NFC Training Camp Battles
Throughout the league, there are plenty of contested situations to monitor right now. These are my most interesting training camp battles to watch in the NFC as we get closer to the 2019 NFL season!
The Pack have a new “offensive mastermind” head coach in Matt LaFleur, so whoever is toting the rock most often has sneaky value in a backfield that a lot of people have forgotten about in fantasy. My initial nod goes to Jones as the more integral piece, as he’s seemingly more versatile, but he and Williams had almost identical receiving yard totals in 2018: 206 yards to 210 yards(though Williams had 4 more games to do it). Confidence in Jones wanes when you hear the GM complaining that he needs better strength and conditioning though, and Coach LaFleur himself has implicated a committee approach when pressed on the issue. Williams is a plodder, but he flourished a bit at the end of the season when Jones went to I.R. In the end, the edge goes to Jones for me, on account of HC LaFleur coming from a Titans team that took way too long to lean on it’s big back. It’s definitely a situation to monitor, as the Packers could find themselves in scoring position more often this season.
Miles Sanders vs the World
Yes, Sanders against the world sounds a little melodramatic, but it seems like that may be the case in Philly’s crowded backfield. Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and new addition Jordan Howard will all be vying for touches along with the rookie. Sanders’ drafting has to crush the spirits of Howard, who just left one team after fading to a faster more dynamic back(Tarik Cohen), only to join another that just added another such player into the mix – and Sanders is much bigger than Cohen, making Howard more redundant. Sanders has much to learn though as a newcomer, so the reigns aren’t his just yet. Clement and Smallwood both have high ceilings and know the offense better than Sanders or Howard right now – They’re both change-of-pace backs though. Sanders has the leg up on all of these guys in the sense that he doesn’t need to come off the field. I think he’s got the best shot at leading this backfield in the long run, but I don’t think it’s a sure thing, especially from the get-go.
Oh did I forget to include Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert too? This is a particularly interesting situation to monitor, as the 49ers were 3rd in the league in rushing yards last season(1,799). They have arguably the deepest backfield in the league right now, and HC Kyle Shanahan has said that he envisions having four active backs on game days – Who ends up playing “will be up to the players.” I don’t see any clear cut bellcow emerging out of this group, but I do see some slight advantages that give a couple of these guys better fantasy outlooks. Breida looks like the early down back, which is funny because he’s lightest one, so I think he starts in the lead, if he’s healthy – which is not a certainty. He’s dealing with a torn pectoral right now. Coleman is a new hire, which usually bodes well for playing time, and Shanahan has indicated that he’ll be used as more than a change-of-pace back due to his size. In fact, Shanahan has indicated that Coleman will be the short-yardage back for the 49ers. I think he’s the biggest threat to Breida for these reasons, but I can’t leave McKinnon out of the mix. He’s always managed to hang around and produce in whatever offense he’s in, despite not being the most athletic or dynamic runner on the roster in most instances. He’s coming off a torn ACL, the main reason Coleman was acquired, so he’s a big question mark, but if McKinnon can prove that he’s healthy he’ll be hard to keep off the field. Wilson and Mostert have outside shots and are more or less just touch sucks that will be on the field just enough to keep multiple players from getting double digit touches every week. I actually like Coleman here for fantasy purposes, as I think you get more bang for your buck with him. If it looks like he’s getting goal line touches early on, he’s definitely that add to make, as he’ll also likely come cheaper than Breida.
Highly touted coming into the 2018 season, Ronald Jones was largely ineffective over his rookie year(77 all-purpose yards, 1 TD). He only played in 9 games due to injury, but he didn’t leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth in that games he was active. Barber on the other hand, surprisingly notched over 900 all-purpose yards and 6 TDs. And while the ho-hum taste he left wasn’t particularly saccharin, he fared much better Jones. The only reason I think Jones might make things interesting is because so far in Buccaneers camp, he’s been the most impressive player on the field, according to GM Todd Licht. Even more telling is that the Bucs didn’t add another back in the draft, which one would have expected considering there unimpressive back field. I think they believe in Jones and Perry. If I had to hedge my bet with one of them, it would have to be Jones. We know what we have in Barber, and it’s not that temping. Jones could flop, but his upside is considerably higher based on his abilities.
AP is the only starting candidate in the Redskins backfield that isn’t coming off an ACL injury within the last year, so despite him being 34, he’s the de facto lead back in Washington coming into the summer. With 1,250 all-purpose yards and 8 TDs under his belt in 2018, he’s projecting as a shrewd option fantasy owners – if things stay as they are. Chances are that they won’t. Derrius Guice is slated to be ready for training camp, though he’s coming along more slowly than first imagined. Guice was arguably our favorite back behind Saquon Barkley coming into the draft last year – a slashing bruiser who can make you miss. The best time to have an ACL injury is early in your career, as youth tends to aid the healing process, so Guice could bounce back to stellar form once he gets going. The same could be said for 2019 draftee Bryce Love, who was one of the most exciting running back prospects in the nation, before going down to an ACL injury last year. This kid was the Doak Walker and Lombardi Winner in 2017, meaning he was not only the best running back but arguably the best overall player in the nation. If anyone should be able to come back from an ACL tear, it’s this guy. Chris Thompson is still kicking around of course and has a somewhat similar profile as Love, so the rookie will have to contend with him to some degree. I think Love has first two down ability though. We’ll probably see a committee of some sort over the course of the season, but my money is on Guice to lead the group this season. He won’t need to come off the field if healthy, and Love won’t be available until mid training camp, giving him ample time to take the reins.