NFL training camps are upon us once again. A lot of teams enter this period with question marks, spots to fill, and positional battles to be won. Who will step up and emerge from the pack, and what battles should you pay most attention to entering your draft day? Let’s find out:
Minnesota Vikings: Mike Wallace vs. Charles Johnson vs. Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Jairus Wright
Teddy Bridgewater enters his second season and now has a brand new toy in Mike Wallace thanks to a trade with Miami. Wallace comes into the year looking to be an outside deep ball threat for the Vikings. Wallace will attract attention and catch balls over the top this season, but who will step up opposite of Wallace is the real question.
Cordarrelle Patterson has the athletic ability of a freak NFL receiver but lacks the mental capacity to become a great route runner at this point in his career. Patterson had a disappointing season to say the least in 2014, only catching 33 balls for 384 yards and one touchdown. As a rookie in 2013, Patterson emerged late racking up 469 yards on 45 receptions and four touchdowns. The silver lining for Patterson is pure athleticism. Now it has to translate to cleaner routes and the numbers will start to rack up. Patterson comes into the year with no relevant fantasy football hype but could steal the show if you wait him out deep into the draft. I am looking at Patterson past the tenth round this year, or maybe even as a waiver wire add. I wouldn’t put it past the boom or bust WR to have a breakout season and emerge as the Vikings number two option.
Charles Johnson appeared in 12 games last season, piling up 475 yards on 31 receptions with two touchdowns. Johnson is listed at 6’2 217 and certainly has the build of an outside WR in the NFL. I give Johnson the slight edge over Patterson entering this season. Johnson who has the makeup of a top 40 fantasy WR this season. I have seen Johnson go as high as early 3rd round and as late as mid 10th round. I would be looking for Johnson in the 8th or 9th round this season.
Jarius Wright might be the real winner here, as he carries big play upside. Wright registered 588 yards on 42 receptions with two touchdowns last season. Wright is rated pretty low coming into this season, but could easily end up being a solid flex option weekly. I can see Wright going near the tenth round or later and being a player who solidifies your WR corps this season.
The Vikings WR corps will be an interesting story to follow entering your fantasy football draft. I advise you to have all three of these players on your cheat sheets. I am high on Patterson for the fact I know I can gamble late on him and bank on his upside taking over at some point this year. Whoever steps up and becomes the number two option could very well be considered the steal of your draft this season.
Tennessee Titans: Bishop Sankey vs. David Cobb
Bishop Sankey is tentatively expected to open 2015 as the starting running back in Tennessee, but could it become a running back by committee. The Titans drafted David Cobb in the fifth round and fullback Jalston Fowler in the fourth round. On the surface, this has the making of a timeshare nightmare, but training camp could say a lot about how the Titans running back depth chart ends up looking. Sankey racked up 569 yards on 152 rushing attempts last year, along with two touchdowns. Sankey has the skill-set and upside to have a breakout second season in the NFL. I currently have Sankey ranked right inside the top-40 at 38. I believe you can draft Sankey late with RB2 upside this year.
I don’t believe David Cobb or Jalston Fowler are worth a draft pick at the moment. David Cobb has some merit if you are in a dynasty/keeper league. If Sankey were to struggle early, or get injured, Cobb could be available as a waiver wire addition to your team. I prefer to advise caution with this situation, until we get some clarity on how the Titans plan to divide up touches. This more than likely becomes a timeshare with Cobb and Sankey. In a DFS setting both running backs have appeal, but it will come down to a guessing game.
St Louis Rams: Brian Quick vs. Stedman Bailey vs. Tavon Austin vs. Kenny Britt
The Nick Foles era has arrived in St. Louis. Foles showed flashes of greatness in Philadelphia and looks to spark the stagnant Rams offense. The Rams have playmakers, it is just a matter of who steps up at wide receiver.
Brian Quick appears to be recovering from shoulder surgery well and should be locked in as the Rams number one option this year. I have no problem taking Brian Quick this year past the eighth round to become your WR2/WR3 option depending how you drafted early on. Quick had three touchdowns on 25 receptions and 375 yards last season and could have finished the year strong if it wasn’t for his injury.
Assuming Quick becomes the number one option in St. Louis, who becomes the clear cut number two option? Kenny Britt? I will not put any stock in Britt becoming the man on the outside this year. Britt will continue to be a boom or bust talent. Kenny Britt can be a serviceable WR 3 at best, but not worth the headache that comes with drafting him.
Stedman Bailey is my pick to become the number two option for the Rams. Stedman caught 30 balls for 435 yards and one TD last season. Bailey is an exceptional route runner with great hands. Bailey has shown all the signs of having a breakout year. In my mock drafts I have been selecting Stedman in the last round, but I believe in most leagues he will be a free agent to start the season.
The ultimate boom or bust talent on the Rams roster is slot receiver Tavon Austin, The college human highlight film has yet to find his niche in the NFL. I don’t suggest selecting Austin, but he is definitely a guy to watch as the year progresses. Austin is the kind of low owned guy in DFS that could go off and win you a lot of money one week, but is not currently draftable in season long formats.
Other Key Training Camp Battles to Monitor: Bills QB Battle, Falcons RB Battle, Browns RB Battle