With the start of NFL Training Camp there is no better time to break down the heated positional battles that will be closely watched over the next few weeks as we begin to prepare for our fantasy football drafts. We've already seen fantasy football player rankings and fantasy football player projections being adjusted following some big developments over the past few days so let's waste no additional time and break down the position battles to watch at each position.
NFL Training Camp Position Battles
The Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield just a few weeks and he will join a QB room that includes Sam Darnold who was acquired by the Panthers last offseason to be their starting QB. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off for Darnold after a solid start to the season which left the Panthers looking for a potential upgrade heading into the 2022 season.
Darnold appeared in just 12 games for the Panthers last season, finishing with 2,527 yards with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing just 59.9% of his passes.
Mayfield appeared in 14 games for the Browns and finished with 3,010 yards with 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 60.5% of his throws.
Mayfield has proven to have the most success between the two over the course of their careers and those with a fantasy football interest should hope for Mayfield to be the QB, even with his inconsistent and at times downright bad play.
The Seahawks shook up the NFL landscape early this offseason by trading away Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. In return the team received QB Drew Lock from the Broncos along with tight end Noah Fant, defensive linemen Shelby Harris and a package of draft picks.
Lock appeared in just six games last season for the Broncos and finished with 787 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 60.4% of his passes. In 2020 we saw Lock start 13 games for the Broncos and it was more of the same as he completed just 57.3% of his passes for 2,933 yards with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Smith got some playing time last season for Seattle following the injury to Wilson. In four games Smith finished with 702 yards with five touchdowns and one interception while completing 68.4% of his passes.
While it certainly would appear on paper the Seahawks would have a QB competition on their hands, initial reports from training camp have stated that Geno Smith has dominated the first-team reps.
2021 was the end of an era in Pittsburgh with future first-ballot Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger hanging up his helmet after an 18-year NFL career all with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the 2022 NFL Draft the Steelers used their first-round pick on University of Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett. Pickett wrapped up his final season at Pitt by throwing for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 67.2% of his passes.
In free agency the Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky who spent the 2021 season as the backup QB in Buffalo behind Josh Allen. Trubisky appeared in 51 games for the Bears, making 50 starts between 2017 and 2020. During that stretch, he completed 64% of his passes with a per 17 games average of 3,536 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Trubisky led first-team reps during the team's initial team workouts and he is likely the front runner to begin the year as the starter but head coach Mike Tomlin has declined to name a starting QB quite yet.
The Patriots wasted no time doing Patriot things to kick off training camp with early reports that Stevenson was getting some first-team reps ahead of Harris.
In 2021 Harris lead the Patriots in rushing, finishing with 202 carries for 929 yards and 15 touchdowns over 15 games played in a breakout season. It's worth noting that Harris is in the final year of his rookie deal which could explain why the team could be looking to get more of a look out of Stevenson.
During his rookie season, Stevenson finished with 133 carries for 606 yards and five scores. Both running backs averaged 4.6 yards per carry and both are power-style running backs.
This duo figures to be one of the more frustrating to roster when it comes to fantasy football season but whoever gets the bulk of the work will have a good shot at double-digit rushing touchdowns.
Rashaad Penny & Kenneth Walker III
Seahawks running back Chris Carson officially announced his retirement yesterday due to a career-ending neck injury. This was an expected move by many and puts the focus on the remaining backs in the Seattle backfield heading into training camp.
In the NFL Draft the Seahawks used a second-round pick on Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III. Walker finished his final year in college by rushing for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Following the injury to Chris Carson last season we saw Rashaad Penny take the job and be a fantasy football superstar as he averaged 134.2 yards rushing over the final five games of the season while adding six rushing touchdowns.
Many expect Penny to the leading running back to open the season following his tremendous finish but the Seahawks have him on just a one-year deal while Walker has a second-round draft investment.
This will certainly be a battle to watch over the next few weeks.
The Dolphins were quite busy this offseason having hired Mike McDaniel to be their new head coach, acquired Tyreek Hill in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs and went and signed three running backs to their roster.
All three backs are coming off seasons where they missed time due to injury, with Mostert missing all but one game in 2021. That said, this is an interesting group of backs that find themselves in an offense that, if it mirrors what we saw from the 49ers under McDaniel, could be quite fruitful for whoever can take on the lead role.
Edmonds was the first to sign of the trio and is getting the most money as he comes off a career year with the Arizona Cardinals where he was their starting running back while finding himself being used quite heavily in the passing attack as he finished with 43 receptions on 53 targets for 311 yards while adding 592 yards rushing and two scores over 12 games.
Edmonds was on a per 17-game pace of 839 yards rushing while adding 61 catches for 441 yards. This is a likely role that he will fill in this offense this season.
Mostert has the most familiarity with the McDaniel system having played with the 49ers over the past few seasons. Of course, the issue with Mostert is always his fragility. over the past two seasons, Mostert has appeared in just nine total games. When healthy he has always been an impact runner, averaging 5.7 yards per carry for his career which included his 2019 breakout season where he averaged 5.6 yards per carry while rushing for 771 yards and eight touchdowns. If he can stay healthy, he is the true homerun hitter of this trio.
When it comes to the dirty work we should see Sony Michel potentially find himself in the mix in both short-yardage and maybe even goalline situations as well. Michel was traded to the Rams last season where he appeared in all 17 games, making seven starts. Overall Michel finished with 845 yards and four scores while adding 21 receptions.
I know your favorite fantasy football analyst has probably told you not to worry about Melvin Gordon this season when it comes to the value of Javonte Williams but I think this is going to be much more of a running back competition than we think.
Now, I see a very clear scenario where Williams is the starting running back and he likely even gets a bigger share of the workload however, we should not be counting out Gordon's role on this season just because he is back on a one-year deal.
In 2021 Gordon carried the ball 203 times for 918 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry. In his two seasons with the Broncos Gordon has averaged 952 yards and 8.5 touchdowns at 4.6 yards per carry.
As a rookie Javonte Williams carried the ball 203 times for 903 yards and four touchdowns. He was much more involved in the team's passing offense, finishing with 43 receptions on 53 targets for 316 yards and three scores.
With Russell Wilson now at QB and the Broncos offense likely vastly improved because of it I can see a scenario where both running backs once again thrive in a split-workload backfield.
This isn't really a position battle for Kirk as the Jaguars made him one of the highest-paid players to sign during free agency as he comes off a career year in Arizona.
The remaining three receivers however are going to be battling it out for the position in this Jaguars passing attack. Jacksonville also signed Zay Jones who flashed for the Raiders last season to a deal that is paying him $8 million a year for the next three seasons with $14 million guaranteed. If money talks then Kirk and Jones should be locked into this receiving rotation.
This leaves the two holdovers from last year with Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault. Jones led the team in receiving last season, finishing with 73 catches for 832 yards and four touchdowns. Shenault finished with 63 receptions for 619 yards.
Byron Pringle, Velus Jones Jr., N'Keal Harry
We know Darnell Mooney is the top receiver in Chicago and we know that Cole Kmet is likely going to be the guy second in the target tree but after that the receiver situation for the Bears is quite murky.
The Bears used a third-round pick on Velvus Jones and that draft capital investment, along with a decent training camp, could vault him up the depth chart. Jones had 62 catches and 807 yards with seven touchdowns in his final year at Tennessee.
In free agency the Bears signed Byron Pringle who had some success with the Chiefs, finishing with career highs in receptions (42), yards (568) and touchdowns (5) last season.
Harry is an interesting wild card. The former first-round pick never got it going in New England, dealing with injury and inconsistent play. He will get new life in Chicago and will likely be given the opportunity to compete for a starting role in this offense. Harry is a big receiver that showed some playmaking ability at times with the Patriots and maybe getting a fresh start will be good for him.
The Cowboys drafted Tolbert in the third round in this year's draft out of South Alabama where he finished his final year with 82 receptions, 1,474 yards and eight touchdowns.
Washington was seemingly always stuck behind more talented receivers during his time with the Steelers and was used more as a big-play, downfield type of receiver for Ben Roethlisberger in that offense. He has a real opportunity to find consistent playing time this season in Dallas which could give him a chance to improve upon his 2019 season which saw him set career-high totals with 44 receptions and 735 yards.
If I was picking a tight end to draft in fantasy football season from this group this season I'd be looking at Granson. He profiles as the best true pass catcher of the trio with Alie-Cox and rookie Jelani Woods fitting in more as blocking tight ends in this offense. The upgrade at QB to Matt Ryan this season could be fruitful for whoever wins this starting tight end job, especially when it comes to red zone opportunities.
The fantasy football community had a nice couple days debating the reports that rookie Greg Dulcich was going to compete for the starting tight end role with fan favorite Albert O.
Dulcich is a pure pass-catching tight end that they selected in the third round of this past NFL Draft out of UCLA. Now, rookie tight ends don't often flourish in the NFL but the departure of Noah Fant certainly puts this position in a bit of flux heading into this season.
Okwuegbunam flashed tremendous upside given his athleticism and speed at the tight end position. With Russell Wilson now in Denver there is going to be a high value placed on whoever gets this starting tight end position even though they are likely going to be third or fourth on the target totem pole.
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