Football is back! Like most, I am excited to see teams returning to camp and the headlines are flying as the season approaches. Redraft leagues are starting to form and dynasty trades are starting to bloom. It is time to prepare for the 2021 fantasy season. No better place to start than looking at some of the key training camp battles to watch. I have compiled a list of a few training camp battles to keep an eye on as the winner could help you win your fantasy leagues! Let’s dive right in!
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Training Camp Battles and Fantasy Football Impacts
Zack Moss vs Devin Singletary
This is a messy situation here in Buffalo. The Bills are a pass-heavy team that was unable to run effectively last season. This offseason the Bills staff has made it known they would like to improve the run game. As a result, one of these backs could become very viable for fantasy if one can cement the lead role. Both players have very different skill sets and frames. Zack Moss feels like the back-to-own here currently. Devin Singletary does get passing game work however once inside the twenty the Bills like to turn to Moss. So the touchdown upside lies with Moss. Also, Moss is a superior blocker on passing downs, who can also hold his own in the receiving column.
The biggest upside in this backfield lies with Moss, he is the more versatile back. He has the size and strength to be a short-yardage back yet the quick burst to take runs the distance. Singletary doesn’t give to the power and blocking ability Moss can. Along with the goal-line work that strictly lies between Moss and quarterback Josh Allen. As a result, Moss carries the highest upside which is easily an RB2 if he can control the snap share. Where if Singletary gets the majority both of them will struggle to be anything more than RB3s.
Russell Gage vs Olamide Zaccheaus
This is a huge must-watch in my books. Yes, the Falcons brought in Arthur Smith who has been known to have a run-heavy approach to his offenses. However, he has come out and said that this team will pass more than any other team he has. This makes sense to me as the defense has not improved greatly from last season in which they ranked 29th in yards given up. With the recent departure of Julio Jones, there is a wide-open spot up for grabs. Calvin Ridley has cemented himself as the top option in the passing game, with rookie sensation Kyle Pitts being the second option. The wide receiver two in this offense could easily see over 100 targets, so I am watching this battle between Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus very closely as either one could win this role.
The upside here in this battle lies mostly in Gage as he is a more versatile wide receiver who has handled over 100 targets before. He has proven success out of the slot and out wide as well. Early on in camp, he is showing an ability to make all sorts of catches on a diverse route tree. Gage has always been a guy Ryan looks for in the redzone due to his shiftiness. He for sure has low-end WR2 upside. As for Zaccheaus, I fear the upside is not as high, more of a low-end WR3. He seems slightly more limited in his overall ability. I fear he will not get as many looks in the red zone even if he is a main target between the twenties. This will limit his overall ability to be fantasy-relevant.
Trey Lance vs Jimmy Garoppolo
The third pick in the draft is earning some huge buzz early in camp, as he should. Trey Lance has huge upside in the NFL and fantasy. He is a big-bodied quarterback who can routinely make plays with his legs. Along with that, he has a cannon of an arm, very Josh Allen-like. The early reports are that Jimmy Garoppolo is the starter Week 1. I however am interested to see if Lance can push him and force Shanahan to start him Week 1. Very few top three picks don’t get a chance to start at some point in their rookie season. So it’s only a matter of time till he gets his shot, many 49ers fans hope it’s sooner than later. Quarterback battles are always the most fun training camp battles to watch.
Paired with the offensive mind of Shanahan and the great weapons around him, Lance would be a must-start in all formats if you own him. He could easily be a top 10 finisher in 2021 in this system if he gets to start all 17 games. There will be bumps in the road for sure being a rookie quarterback, however his rushing ability could give him a safe floor weekly. He could also give a huge bump to skill positions as they should be able to push the ball down the field much easier. However, if Garoppolo wins the job out of camp the upside is not there. Garoppolo has proven he can be a top 24 fantasy quarterback in the past. However, coming off injury this year I worry he won’t be able to even produce that. He will be a steady player to plug in but carries limited upside weekly. Make sure you watch this one as the range of outcomes is very different, as it will affect the overall offense as well.
Bryan Edwards vs Henry Ruggs III vs John Brown
This three-headed race is for the second option in a low-volume passing offense. The Raiders have a clear favorite option in Darren Waller in the passing game. However, this does leave room for a second option to have some upside for fantasy. Both Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards had their struggles in year one last season. Neither were very relevant for fantasy purposes, however, ex-Raider Nelson Agholor did have weeks that he was a viable start. Early in camp so far everyone can stop talking about Bryan Edwards and how great he looks. Derek Carr was quoted saying “it’s a lot of fun to throw to Edwards.” It seems that this second-year receiver has a jump on the speedster Ruggs and the vet John Brown.
However, I am keeping a close eye on this as all three of these guys have a chance to take over that role. The range of outcomes for me is extremely different depending on who wins the battle. Edwards seems to have the highest upside of the three as he has a more complete game in my mind. He will see more red zone work than any of the other two. Ruggs and Brown are good route runners who can stretch the field much better than Edwards.
However, they will be relying on the big play touchdown to make them relevant weekly. For PPR Edwards could sneak into the low-end WR2 discussion if he gets most of the targets in all areas of the field. Where Ruggs or Brown may only ever top out at a WR3 due to the lack of red zone targets. This is one of the more wide-open training camp battles out there and will certainly provide plenty of fireworks.
Chase Edmonds vs James Conner
The cardinals let Kenyan Drake walk in free agency only to replace him with James Conner. This definitely makes the backfield slightly crowded again. What we thought was going to be Chase Edmonds‘ show now seems like a possible split backfield. However in the same situation last season Drake finished RB14 and Edmonds RB23 in PPR formats. For me, I am watching this situation closely, if Conner gets Drake’s role we could see him get most of the goal-line touches. The Cardinals have never trusted Edmonds inside the twenties. I don’t foresee that happening now with Conner present. As a result, I want to see if either of these players can win the lead role.
The upside on a player like Chase Edmonds is huge, I believe he could finish top 15 if he can get work inside the red zone. He carries a must high ceiling than Conner will in most leagues. Only if he can receive the goal line touches. This is the main thing I am watching, he has produced top 24 finishes in PPR without a ton of goal line work. If they add that to his plate we are talking top 12 finish possibly. However, if Conner can push for a majority of the work the upside is still there just not top 12 in my opinion. He will carry a much lower ceiling as Edmonds would see most of the passing work still. As a result, I see him caping out at a mid RB2.
Keelan Cole vs Denzel Mims
The battle for the second option in a Jets passing attack has never been a great topic, until now. With a new coaching staff and new quarterback at the helm, I want the skill players in New York. Corey Davis was brought in to be the lead guy in this passing attack, however, after that, the battle is wide open. The battle for the second outside receiver seems to be down to Keelan Cole and Denzel Mims. Mims is a second-year receiver who battled hamstring issues in year one and never got going. Now in year two, he is in a battle with Cole who is a savvy veteran wide receiver who has never gotten a real and consistent shot to show what he can do. Whoever can win this battle will have a good amount of opportunity to produce. The Jets will be playing from behind a decent amount this season and will need to take to the air quite often.
There is a very wide range of outcomes for whoever wins this battle. If Cole wins the job I feel the upside is slightly more limited as he is more of a complementary piece to the offense. He has solid hands and great speed but I feel he lacks the size and grit to play the middle of the field. As a result, I feel he carries low-end WR3 upside. However if Mims can win this role in camp, his profile and abilities can lead to bigger things. He has a more complete profile and can do most of everything well. Mims will carry low-end WR2 upside due to the fact he can push Cory Davis more. Mims is always open due to his ability in the 50/50 ball. This allows quarterbacks to just trust their guy and give him a chance, leading to more targets in turn more production.
*EDITOR’S NOTE – The Owensboro Flash is one of the most underrated receivers and deserves better than being locked in any training camp battles, much less with Denzel Mims.
Melvin Gordon vs Javonte Williams
The Denver Broncos made a splash when they traded up in the second round to select running back Javonte Williams. Williams is a big strong back from UNC who led the nation in broken tackles and fourth in touchdowns. With Melvin Gordon still here we are unsure what the roles will be. Gordon was effective last season and finished as the RB18 in PPR scoring. The question here will be how much does Javonte eat into Gordon’s role, and can he take over the lead role. I will be watching this very closely. The Broncos should be a better offense in 2021 with a healthy Courtland Sutton and improved quarterback play. This should led to more points and more opportunities to score touchdowns for the running backs.
Both Gordon and Williams carry similar upsides in my opinion. Both are talented backs who can play all three downs. This allows for the bulk of opportunities, Williams carries a touch more upside in a led role though. Williams brings a little more pep in his step and will allow for a few more big plays than Gordon can at this point. I also think if Gordon wins the role Williams will have enough of a role to make both players hard to start. Either one will have an opportunity to finish as a mid to low-end RB2 if they win a lead role.
Tyrell Williams vs Breshad Perriman vs Quintez Cephus vs Amon-Ra St. Brown
This one is a long deep one, as there are truthfully four or more options here in Detroit. The team traded away Matt Stafford for Jared Goff plus this offseason committing to a rebuild. They also did not resign wide receivers, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. This leaves a wide-open depth chart. They brought in Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman in free agency to battle with Quintez Cephus who is a second-year wide receiver. They then went out and grabbed Amon-Ra St. Brown in the draft. I am extremely curious to see how this plays out and who emerges as the top target in this passing game. Goff has proven he can support multiple top 24 wide receivers. With TJ Hockenson in line for a ton of targets, the top wide receiver may be the second option in the passing game. However, I still want to roster a player who could easily see close to 100 targets, as this team will most likely be pass-heavy.
The range of outcomes here is great as we have four players with different skill sets, Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman carry the lowest upside of the four. Williams and Perriman have been in this league for a while and have shown they are great complementary pieces. However St. Brown and Cephus carry a much higher upside. Cephus may not carry the speed that others due but he runs crisp routes and is almost always open due to a huge catch radius. This is where the biggest upside lies for me. Cephus can produce high-end WR3 numbers if he is given the opportunity. He will be Goff’s best friend in the red zone.
Justin Fields vs Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton was signed in early spring to come in and be the starter this season. Then the Bears drafted Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick. For me, this battle has huge implications, as the Bears have all the pieces in place to make a playoff run. The lack of solid quarterback play has hindered this offense as far as fantasy production goes. With a solid running game led by David Montgomery, the offense game fed off play action. Add in a top-notch wide receiver in Allen Robinson and a budding star in Darnell Mooney. Along with a big target in the middle of the field in Cole Kmet, this offense is full of playmakers. Whoever wins this battle will have lots of weapons to use and the winner could have an effect on these playmakers as well. The Chicago receivers make this one of the more exciting training camp battles to watch.
Dalton has proven he can support top fantasy options and be a decent option himself in the past. He carries a much lower ceiling though as he doesn’t carry any rushing upside. He will be able to produce low-end QB2 numbers. However, on the other side, Justin Fields carries a much high ceiling due to his rushing floor. Fields can produce high QB2 numbers if given a full 17 game season. His ability to stretch the field and accuracy will help produce multiple fantasy options from this offense.