Position Battles to Watch:AFC East
It’s early, but now is the time to make notes on who’s getting the action in camps as the NFL season starts to warm up. These are some of the position battles to keep an eye on as things get underway…
Emmanuel Sanders vs Gabriel Davis
Sanders was added to the equation whenever the Bills parted ways with John Brown, and he makes a fitting Brown replacement. The catch is Sanders is 34 and the Bills already have Gabriel Davis who is coasting into his second year – Davis averaged 9.8 pts in PPR formats in games Brown missed last year. The Bills do run more 4-wide sets than most NFL teams, but chances are either Sanders or Davis will see the majority of action in 3-wide sets in addition to mainstays Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley.
Myles Gaskin vs Malcolm Brown vs Salvon Ahmed vs Gerrid Doaks
Many thought that the Dolphins would pick up a RB in the draft, and they did, but Gerrid Doaks is underwhelming to say the least – He runs a 4.57 40 and didn’t start in college until his senior year. That being said, he can’t be counted out due to the lackluster talent in front of him. Malcolm Brown has also been acquired by the Dolphins as a short-yardage back since last season. He’s coming off of his best year in 2020 when he had almost 600 yards and 5 TDs, but he’s not a lead back. A dark-horse for significant carries is Salvon Ahmed who had some solid outings with Gaskin out with injury last season, including one 120+ yard 1 TD monster against the Patriots. Ahmed has potential it seems, but he’s still probably working behind Gaskin. Yes, Gaskin is the front-runner to lead the backfield again this season after putting up over 900 all-purpose yards and 5 TDs in 10 games in 2020. I like Gaskin, I think he’s more than capable if he can stay healthy, but I don’t know that he can and that’s why I’m watching this situation.
New England Patriots
Cam Newton vs Mac Jones
Newton was less than stellar in 2020, so it’s not a surprise that the Pats took Jones as the 15th pick in the draft. Newton’s hand is healthy though, so we should see what he has left in the tank sooner than later. If Jones comes along just quickly in camp, and seems to give New England a better chance to thrive than Cam, I wouldn’t put it past Belichick to throw the kid in the fire. Wouldn’t be the first time he’s taken a shot on a young QB…
Hunter Henry vs Jonnu Smith
Chances are that one of these guys is going to lead the Patriots in receptions this season, especially if Cam Newton remains under center for the majority of it. Both Smith and Henry are athletic, but Smith profiles as more of the “move” TE while Henry is more of the “in line” type. Let’s see who’s getting more of the targets from Cam this offseason, though there’s a chance that they cannibalize each other’s fantasy value if the offense is as anemic as it was last season.
New York Jets
Michael Carter vs Ty Johnson vs Tevin Coleman
With a rookie QB under center, the Jets are going to need to run the ball early and often, so this is an important competition to keep track of. Tevin Coleman has the most experience of the bunch and is already familiar with the Jets’ offense as HC Robert Saleh and OC Mike LaFleur are recent 49ers. He’s also arguably the fastest runner of the bunch, but he’s not the most elusive – That’s Carter. Carter is the dynamic rookie out of North Carolina who split carries with Javonte Williams there and still managed a 1,200+ yard 9 TD season his final year. Carter has a strong chance of ending up lead back here. Johnson doesn’t, but he can’t be excised from the equation, as he’s the biggest and most powerful back of the lot.
Keelan Cole vs Denzel Mims, Elijah Moore vs Jamison Crowder
I love Denzel Mims as a prospect, but apparently he’s not an ideal fit for the Jet’s new offense – Keelan Cole just might be though. Cole is rumored to be the best candidate outside opposite Corey Davis in LaFleur’s offense, while either Elijah Moore or Jamison Crowder mans the slot – Which brings me to the second WR battle in New York. Crowder was recently retained by the Jets, and he’s a seasoned vet, but Moore has been the best player by far in OTAs. There’s an outside chance here that Crowder retains the slot while Moore ends up outside opposite Davis. There are a lot of configurations that are possible here, so we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled.