kraft is utilized as a blocker.

Update: August 29, 2023: This isn't too surprising with Musgrave being the pass-catcher of the two. He'll get the starting reps when the season begins.

Las Vegas Raiders

6-11, 3rd in AFC West

Austin Hooper vs. Michael Mayer

After using second-round capital on tight end Michael Mayer, who was arguably the most complete tight end in the draft, there still looks to be a battle between the rookie and veteran Austin Hooper.

Mayer profiled as the most complete tight end in the draft with elite blocking skills and a prolific pass catcher, earning 31.1% of Notre Dame’s targets last season and finishing with 809 yards and nine touchdowns. However, we’ve seen that it can take time for rookie tight ends to develop at the next level as they acclimate to the more complicated schemes, and even though he’s being touted as the next Rob Gronkowski in Josh McDaniels’ system, it could take him time to fully mature into that role.

Hooper didn’t have a great season last year, but let’s face it, no pass-catcher on the Tennessee Titans did. He finished fourth on the team with 444 yards on 41 receptions and tacked on two touchdowns. There are also issues with his blocking, as he ranked 128th in pass blocking grade and 113th in run blocking grade, so if Mayer catches on quickly to the blocking scheme, it won’t take much for Hooper to fall in the depth chart.

I would expect Hooper to begin the season as the TE1 on the depth chart and work as one of Jimmy Garoppolo’s most trusted short-yardage target, but it won’t be a surprise if Mayer takes over mid-way through the year.

Update: August 29, 2023: This one is a little puzzling after all the off-season hype Mayer was getting, but Hooper remains atop the depth chart to start the year.

New England Patriots

8-9, 3rd in AFC East

Hunter Henry vs. Mike Gesicki

Bill Belichick has famously gone on record and said that Mike Gesicki isn’t a tight end, that he’s just a big wide receiver, so it’s expected that he’ll utilize him in the Patriots offense as one. However, Hunter Henry has receiving chops of his own, so how will things shake out?

The Patriots acquired Gesicki in free agency after he was severely underutilized in Mike McDaniel’s system in Miami. He finished 2022 with only 362 yards and five touchdowns on 32 receptions despite having speed that ranks in the 95th percentile for his height and weight. The usage was puzzling, as he’s not a blocker, but with the lack of depth in the Patriots’ wide receiver room, you can expect him to have an immediate role as a pass catcher.

Henry had a down year from 2021, but he did have more yardage and receptions than Gesicki, finishing with 509 yards on 41 receptions. The knock on him was his touchdown production which was down to two from nine the year before. Henry is a much better pass blocker than Gesicki, ranking 56th, but he still has issues with run blocking.

Truthfully, I would expect Belichick and offensive coordinator to run a ton of 12 personnel, so these two will likely both have a role as pass-catchers. It will likely be a 1A/1B situation, but I expect Gesicki to finish the year with more targets and yardage.

Update: August 29, 2023: As the depth chart currently sits, it's Hunter Henry as the TE1, but I wouldn't be surprised if they still run a 1A/1B situation with them both having receiving value.


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