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  • Writer's pictureAaron Clanton


Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially 6 days away from the first NFL teams taking the field at their respective training camps. The majority of top end fantasy relevant players have their roles already established and are ready to show they can produce at that expected level. For others, they will be fighting for playing time and will need to use training camp to prove to the coaching staff that they are the man for the job. This article will discuss a few of the positional battles that will influence players and teams the most heading into the season.

Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams

The Denver Broncos continue to be one of the most difficult teams to figure out heading into the 2021 season. At this point, we don’t know who the starting quarterback, #1 wide receiver or starting running back will be. The only lock as the top offensive player at their position is tight end Noah Fant. While the position battle between 2nd year receiver Jerry Juedy and presumed #1 and returning Courtland Sutton is another interesting battle, the one that has more fantasy relevance in my eyes is the battle between Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams for the starting running back spot. The first thing that makes any running back position battle is that someone may be the “starter,” but not receive the majority of the touches. Even if they receive the majority of the rushing attempts, they still might be second fiddle in the passing game, which is almost more important in ppr and half-ppr leagues. Currently, Gordon’s ADP is RB #28 and 64 overall while Williams is going as RB #30 and 69 overall (nice). That isn’t enough of a difference in investment for either of them to be worth the risk at this moment as I wouldn’t want to take a player with that low of a floor in the 6th round of drafts. Most of the talk from early camp work and beat reporters is that it’s Williams’ job and training camp will only widen the gap in terms of showing off the talent. Gordon finished as RB #13 in 2020 for a Broncos team that went 5-11, so whoever receives the majority of this backfield’s touches will be presented with an opportunity as a top-20 running back option.

Tevin Coleman and Michael Carter

The New York Jets were an absolute mess in 2020, which is how they ended up selecting Zach Wilson with the 2nd overall pick in the draft. What they also decided to do in that draft was select a running back in Michael Carter out of UNC and add him to an already muddled backfield. Tevin Coleman signed as a free agent in the offseason, following new head coach Robert Saleh from San Francisco. Quite honestly, we could throw La’Mical Perine into this position battle and no one would question it. This is truly a crowded backfield if there ever was one with no clear path to significant playing time for any player. Carter is currently being drafted as RB #39 and 98 overall while Tevin Coleman is coming off the board as RB #65 and 190 overall. Neither player has significant draft capitol associated with them at those slots, so there is less risk in making these picks. I personally tend to avoid this backfield as a whole, but if I had to choose, I’d select Michael Carter due to his potential upside. Tevin Coleman doesn’t have that league winning potential whereas Carter could become a late season stud if he hits.

Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette

One of my least favorite offseason storylines from the last couple of years is trying to predict what will happen with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers backfield. Not only is this already a tough exercise in a vacuum, but we also add Bruce Arians into the mix, who is an unpredictable person by nature making this a significantly more unpleasant task. Ronald Jones was the better running back throughout the regular season, nearly doubling the rushing attempts of Fournette. On the other hand, Fournette showed better flashes in the passing game and he truly took over in the playoffs, earning the moniker of “Playoff Lenny” as the Bucs sailed away with a Super Bowl victory. Ronald Jones is the more talented runner and overall player, but as I said previously, Bruce Arians is unpredictable. We saw games where Ronald Jones made one mistake and was pulled from the game only for him to then come back the following week and perform as a top-20 running back. Jones’ current ADP is RB #29 and 66 overall while Fournette is RB #32 and 75 overall. Jones is the better bet at that draft slot and will net fantasy managers the best value between the two players. Truly the only question you should have is whether or not Bruce Arians will continue his shenanigans from last year and fluctuate Jones’ playing time enough to reduce his ability to consistently produce valuable fantasy numbers.

As training camp appears on the horizon, these positional battles and many more will come to light and hopefully resolve themselves before your respective fantasy draft. While I doubt that will be the case and more than likely you will be placed into a position where you must make a call on these battles, this is when you buckle down. The first few weeks of training camp are so important to establishing who stands out from one another and how the touches will be distributed in the early portion of the season. Pay attention to all the news relevant to these players and many more, and of course, stay dreamin’!

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