12 Position Battles Heading into Preseason Week 1
The Hall of Fame Game is in the books – thankfully for those of us who had to cover that backup fest.
The rest of the league will begin teeing it up for their preseason openers later this week and we’ll start to see some addition clarity in positional battles around the league.
Here’s where we stand with some of the key fantasy battles going into the week:
Buffalo quarterback: Head coach Rex Ryan said Matt Cassell will likely get the start at quarterback over E.J. Manuel and Tyrod Taylor in the team’s preseason opener. None of these guys have separated from the pack, and – given their overall talent – it could be a situation of picking the guy who messes up the least. The winner will directly affect the value of WR Sammy Watkins.
New England running back: Jonas Gray came in 10 pounds lighter and has looked good. LeGarrette Blount couldn’t pass his conditioning test, has been nicked up and will miss the regular season opener because of a marijuana suspension. The Patriots RB situation is always cloudy, but the job is there for Gray to win.
Philadelphia wide receiver: Jordan Matthews is reportedly developing a nice rapport with Sam Bradford. Rookie Nelson Agholor, meanwhile, has struggled and looked every bit of a first-year player. Everyone who penciled in Agholor as a starter might want to tap the brakes on that. Riley Cooper could hold him off. And Matthews will be No. 1.
Tennessee running back: Bishop Sankey didn’t do much last season in Tennessee’s crowded veteran backfield. Now, the second-year back is the veteran of a young group. He’s looked good thus far, while rookie David Cobb has struggled. Sankey’s a No. 3 or 4 fantasy back right now, but he could be primed for a better season in 2015.
Houston running back: Let’s forget about the muddled QB race in Houston for a bit. That will start to become more apparent once the Texans start playing games. The running back situation is now a mess after news of Arian Foster’s long-term injury status. Alfred Blue will get the first shot to replace Foster, who is out until at least November with a groin injury, but the Texans like Chris Polk and Jonathan Grimes as well. We’ll keep a close eye on this situation.
Jacksonville running back: Rookie T.J. Yeldon has reportedly been impressive in camp for the Jaguars. He’s only got Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson to climb over into a starting spot. Look for that to happen sooner rather than later.
Jets running back: Chris Ivory has gotten the majority of the first-team carries in training camp. Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy aren’t exactly top-shelf competition. But Ivory could wind up being a nice late-round sleeper.
Giants running back: Shane Vereen might have the early upper hand in the Giants’ running back battle over Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings. Regardless of how this works out, Jennings isn’t going to get the bulk of the carries. It could be more of a committee. Keep that in mind before drafting Jennings.
San Diego wide receiver: Stevie Johnson has reportedly looked good and is being counted on to replace Eddie Royal’s production. Johnson had a couple of big games last season and should benefit from a change of scenery and improved QB play.
Cleveland running back: Rookie Duke Johnson has been out for an extended time with a hamstring injury and head coach Mike Pettine called his absence “disappointing.” Terrance West also reportedly showed up out of shape. Isaiah Crowell is looking more and more like he’ll be the guy.
Cincinnati running back: Last season, Giovani Bernard went into the season as No. 1, with then-rookie Jeremy Hill as his complimentary back. That has changed completely this year. It’s looking like Hill will be an every-down back and be backed up by Bernard. The Bengals want Hill to handle a full workload, meaning Bernard might be nothing more than a handcuff.
Cincinnati wide receiver: The Bengals released their first depth chart, and it had Mohammad Sanu listed ahead of Marvin Jones. Sometimes depth charts can be misleading – the head coach will pass them off to a PR guy to fill out – but in this case, both guys could be valuable. Remember, Sanu was a breakout star last season with Jones, who reached double digits in TDs in 2013 – out for the year. It’s doubtful there will be enough to go around to make both valuable since A.J. Green has to get his looks, so let’s hope some clarity evolves here moving forward.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.