The wave is building as it starts appearing in sight. You can feel it in every fiber of your body. The ground starts trembling. The sounds accompanying are as much distinct as they are glorious. As the wave approaches, the excitement portion in our brains start firing off. We need that wave to arrive so it can wash away the heat of summer. We crave that feeling.
This wave I speak of though is not made up of water, my friends. This particular one is constructed of pigskin, small universities, fan festivals, and a bunch of players you have never heard of. This wave is NFL training camp. And it’s finally appearing in sight.
With NFL training camp approaching at the speed and intensity of a tidal wave, it’s our duty to help get you ready for the season. There’s a ton you can do to get ready for the gambling/fantasy/DFS season in training camp. Jobs are won and lost. Guys flying under the radar (hello Phillip Lindsey) in July will help you win money in October, November, and beyond. Getting an edge on this a bit earlier than everyone else is key to launching a hot start in the season.
With that, there are already an abundance of training camp battles and storylines to start following to see how they unfold. Keep in mind this is being viewed through the fantasy football perspective, which is why you won’t see a dissection of the Arizona Cardinals defensive backfield as they enter camp.
These are five position battles and groups to keep an eye on as camp unfolds for your draft preparation.
Buffalo Bills RB’s:
(LeSean McCoy; Frank Gore; T.J. Yeldon and Devin Singletary)
The old guard, the retread, and the young up-and-comer. This one is fascinating to me. McCoy and Gore are no longer the workhorse running backs in fantasy that they once were. McCoy will be 31 at the start of the season while Gore will be a whopping 36, while still proving he can be productive at the NFL level. In 2018 with the Dolphins, Gore racked up 722 yards (4.6/carry).
I personally don’t think it’s a guarantee McCoy makes the final roster after camp in Buffalo. You have to worry about the decline in production, rise in age, and presence of youthful talent (aside from Gore obviously) in Yeldon and Singletary, McCoy appears to be replaceable in a cost-saving move.
Singletary is small but lighting quick. The third-round rookie from Florida Atlantic is going to be a big-play threat – I see Tarik Cohen like skills/potential – but will also need a ground and pound type compliment in Gore and Yeldon. Yeldon, the former Jacksonville Jaguar cast off has some production at the NFL level. A workhorse? No, but DEFINITELY capable of being a productive part.
Who? The best ever to do it just “retired.” Austin Seferian-Jenkins got cut after skipping a mandatory minicamp session. Before playing a snap for the organization. The grizzled vet Benjamin Watson is suspended for the first four games. Nothing of note is behind him currently.
The Tight End position in the New England offense is usually money – yes Gronk was a stud – but they did get production in past from Brady and his other tight ends. An addition via the summer scrap heap over the next couple weeks is expected and you can pencil in whoever starts Week 1 as a solid sleeper for the season and cheap DFS play.
The most intriguing option currently on the roster has to be Stephen Anderson. Anderson spent 2018 on the Pats practice squad after racking up 342 yards on 25 catches in 2017 for the Houston Texans. That doesn’t inspire a ton of faith but he at least showed he can be somewhat productive in the NFL.
Gronk will likely be back at some point so it may be worth rostering him if you’re in a league with a deep bench, though he is more likely to be a weapon in DFS late in the season and playoffs.
(Cohen; David Montgomery; and Mike Davis)
This one is a situation where I think all three could be productive at various points of the season depending on match-ups and who has the hot hand. The creative play-caller Matt Nagy is, Cohen will continue to be used in a multitude of ways – ground, air, and special teams. He’s also a bit of a gadget guy and big-play threat at any time. He’s definitely not a workhorse type back, but that’s OK – his yardage and touchdown numbers will make him at the very least a weekly flex play.
Montgomery was their first pick in the draft this off-season after trading away their picks in the first two rounds. Bears GM Ryan Pace traded up for the chance to take the third round back from Iowa State. He’s going to be used frequently but more closely in Bourbonnais to watch will be the split in usage between Montgomery and free-agent acquisition Davis formerly of the Seahawks.
I’ve never been super high on Davis but again, the name of the game is production and he has shown he can give you yards at this level. I’d lean my interest more towards Montgomery being that the Bears obviously saw something in him worth trading up for.
All three Bears backs will be usable in different formats at different spots of the year. I think in DFS especially both Montgomery and Davis will be cheaper options early on in the season. With a very strong offensive line in front of them, those are the type of players to target to rack up some cash in the bigger tourneys.
(Geronimo Allison or Marquez Valdes-Scantling)
The focus on this group is who is going to be the guy to take some of the heavy lifting off of the shoulders of elite number one wide receiver Davante Adams. Adams has become a bonafide go-to threat for Aaron Rodgers but he can’t do everything.
The years of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and others contributing in the aerial attack are long gone. The Pack do however have two capable threats of blossoming into weapons and both being huge targets as well – the 6’3” 202 lbs and 6’4” 206lbs Valdes-Scantling, or “MVS”.
From a fantasy perspective whichever guy becomes Rodgers go to counter option to Adams in the red zone during camp, is the guy you will want to target as a sleeper option. MVS was very playable last season as a rookie fifth-round pick. Having the size to do some damage where it counts like that will pay dividends for MVS assuming he can prove his reliability. He caught 38 balls last season and I can see him really starting to take the next step in 2019.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling turns 24 today🧀
MVS has unlimited potential and is already showing it on Sunday’s. His 6’ 3” frame and 4.37 speed make him a nightmare to cover pic.twitter.com/nZ7zngJagC
— IKE Packers (@IKE_Packers) October 10, 2018
Allison has been in Green Bay for three seasons, with minimal production. He’s a guy who has been suggested as an up-and-comer for a few seasons however he only appeared in five games in 2018. In 2017, he caught 23 balls for a pedestrian 253 yards. If he builds a rapport with Rodgers, you know Allison will be on the radar in fantasy circles.
(Jerick McKinnon; Tevin Coleman; Matt Breida)
What a difference a year makes. Heading in the 2018 season, McKinnon was on of the 49ers prize off-season acquisitions. Coleman was the multifaceted complimentary back to Devonta Freeman in Atlanta. And Breida was the 2017 undrafted free agent hold over from the prior year with little usage at the NFL level.
Now? McKinnon is coming back from a lost season with a torn ACL. Coleman is the prize free agent acquisition for the 49ers. And Breida is coming off a season in which he racked up over 800 yards and three touchdowns in a completely undefined role for most of the season.
Breida is the wild card here. He carries the least sizzle of the three but may be the most dependable. Coleman and McKinnon are both explosive and great in both the ground and aerial attacks however their inability to stay on the field makes it difficult to put a ton of fantasy equity in to them.
Injuries may ultimately decide the fate in this one for you, but from July to week 1, watching the timeshare on the 49ers backs will be fascinating.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @schools_01