NFL Training Camp Battles: August 7
Sean Mitchell breaks down all of the training camp battles around the NFL and what they mean for fantasy football.
What’s up, FAnation? With NFL training camps kicking off over a week and a half ago, there are a few battles that we should continue to keep our eyes on as we approach the beginning of the 2020-2021 NFL season. It has been a strange one for sure, and now that we have concluded all of the opt-out candidates from the deadline that was set for August 6th, we can move forward with the NFL ramblings! Must reiterate that there WILL NOT be a preseason either for this NFL season, so we won’t even see the players on the field until Week 1, which is pretty nuts already! Let’s see what is in store at the moment!
Miami Dolphins – RB &QB Battle
The Dolphins made two pretty major additions to their backfield before the start of the off-season this year in Matt Breida and Jordan Howard . Both of these guys specialize in their own way, but both are also considered three-down backs, meaning they run mainly between the tackles and can brunt the load of 1st-3rd down, typically before the passing downs must begin. This one should be an interesting situation, because the Dolphins, who were absolutely putrid last season in terms of rushing (Ranked last in the league in both attempts and rushing yards), but we must remember they had Kallen Ballage as a lead-back at one point, now have two backs that can really bolster their rushing attack. Both of these guys have starter-ability, and Howard is one that actually has been a starting RB for multiple teams now. I think with this situation not having any extra detail to go-off of, we must remember that Breida was the one that the Dolphins actually traded for, and they signed Howard as a free-agent, so believe we could give a small amount of merit to Breida here, as this was obviously a major target for them.
Another question that we have for this squad is who will they roll out at QB for Week 1? It has been deemed that Ryan Fitzpatrick , who started for them last year for 15 total games, only secured five wins out of those 15 games, however, we know how bad the Dolphins were; will likely cede this starting role to Tua Tagovailoa. With the fifth pick in the draft, the Phins drafted Tua. They did not draft him to sit behind a journeyman for a year, they drafted him as a win-now approach, and I think most folks will agree with this. This will without a shadow of a doubt be Tua’s team, and the upside he possesses is quite tremendous, as we saw in his Alabama days.
Indianapolis Colts – RB Battle
This is one that I have seen many NFL fantasy analysts just foaming at the mouth about, as we have a trio of RBs in the Colt’s backfield who will be vying for time. There are really only two of them that are considered every down backs, and if you ask most of the NFL fantasy analysts, they believe it is pretty clear cut for one of these backs to gain the starting job. That one being the former Wisconsin Badger RB in Jonathon Taylor, who the Colt’s selected with the 41st overall pick in the second round this year’s NFL draft after making a quick trade with the Browns to be able to do so. There seems to be just one problem with this however, Marlon Mack is in a contract year, where he is due to make his largest pay-year by far on his four-year contract signed in 2017, a whopping 2.13M, which is much larger than the near $4-600K he made in the three prior years. I believe most are forgetting that Mack is owed this amount, and I highly feel that the Colts are not just going to put him on a shelf and allow Taylor to just eat up the job and the backfield this season. This could be one of the juicier camp battles we see, and I for one, am pretty anxious to see how it plays out. Yes, I did not mention Nahiem Hines yet, but we know that he is just a passing-back, that will ultimately likely take some work from both of these guys, however, he does not factor into the starting job batter in anyone’s eyes. Would it shock me to see Taylor win the starting job because he is literally better than Mack? No. However, I think with all things considered here, with Mack being owed his largest amount on his contract, and being in a contract year, I think this battle is much more complex than most are writing it off to be. Will be one to definitely keep the eyes on.
Kansas City Chiefs – RB Battle
It was concluded that last year’s starting RB in Damien Williams decided to opt-out of the 2020-2021 NFL season, and this has since then thrust Clyde Edwards-Helaire into a fantasy frenzy in terms of his ADP. Before the opt-out news, CEH could still be likely found in the 3rd or 4th round of bestball drafts, with the news of Williams opting-out, his ADP has moved to first round, and I have seen him go as high as the 6th overall pick. The only problem with this is the fact that the Chiefs not only still have Darwin Thompson on the roster, everyone’s preseason darling pick to lead the Chief’s backfield last off-season, however, they also added the back-up RB for the Raiders in DeAndre Washington ! I do believe that it is CEH’s job to lose, but do we think the job is directly given to a rookie without any NFL experience? Of course, CEH was selected as the 32nd overall pick in the draft, and had HUGE numbers in his senior season with the National Champion LSU Tigers, but his numbers prior to? One could say they were not as plentiful. This is yet another classic example of folks jumping on the highly “touted” player option, rather than looking at what other competition could be around him. Do not get me wrong, I do think this is still CEH’s job to lose, but just playing devil’s advocate a little here, and think we could see a RBBC to start the season. It is Andy Reid and all.
Los Angeles Chargers – QB Battle
This has been a story that most have questioned, with the Chargers grabbing Justin Herbert out of Oregon with the 6th overall selection in this year’s draft, however, it has been reported that they have decided to move on with TyRod Taylor starting out the season as the starting QB. Coach Lynn stated that “Tyrod will probably be our starter Week 1,” after also phrasing that Tyrod will aptly help Herbert along in gaining experience, and that Tyrod is “an excellent player to learn from,” for a young, newly drafted QB in the NFL. I suppose we cannot just lock in Tyrod as the starter, as we can only take “probably” with a grain of salt, as there was no commitment there, but I think Lynn is favoring Tyrod very much here, and he knows Tyrod has the veteran experience, and the ability to run an offense. Herbert will absolutely be the franchise QB for the Chargers, but it may take a year or so.
Los Angeles Rams – RB Battle
Another backfield that has a trio of talent in it that are vying for the starting job is the Rams. The Rams drafted Florida State stud Cam Akers with the 52nd overall pick in this year’s draft, and it was, and is being stated that he is the guy to own in this backfield….until Head Coach Sean McVay announced that he loved having all three backs in his stable, and that he wanted to use a RBBC. This was not what the Akers truthers were hoping to here. Akers is joined in the backfield by both Malcolm Brown , and second-year RB Darrell Henderson, who many thought would be the top guy after Gurley last season. That was not the case. Henderson pretty much looked lost in the early part of the season, and as a result, ceded his job to Malcom Brown , who we saw vulture some TDs from Gurley in the earlier part, and also saw work with Gurley having lingering knee issues. With a full year under Henderson’s belt now, and some extra practice, could he be a potential break-out candidate? I do believe this backfield will be led be either Henderson or Akers. Brown has shown that he can bolster the load, but at the same time, he has never been a lead-back. Akers has shown not only in college, but also in practices so far that he can be a “work-horse back,” so this should be an interesting one to watch.
Detroit Lions – RB Battle
I am pretty big on not drafting a Detroit RB this year, however, there are some folks that are, or may be and there is nothing wrong with that. There is quite a bit of a toss-up on this one however, as we have Kerryon Johnson who spent the larger part of last season on the side-line after suffering a knee injury, making the Lions rotate in a couple of different lead-backs from Ty Johson, to Bo Scarborough. This just made the Lions throw more in my eyes, as the running game never got going. This year though, we have a (hopefully) fully-healthy Kerryon Johnson , BUT the Lions also went and drafted the Georgia stand-out RB D’Andre Swift with the 35th overall pick in the second round of this year’s draft. At the current moment, the depth chart is slotting Swift in as the starting RB. Will it stay this way? Will Kerryon Johnson compete in training camp to show that he still deserves to be the starting RB? This will be one worth watching, as it doesn’t seem to be so cut-and-dry just yet.
Tampa Bay Bucaneers – RB Battle
It has been deemed by Coach Arians that this is no longer a battle, but we must at least put this situation in here. We know that Ronald Jones is being touted as the starting RB for the Buccs, and even Arians said that everyone else is playing for time after Jones. That includes newly drafted Vanderbilt stud RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, pass-catching back Dare Ogunbowale , and newly signed veteran back in Shady McCoy. We can take Arians’ report for what we will, but it does also need to be said that everyone thought RoJo was the guy last season also, before he ceded seven starts to Peyton Barber , and then after that it was still a “play the hot-hand” approach thereafter. RoJo did gain quite a bit of traction towards the end of the season however, and it has been reported that he has packed on 20 lbs of muscle as well, so this should be very interesting to see if he can hold the job down for this season.
New England Patriots – QB Battle
I know that everyone is dead-set on Cam Newton being the Week 1 starting QB for the Patriots, and likely he will be, but for the sake of talking about battles, can we at least give Stidham his due diligence here? It really has not been reported by anyone, and even Bill Belichick that Newton is the clear-cut starting QB for the Pats yet. However, we must think that with Stidham literally never starting an NFL game in his life yet, and with the veteran experience that Cam brings, this seems like a pretty easy situation? I don’t exactly think that it is over yet for the race to the Week 1 start, and I think that this could be a nice battle between the two. Let’s throw out a few factors here. Stidham already knows the Patriots playbook well, and Cam is going to have to learn it. Both are good at running the ball, as Stidham was actually quite the dual-threat, as he was being recruited out of high school as the number one dual-threat QB recruit, and he ran quite a bit at Auburn. What really boosts Cam up the ladder here is the fact that he has a proven track-record in the NFL, and he is a playmaker, with ability to do so many things offensively. This should be one to watch, but the odds in Vegas are mightily favoring Cam Newton to be the Week 1 starter at the moment.