Training Camp Battles: Week in Review, August 4th
Last week, we took a look at a number of the training camp battles around the NFL that will have major impacts on fantasy football this season. Let’s now take a look at things now that we’re a week closer to the start of the season.
Miami running back: It appears Knowshon Moreno could miss the entire preseason as he continues to work his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery. That certainly makes things cloudy about how he’ll be used once the season starts. Lamar Miller is the big winner here, at least for now. He’s the likely starter and should stay in a prominent role.
New England running back: The Patriots have been impressed with rookie James White thus far, and he’s expected to contribute on all three downs for the team. That’s good news for White and bad news for Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. The Patriots have routinely found a way to use multiple running backs in the past to the point where all have some value. But the emergence of White could mean none of the New England running backs are viable fantasy starters week-to-week.
New York Jets quarterback: As expected, Geno Smith has been getting nearly all of the reps with the first team thus far in training camp, with Michael Vick picking up the scraps. I’ve been told that the job is Smith’s as long as he doesn’t fall on his face. That’s possible, but the Jets are intent on Smith keeping that job.
Pittsburgh Steelers No. 2 receiver: Second-year pro Markus Wheaton has been getting most of the reps as the No. 2 receiver opposite Antonio Brown. Fellow second-year pro Justin Brown remains in the mix, but Lance Moore, who will remain the No. 3 guy regardless, could wind up catching as many passes this season as whoever wins the No. 2 spot. Remember, Jerricho Cotchery caught 10 touchdown passes in 2013 in that role.
Cleveland quarterback: There have been conflicting reports coming out of Cleveland regarding the Brian Hoyer/Johnny Manziel battle. My sources are still telling me they’ll be shocked if Hoyer doesn’t open the season as the starter. Other reports are saying Manziel is closing the gap. But know this, in a scrimmage Friday, Manziel struggled with his accuracy, going 3-11 with an interception. Hoyer was 7-13. Manziel will likely start at some point this season, but it’s unlikely it will be an all season thing.
Jacksonville wide receiver: If you were hoping for some clarity in Jacksonville with its largely unproven group of receivers, you’re in luck. The lone established guy, Cecil Shorts, has been sitting out with a hamstring issue. With second-year pro Ace Sanders suspended for the first four games, rookie Allen Robinson (hamstring) will now be out at least two weeks and Tandon Doss has also been sitting with an ankle injury. What all of this means is that Marquise Lee has a clear cut path to the No. 2 job.
Denver running back: Montee Ball has clearly established himself as the starter and feels he’s going to get 250 carries. But the real news is that Ronnie Hillman, who got lost on the depth chart at times in 2013, has emerged as the clear-cut No. 2. He’s a better receiver than Ball and the speedster could have some value as an obvious handcuff and third-down back.
Oakland running back: It appears that Darren McFadden will be the “starter” at running back for the Raiders, but that he and newcomer Maurice Jones-Drew will split carries. That probably means a 60-40 edge for McFadden in terms of touches, at least as long as McFadden can stay healthy. I wouldn’t look at McFadden as anything more than a No. 3 running back with MJD being more of a low-end No. 3 with some upside given McFadden’s notoriously lengthy injury history.
San Francisco running back: With Kendall Hunter out for the season rookie Carlos Hyde is drawing comparisons to longtime starter Frank Gore. If you draft Gore, you’d better take Hyde as well. On his own, Hyde has value as a No. 4 fantasy back given how much the 49ers rely on the running game and Gore’s age and injury history.
St. Louis wide receiver: Brian Quick has been drawing some rave reviews from the coaching staff as the team’s most improved player. Kenny Britt has also received some good reviews but admits he’s still learning the offense. Tavon Austin will likely be the focal point of things in his second season but keep an eye on how the others are used in the Rams’ first preseason game. This is a crowded field but Quick and Britt are emerging as front-runners.
New Orleans wide receiver: Rookie Brandin Cooks has been the star of the team’s training camp in West Virginia while Kenny Stills sat out a week with a quad injury. Cooks is more of a slot receiver, but he’s got Drew Brees to work with and Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston stealing catches as well, but Cooks is talented enough to wind up being a valuable No. 3 fantasy receiver.
Atlanta running back: With Steven Jackson sidelined with a hamstring injury, rookie Devonta Freeman has taken advantage. Freeman is an accomplished receiver out of the backfield, as well. The Falcons think he could be an every-down back.
Minnesota quarterback: Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater are getting the majority of the snaps in practice and former first-round pick Christian Ponder has been an afterthought. This is a job that will be won in the preseason games. But you can scratch Ponder as a possibility, not that you would have considered him anyway.
Detroit No. 3 receiver: It appears that Kevin Olgetree has emerged as the No. 3 receiver behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Given how much Detroit relies on the pass, that could be a significant role.
Philadelphia wide receiver: Riley Cooper, one of the favorites to be a starter, has been in a walking boot for over a week. Jeff Maehl has been filling in for him. Jeremy Maclin has also been slow working back from a torn ACL that ended his season in 2013. Brad Smith has been working with the top unit in the slot, with rookie Jordan Matthews backing him up. Maehl played for Chip Kelly at Oregon and had four receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown last season.
New York Giants running back: The Giants are planning a committee approach at running back. But Rashad Jennings is the starter, with rookie Andre Williams, Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox backing him up. In other words, there are not a lot of proven board members on that committee. Look for Jennings to get the majority of the carries here, with Williams worked in there as well.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.