Not much has gone according to plan this NFL offseason, but here we are at the end of July with training camps set to open around the league. It won't look much like what we're used to — and there won't be any preseason action as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — but as we get set to kick off Fantasy Football Draft Prep season, at least we've got training camp to start to settle some of our big questions from around the NFL.
We'll have plenty of training camp preview coverage over the next few days, focusing on the biggest questions for each team, the biggest position battles, and more, but before we get to all that, let's see where the Fantasy Football Today team is as players prepare to report to camp. I surveyed Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, Heath Cummings and Ben Gretch with six questions before camp on the biggest position battles to watch, who has the most to gain and lose, and a dark horse to watch as teams get back at it.
Here's what we're looking for in training camp:
1. What is the one positional battle you'll be watching closest?
Jamey Eisenberg: The Rams backfield. I'm hopeful a clear-cut workhorse comes out of the competition from Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown because the winner could be a weekly starter in all Fantasy leagues. But it could be a headache if, as Sean McVay has said, the Rams will use a committee to replace Todd Gurley. Let's hope for clarity — and a true Fantasy asset.
Dave Richard: It's gotta be the three-way street fight for the lion's share of carries in the Rams backfield. Akers versus Henderson versus Brown. We all know the potential that run game has.
Heath Cummings: The Rams running backs. Henderson and Brown are both way too cheap in drafts right now. If anyone can win even 60% of the touches they'll be better than their ADP, and that includes Akers.
Ben Gretch: The Chiefs No. 2 wide receiver situation. I'd love to hear Mecole Hardman has a real shot at playing ahead of Sammy Watkins this season. Hardman was electric as a 21-year-old rookie, and in a full-time role in this offense, his upside is likely higher than any wide receiver at his ADP or later.
2. Which player will you be watching most closely for reports in camp?
Jamey: Will Fuller. If he's healthy coming back from last year's hernia surgery he could be a star as the replacement for DeAndre Hopkins as the likely No. 1 receiver for Deshaun Watson. I like Fuller better than Brandin Cooks because of the established rapport he has with Watson, and Fuller could be awesome if he plays 16 games for the first time in his career.
Dave: Ben Roethlisberger has seemingly transformed from a chubby lumberjack with a damaged elbow into a svelte quarterback with an eye on redemption. He's the key to every single Steelers player's Fantasy season.
Heath: Cam Newton. If he's 100% healthy I don't see any reason we wouldn't move him into our top-10 quarterbacks before the season starts.
Ben: I'm high on Jonathan Taylor, not just because of the Colts excellent offensive line and soft schedule, but because his combination of collegiate production and tested athleticism is incredibly rare. Taylor can't win the job from Marlon Mack and prove his size and speed make him the clear best option in the backfield without first turning some heads in camp.
3. What do you think the impact of a training camp with no preseason games will be for Fantasy?
Jamey: It will be hard to judge how rookies and some incoming free agents will be with their new teams, especially early in the season. We'll likely get plenty of glowing reports from coaches and beat writers, but we won't be able to see them in game action to fully see it for ourselves.
Dave: A whole lot of sloppy football once the season starts. Lots of penalties, lots of mistakes. A lot of simplicity, too. I think we'll see a bunch of run games get off to a great start. Save this sentence for later: "Trade Derrick Henry while his value is ridiculously high."
Heath: I expect the rookies get off to a really slow start. I wouldn't expect more than one or two of them to be Week 1 starters.
Ben: It's very tough to say, but it sounds like we'll get less information at every turn, so the impact might just be slightly less ADP movement in August.
4. Who has the most to gain in training camp?
Jamey: Established veterans trying to hold off rookies. Guys like Damien Williams, Mack and Kerryon Johnson can prove their worth while rookies like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Taylor and D'Andre Swift try to show they know what they're doing.
Dave: Let's get silly: Devin Funchess. The Packers didn't draft any receivers and only signed Funchess and CFL standout Reggie Begelton. They don't seem like a bunch of total idiots up there in Wisconsin (despite their draft). My hunch is that the coaches are so high on one or both of those guys that they're going to eventually show up on our Fantasy radars.
Ben: The veteran backs behind high-drafted rookies like Williams, Johnson, Mack, Henderson and Brown.
5. Who has the most to lose?
Jamey: Established veterans trying to hold off rookies. If Edwards-Helaire, Taylor and Swift come in looking ready to play then guys like Williams, Mack and Johnson could be in trouble.
Dave: I don't think there's any doubt that it's Edwards-Helaire. I'm still drafting him based on the ridiculous upside Andy Reid's offense creates for running backs. Williams is good but he's never put it all together over the regular season. However, if Williams shines and Edwards-Helaire struggles, then CEH will be BLEH on Draft Day.
Heath: It has to be Tyrod Taylor. The Chargers have a defense and schedule that leads me to believe Taylor could start 16 games and be a borderline starter for Fantasy. But Herbert's upside is much higher and he could convince the Chargers that he's their best option early on.
Ben: I'm not sure any of the rookies' values will actually crater, so I'll go with Newton, who should either be a borderline top-10 quarterback in ADP by the time the season starts or undrafted. Assuming Newton's the starter, he's a fantastic late-round option, but that's not yet clear.
6. One dark horse to watch in camp?
Jamey: N'Keal Harry. He has a new quarterback in Cam Newton, and hopefully the former first-round pick in the NFL Draft, who was a bust as a rookie in 2019, can showcase his talent in Year 2 for the Patriots.
Dave: I got a tip to keep an eye on Christian McCaffrey. Hear he's pretty good. ... For real, though, watch what happens in Washington. There are a lot of running backs and promising young players who can help take that offense up a notch, and their new coaching staff has experience cultivating offensive talent.
Heath: Brown. The Rams have already talked about wanting to use him in short yardage. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Brown leads the Rams in carries in Week 1 against the Cowboys.
Ben: I keep feeling like we're too low on Parris Campbell across the industry. I don't expect Philip Rivers' pass distributions to be identical with the Colts, but if it looks like Campbell will be the full-time slot guy for Rivers, there would be some Keenan Allen vibes with Campbell running his routes at shallower depths and potentially racking up plenty of catches.