Today's the day. Training camp begins for every team across the NFL today, officially. Which means we're in the home stretch of the offseason. The first preseason game is in nine days, too. We've spent the whole offseason researching, building our rankings, arguing about them, and drafting, and we're so close to having them put to the test.
Because training camp is the first test of what we're expecting for the upcoming season. It's important not to overreact to training camp and the preseason, but you also don't want to get take lock -- where you just set your assumptions and leave them there, no matter what news comes in.
It's all about separating the important news from the noise, and that's what I'm here to help you with. We'll be positively inundated with "best shape of my life" stories in the coming days, and you can safely ignore that kind of talk. You can ignore the "beat writer says he's the best he's ever looked" stuff, too. What we'll want to focus on over the coming days are injury updates, any depth chart hints, and other things that might actually be actionable.
I'll have a rundown of all of the most relevant news from around the league Wednesday morning, but today let's finish up the biggest questions heading into camp, focusing on each NFC team today. If you missed yesterday's newsletter, I went over the AFC's biggest questions. We also had Dave Richard's sleepers come out on CBS Fantasy, focusing on potential cheap difference makers like Adam Trautman and A.J. Dillon, while Jamey Eisenberg took a look at potential third-year wide receiver breakouts like Deebo Samuel. You should check out both.
First, though, there was some pretty important news from out of Green Bay Tuesday:
Or, did he never actually go anywhere? Either way, barring something unexpected, Rodgers will report to camp for the Packers and be their starting quarterback for 2021. That might be it, as the agreement for Rodgers to report included a voiding of the final year on his contract in 2023 as well as an agreement between Rodgers and the team to re-consider the relationship at the end of the season -- which is widely expected to lead to Rodgers being traded next offseason.
The Packers are hoping they can get one more Super Bowl trophy out of Rodgers before that happens, but we're just happy to know Davante Adams and Aaron Jones will have their quarterback there without any questions. Could they have still been elite Fantasy options with Jordan Love at QB? Sure, it's possible, but it was a lot less likely. Now, you can and should safely draft Adams as the No. 1 WR in all leagues, as soon as the middle of the first round. And Jones should be taken in the same range -- maybe even earlier if you're in an especially RB-hungry draft.
Biggest Training Camp Questions: NFC
For the biggest questions for every AFC team, check out yesterday's newsletter, here.
49ers -- How quickly can Trey Lance get up to speed?
It seems safe to assume Jimmy Garoppolo will be starting for the 49ers this season, but it is by no means a guarantee. Lance has played just one game since 2019, so it's asking a lot for him to step onto the field in training camp and win the job from a decent-enough veteran like Garoppolo. And if Garoppolo does hold Lance off, he'll continue to be decent enough, delivering the ball to the 49ers playmakers more often than not, without doing much in the way to elevate this offense. With George Kittle a top-three tight end, Brandon Aiyuk a fifth-round pick, and Deebo Samuel going off the board around 90th overall, it might be tough for all three to live up to expectations with Garoppolo. If this offense is going to take a leap, Lance will have to be ready to lead them there early. -- 49ers Team Preview
Bears -- Does Justin Fields have a shot?
All along, Matt Nagy has insisted Andy Dalton is his starter. That was the case when he signed Dalton, it was the case when they drafted Fields, and it's been the case every time he's been asked since. But what happens if Fields hits the practice field and dominates? Dalton is fine -- probably somewhere south of Garoppolo's level of decent-enough -- but Fields is the kind of talent the Bears have been looking for for a long time, and with the coaching staff and front office facing a lot of pressure to win, it might not take too many impressive practices for Fields to get the job. He would potentially be a top-10 Fantasy QB the second he steps on the field, but he may not be the best thing for Allen Robinson's value if it leads to less throwing. -- Bears Team Preview
Buccaneers -- Who is the No. 1 RB?
There probably isn't one, and that's by design. It's going to be a combination of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette in the early downs, with Giovani Bernard handling the bulk of the passing downs. Most likely. It is at least possible that what happened late last season, where Jones emerged as the legitimate No. 1 RB and Fournette was actually inactive one week, could happen. Would it be Jones getting that opportunity again? Or does Fournette's more balanced skill set make him the better option? There's upside in this running game is one of them is the true lead back, but as long as they are splitting work, neither is going to be more than a low-end starter hoping for a touchdown. -- Buccaneers Team Preview
Cardinals -- What does the RB split look like?
We're assuming Chase Edmonds is going to get more work after he largely operated as the 1b to Kenyan Drake's 1a last season, but what will that actually look like? Are the Cardinals truly prepared to feature Edmonds as an early-down back as well as their passing option? If that's the case, he could be one of the breakout stars of the season. However, if James Conner largely occupies the Drake role, that would leave Edmonds where he was a year ago -- a solid RB2, but little more. I want to see Edmonds getting the bulk of the first-team work. -- Cardinals Team Preview
Cowboys -- Is CeeDee Lamb ready to be No. 1?
I've been operating under the assumption that Amari Cooper would be the No. 1 WR for the Cowboys, and I still expect that to be true. But, with Cooper not cleared for the start of camp after offseason ankle surgery, it's at least worth asking whether Lamb could fill that role. He was largely used in the slot last season and actually played more than 75% of the snaps just three times during his rookie season. Lamb averaged 10.8 yards per target and sure looked like a superstar in the five games Dak Prescott played, but he struggled to just 7.1 yards per attempt after Prescott's Week 5 injury. That was part of a larger offensive malaise, but Cooper still averaged 9.2 yards per target in that stretch, so there was still a gap between the two of them. The Cowboys are already talking about increasing his usage, as offensive coordinator Kellen Moore told The Athletic, "He's going to play all over the field. He'll line up everywhere across the field and we're going to have fun doing it.". -- Cowboys Team Preview
Eagles -- Can Jalen Hurts make a leap?
Hurts is a potential top-10 Fantasy QB because of his rushing abilities, and that's not in question. However, his hold on the Eagles' starting job seems tenuous because it's not clear if he can be a good enough passer to get the job done. He completed just 52% of his passes in 2020, and while Hurts did have an extremely high degree of difficulty on the throws he made, which traveled 9.1 yards down the field, on average, he still underperformed his expected completion percentage by 3.3%, the fifth-worst mark in the league. With Devonta Smith added to the receiving corps and Jalen Reagor healthy, he should have better weapons than he did last season, but it's still on Hurts to prove he can get the most out of them. If he can, this could be an excellent offense -- and Hurts could be a contender for the No. 1 spot at QB. -- Eagles Team Preview
Falcons -- Is Kyle Pitts ready to replace Julio Jones?
Tight ends aren't typically asked to replace Hall of Fame wide receivers, but tight ends aren't typically taken No. 4 overall. Pitts, it goes without saying, is not your typical tight end. This isn't one of those questions we're likely to get a good answer to during training camp, but you'll want to see him used as the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Calvin Ridley in the preseason. He'll need that role to justify his cost as one of the first five tight ends off the board in nearly all drafts. -- Falcons Team Preview
Football Team -- Does Antonio Gibson get the three-down treatment?
Gibson was excellent as a rookie, but he ceded a lot of work in the passing game to J.D. McKissic. To make the leap many are expecting into the elite tier at the RB position, he'll need more work in the passing game. Coaches have talked about using him that way, so as long as he's healthy, that's the expectation. Health is an interesting question, given that he was still rehabbing in June from the toe injury he suffered toward the end of last season. It's not expected to be an issue in training camp, but I'm sure it also wasn't expected to linger into minicamps, so it's something to keep an eye on, at the very least. Let's hope there aren't any lingering issues. -- Football Team Preview
Giants -- Is Saquon Barkley fully healthy?
We can't really seem to get a straight answer on this one. ESPN's Jordan Raanan spoke with Giants coach Joe Judge Monday and Judge said the team is planning on taking a long-term approach to Barkley's health and wouldn't commit to Barkley being available for Week 1. Barkley has been similarly noncommittal when asked recently, and he was placed on the PUP list to start training camp, so he's not quite there yet. I would still bet on Barkley being there for Week 1, but it's no longer guaranteed. He's a high-upside RB1 with more risk than you prefer to see from a first-round pick, and you should be looking for backup Devontae Booker in the mid-to-late rounds whether you draft Barkley or not. -- Giants Team Preview
Lions -- Was all that Jamaal Williams stuff just coach speak?
D'Andre Swift was one of the more popular breakout candidates at the RB position all offseason, but offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn threw some cold water on the hype when he started talking about the newly acquired Williams as his "A" back. What he meant by that was Williams is more of a between-the-tackles, early-down back than Swift. It's not what you want to hear about a back who was being drafted in or near the first round at one point, but it's also worth remembering that Austin Ekeler averaged 95.4 yards per game over the past two seasons with Lynn as his coach, while doing much of his damage as a pass catcher. Swift may or may not be the same kind of passing game weapon as Ekeler, but he still has a path to being a No. 1 RB. The bigger issue might just be that this offense won't be good enough for him to get there. -- Lions Team Preview
Packers -- Can they keep Aaron Rodgers happy?
Rodgers is back in the fold, so now it's all about making sure he can keep dominating the way he did a year ago. As long as Davante Adams is healthy, that should be easy enough -- no QB-WR combination has been more prolific over the last few seasons than that one. Now that Rodgers is committed, there really just aren't many questions here. That's a good thing. -- Packers Team Preview
Panthers -- Can Sam Darnold show us something?
The Panthers have most of the pieces you want for an elite passing offense except, you know, the quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater was decent -- and three top-25 WR came from this Panthers offense a year ago -- but they rightly recognized they needed more to maximize their offense. Darnold is, to put it kindly, not guaranteed to give them more. At least, not based on what we saw from his very rough three years in New York. We won't know whether Darnold has taken a step forward until the game start to matter, but we'll want to see reports of better decision making, and we'll definitely want to see it in the preseason. -- Panthers Team Preview
Rams -- Can Darrell Henderson replace Cam Akers?
He's going to be asked to do it, at the very least. And, with the Rams so far deciding they aren't looking to the veteran RB market to fill out their room seems to be a vote of confidence in Henderson's chances. Or maybe it's a vote of confidence in Xavier Jones, Jake Funk, and Raymond Calais. Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters Monday the question with Henderson has never been about whether he's skilled enough; it's about staying healthy. Let's hope he can do that in the preseason. -- Rams Team Preview
Saints -- Who is starting at QB?
Everything comes down to that, given how different the offense is likely to look depending on whether Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill is starting. I was strongly on team Jameis, and that would still be my preference because I think it means a higher upside for Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. However, Thomas' injury does change the calculation just a bit, because this offense could struggle to consistently move the ball with Winston throwing to the likes of Tre'Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway as his top receiving options. Hill's rushing ability could help keep the offense afloat, and my guess is any Thomas absence will lead to more touches for Kamara regardless. I'm worried the Saints could end up with a pretty ugly offense, so hopefully one of the two QBs can emerge quickly and they can settle this thing. A protracted battle where it isn't clear what kind of offense they are going to run wouldn't induce much confidence, personally. -- Saints Team Preview
Seahawks -- Are they going to let Russ cook?
It's still not entirely clear what the Seahawks' plan to do on offense. In 2020, they opened things up early on, with Russell Wilson putting up a 5,000-yard, 56-touchdown pace while averaging 37.1 passes per game over the first eight games. Wilson couldn't keep the pace up, however, and stumbled in the second half, with multiple touchdown passes in just three of his final eight games, putting up a 24-touchdown, 3,342-yard pace. There haven't been many details about the offense Shane Waldron is installing after replacing Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator, but one thing that has been discussed a lot is the idea of tempo -- pushing the pace the way Wilson has been pushing for years. Will that mean more passing than we've seen in the past? That's the big question, and it's the one that Wilson's value hinges on. We know he's going to be a good Fantasy QB, but if they can tap back into what they found in the first half last season, he can be as good as anyone. -- Seahawks Team Preview
Because their offense figures to be so concentrated between Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen -- that trio combined for 518 touches last season -- there really isn't much new we can find out from camp. There aren't exactly many position battles going on. However, it will be worth watching Smith, who figures to be the team's top option at tight end after working as Kyle Rudolph's understudy in his first two seasons. With Rudolph gone and Thielen on the wrong side of 30, Smith might have the opportunity to emerge into a role fitting a must-start Fantasy tight end. -- Vikings Team Preview