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Training Camp Battles Worth Watching

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Every year positions are won and lost in the month of August that will impact the NFL season.  It may result in a QB winning a starting job. A rookie unseating a veteran resulting in the veteran to be cut.  In some cases, it might result in a committee of players handling the duties of one position.  The implications of these battles will affect who wins games, divisions, and what most NFL fans care about their fantasy leagues.  With all of that in mind, I take a look at a few camp battles, and what I think the result will be. 

Baltimore Ravens Wide Receiver:

Last year the Ravens selected Breshad Perriman in the first round of the 2015 draft. He had a bad rookie year, bad in the sense that he didn't play as a rookie.  Returning for the Ravens is Steve Smith, ageless wonder who is probably going to claim one of the starting spots.  Also returning is last years breakout player Kamar Aiken.  This off-season the Ravens also signed Mike Wallace formerly of a few teams.  Mike Wallace brings deep speed, and not much else.  So we ask, how does this play out? Well, it's pretty clear to me how it plays out; Smith and Aiken will be the 1 and 2 at WR, and when they go to a 3 WR set, Perriman will be the next guy in.  They will obviously work in Wallace for a few Flacco Bombs too, but expect Aiken to receive the most targets of this group.

Baltimore Ravens Running back:

Staying in Baltimore we see another camp battle that will define fantasy football season's this year.  Returning are Justin Forsett, and Buck Allen.  Forsett was the starter last year, and was coming off of a semi-big year, only to go down to an injury.  Once he went down, Allen began taking most of the carries, but how did that exactly work out? Not terrific, Allen only averaged 3.8 YPC which isn't going to cut it in this league.  The player to lookout for is Kenneth Dixon, a rookie. Dixon is probably the most talented of the group, and the future bell-cow, but he's nursing an MCL injury.  What I think will happen is we will see some tandem running from Forsett and Allen, as Dixon works his way into Football shape.  Once Dixon is up and running and a full go I expect him to be the #1 though.

Steelers Wide Receiver:

We all know All-World WR Antonio Brown will man one of the starting WR spots, but with Martavis Bryant suspended a year, who takes the other one? Darius Heyward-Bey is a guy on the team, but he's not really an option. Just 32 catches over his last 24 games isn't going to cut it.  Markus Wheaton is a talented guy who showed up big in some games last year, and it might be him. Then we have Sammie Coates, a talented guy from Auburn who didn't play much last year because he was too often confused by the playbook. Seriously. That happens when players get to the NFL, but training camp reports say this year is different so far.  This all leads me to believe there won't be a clear cut #2 all year.  Not that it matters because the Steelers go 3-Wide a lot, but for fantasy purposes I think Coates has more upside than Wheaton, given the more natural talent.

Seahawks Running Back:

I know what you're saying "But they said Thomas Rawls would be the #1 and he's a really good back." I've heard it, and I get it.  Do you know who Chauncey Washington is? Chauncey is the Running Back USC to lead with when Carroll signed both Reggie Bush and LenDale White. What happened? Chauncey didn't play while those 2 were there, and ended up getting a few redshirts and finally playing as a Senior after they were gone.  This isn't saying Rawls won't play, but lets look at what Seattle did during the off-season, they drafted about 11 other RB's.  This leads me to believe they aren't completely sold on Rawls as the Bell-Cow, and they shouldn't be.  Rawls averaged only 2.8 YPC against teams who ranked in the top 15 in terms of YPC.  There is an outlier there with the Bengals, but that game was aided by some otherworldly holes because the Bengals defense over-played the bootleg.  This isn't what Marshawn Lynch did for them, so you can't expect Rawls to give you Marshawn Lynch type production. Lynch would get 100 yards on teams who didn't give up 100 yards to anyone.  Seattle is looking like RBBC (Running back by committee) team this year.  This isn't saying Rawls isn't talented, the kid showed some stuff last year, this had more to do with him reminding me of Alfred Morris. A player who flashes as a rookie, and then never quite got back there.  Be cautious when drafting him, a bad first round pick can destroy your Fantasy Football season. You need consistent production from your #1 pick, not a big game one day, and a bad game the next week. I fully expect Seattle to be RBBC, lowering the draft value of Rawls.

49ers Quarter Back:

Have you ever seen a shit show in person? Well watch this position battle this pre-season.  Neither, Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert are going to be Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, very few are.  The issue is though, these guys can't even seem to be Matt Stafford, or even Matt Ryan.  Kaepernick has looked good in the past, at his best he's been able to play like a top 10 QB in the NFL.  Gabbert has played good enough, and at his best has been an above-average starter. In Kaepernick's  best game last year, he posted a 128.2 QB rating. In Gabbert's best, he posted a 106.3 QB rating. Looking a little deeper, they both started 8 games.  In those 8 games, Kaepernick lead offenses scored less than 17 points 4 times. Gabbert lead offenses failed to score at least 17 points 6 times.  Gabbert threw interceptions in 4 of his 8 games. Kaepernick threw 2 interceptions in 2 of his 8 games.  There are highs and lows with both QB's, but last year was the best we've seen from Gabbert, and the   worst we've seen from Kaepernick.  Between the two when you look at the 8 games as a whole body of work, there wasn't ton of difference.  If I were Chip, I would gamble with the QB who has shown he can't play at a top level, and hope to get it by coaching him up.  But I'm not Chip Kelly, I'm  just a guy.  However, I do think Chip goes with Colin Kaepernick.  What does this mean for fantasy? It means don't draft either and if one plays well, consider them as a waiver gamble. 

Denver Broncos Quarter Back:

You have, in one-corner the Butt Fumbler Mark Sanchez. In another corner you have Trevor Siemen, whoever that is. Lastly behind them, they have Paxton Lynch, the rookie who looks like he's on his way to an EDM festival.  First, fantasy wise, none will win you a title, the Broncos are going to run the ball. Second, they are all very capable of managing games within Kubiak's offense. Matt Schaub did it so it can't be that hard right?  The way I see it is Sanchez begins the season as the starter, with Siemen backing him up.  The reason for Sanchez as the starter is simple, he game managed the NY Jet to two straight AFC title games.  This Broncos defense is what will carry them, Sanchez is capable enough to let that happen. 

There you have it. Some training camp battles to look out for, and there are some others out there, but they're boring.  Maybe I'll be wrong, but I doubt it. 

Bonus Hot Take: The Packers number 3 WR is going to be Ty Montgomery, none of the other guys you've heard of.

Thanks for reading.


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