NFL Preseason Battles
For many teams, training camp is coming to an end and roster spots and playing time will be in jeopardy. This time of the NFL season brings a lot of speculation. Who’s going to make the roster? Who’s outperformed the other guy? Who’s going to continue to push for playing time? All these questions will soon be answered, but let’s take a look at a few position battles to watch for as we near the start of the NFL regular season and fantasy football drafts. A lot of these players can be had for later round picks in fantasy football drafts, and some can be watched for on the waiver wire. But be sure to remember these names, because these guys could become relevant and be league winners if everything falls into place.
Austin Ekeler & Justin Jackson
With the Melvin Gordon contract saga still in effect, the Chargers are still moving forward with the running backs that they have. Both Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson produced despite the lack of a large workload throughout the entire 2018 season. Ekeler ran the ball over 100 times and averaged 5.2 yards per carry and also caught nearly 40 passes for over 400 yards and getting into the endzone three times with those receptions. Jackson, who was a rookie last year from Northwestern, saw just one game where he got double-digit carries. He was able to get into the endzone twice and eclipsed 200 rushing yards on just 50 attempts. Ekeler currently sits ahead of him on the depth chart, but this battle will be something to watch while we wait for the Gordon contract situation to conclude. According to USA Today, both Ekeler and Jackson are looking very good this offseason, but with Jackson’s ADP a whole six rounds later than Ekeler’s according to Fantasy Football Calculator, he may be the one you want to take the chance on this year.
Kansas City Backfield
This Kansas City Chiefs backfield has been interesting since Kareem Hunt was released last season. Damien Williams stepped up right away and put up some good numbers for the Chiefs in a time that they really needed production from one of their backs. But this year it’s a little different. Everyone is looking for Williams to step up and be a workhorse this year. But the Chiefs brought in Carlos Hyde, who has been the guy before during his time in San Francisco, and they also drafted Darwin Thompson from Utah State who played a big role in their offense. So who will be the guy that steps up and takes over number one duties? Well, at the start of the training camp, Hyde was the guy getting first-team reps with Williams nursing an injury. Now, Williams is back taking first-team reps and Hyde’s roster spot is in jeopardy according to Nate Taylor from The Athletic. Looking at the situation as a whole, it’s clear that this is going to be a shared backfield and ultimately one you want to avoid. With Williams’ ADP currently sitting at the end of round two according to Fantasy Football Calculator, the price is too rich for a likely shared backfield between two, possibly three running backs.
Kenyan Drake & Kalen Ballage
Every year there seems to be controversy on how Kenyan Drake will be used and whether or not he will be a viable fantasy option for owners. This year, it gets even murkier. Kalen Ballage enters his second year in the NFL with something to prove. If you all remember, he got thrown out of the huddle at practice by former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill for blowing a blocking assignment. This year, he appears to be fighting for a stranglehold on that starting job. With Drake in a walking boot with a right foot injury and possibly missing the rest of the preseason, Ballage could set himself far and away from Drake. The Dolphins are clearly in a rebuilding era as they search for the next batch of young players to head this franchise. With Ballage starring in camp, and Myles Gaskin showing up in a big way during his first preseason game, could we have seen the last of Drake in a starting role for the Dolphins? It could be very likely.
John Brown & Robert Foster
The Buffalo Bills were in a bit of a shambles last year at the receiver position. They had to rely on second-year receiver Zay Jones as their top target, they brought in Kelvin Benjamin which obviously isn’t much of an upgrade, and rookie Robert Foster didn’t burst onto the scene until far too late in the season. They brought in a lot of much-needed help. They signed Cole Beasley to cover slot duties, and John Brown to be their deep threat. Wait, I thought they already had their deep threat in Foster? So who’s going to be the top deep threat for Josh Allen and his cannon of an arm? Both Foster and Brown had unbelievable averages per catch. Foster averaged 20 yards per catch, and Brown averaged 17. According to The Quant Edge, Foster was targeted on 13 go routes which are by far more than any other route he ran. Brown was targeted on 23 go routes and had a much better passer rating in the process with 86.4 compared to Foster who had a passer rating of 55.9. If you’re going to draft one of these guys, you should focus more on Brown. With Allen’s arm, he and Brown should mesh very well together and have some big games.
Minnesota Viking’s third WR
The Minnesota Vikings have had a difficult time finding any sort of receiving help other than Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen over the last few years. The Laquon Treadwell experiment has been anything but successful and the rest of the depth has been a revolving door. They need to find someone to take the pressure off of their top two receivers, and they may find one this year. A couple of guys have stood out in camp. Second-year receiver Chad Beebe, who is the son of former wide receiver Don Beebe, has made some solid plays in camp this year. Olabisi Johnson, the rookie from Colorado State, has also looked good and made a few plays in the Vikings first preseason game. Other names like Jordan Taylor, Dillon Mitchell, and Jeff Badet have also looked good. With rumors of Treadwell being traded, all of those guys have a shot at wide receiver three duties. But who steps up? Look for Beebe to work inside on three-wide sets, as well as mixing in Johnson when they go four wide. They will mainly be deep league options, but worth keeping an eye on in case of injury.
Chad Beebe with a beautiful catch pic.twitter.com/lG6QE5ddAF
— Zack Thomas (@NFL_Zack) August 15, 2019