Michael Conroy/Associated Press
As we draw closer to the start of NFL training camps, we’re also closing in on fantasy draft season. In the coming weeks, fantasy enthusiasts in season-long leagues will evaluate, target and eventually draft their teams for 2020.
While training camps are always a big part of the evaluation process, they’re even more critical this season. Potentially with a shortened two-game preseason on the menu, position battles and projected roles will largely have to be determined in camp and not on the exhibition field.
Here we’ll examine some pending camp battles that could yield valuable fantasy sleepers for the coming season. First, though, some updated points-per-reception (PPR) rankings.
2020 Fantasy Football Rankings, PPR
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
2. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
3. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
4. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
6. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
7. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
8. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
9. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
10. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
11. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
13. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
14. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
15. Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
16. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
17. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
18. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
19. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
21. Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions
22. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys
23. DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
24. Kenyan Drake, RB, Arizona Cardinals
25. Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns
26. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
27. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
28. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
29. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
31. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
32. Todd Gurley, RB, Atlanta Falcons
33. DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins
34. A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
35. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
36. Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings
37. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
38. Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
39. Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos
40. Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
41. Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
42. D.J. Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
43. Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
44. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
45. DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
46. Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders
47. Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
48. Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
49. David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
50. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
Matt Breida vs. Jordan Howard in Miami
Matt Rourke/Associated Press
If managers can pick up a starting running back in the middle rounds of the draft—even those playing for a mediocre team—it’s usually worth doing so. Volume is one of the biggest contributing factors for fantasy running backs, and a starting back always has a chance to emerge as a viable sleeper.
This is why the Miami Dolphins’ running back battle between Matt Breida and Jordan Howard will be a key one to follow in camp.
Neither player is likely to emerge as an elite fantasy option, as this is a team that ranked 32nd in rushing attempts and 32nd in rushing yards last season. However, If one of them takes hold of the bulk of the snaps, he could at least be a valuable Flex option and/or RB streamer.
Howard, for example, rushed for 935 yards and nine touchdowns just two seasons ago while splitting time with Tarik Cohen for the Chicago Bears. Breida rushed for 814 yards and three touchdowns in 2018 while starting 13 games for the San Francisco 49ers.
According to FantasyPros, Howard currently has an average draft position (ADP) of 98, while Breida’s ADP sits at 97. This represents tremendous value if one of them becomes a clear-cut starter.
Devin Funchess vs. Allen Lazard vs. Marquez Valdes-Scantling in Green Bay
While it’s often not worth starting backup running backs, No. 2 receivers crack optimum fantasy lineups. This is especially true when these secondary pass-catchers play with prolific quarterbacks on successful teams.
In 2019, for example, secondary options like Mike Williams, Michael Gallup, Cooper Kupp and Jarvis Landry all cracked the 1,000-yard mark—and you could add Mike Evans or Chris Godwin to the list, though identifying the No. 2 option there is tricky.
This should be the case with the Green Bay Packers and future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The problem is that there isn’t a clear No. 2 receiver opposite Davante Adams. Allen Lazard finished second among receivers to Adams with a mere 477 receiving yards last season. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was second in starts with 10.
The lone addition to the receiving corps this offseason was Devin Funchess, who appeared in just one game with the Indianapolis Colts in 2019—though GM Brian Gutekunst insists not adding more bodies is because of the talent the Packers have returning.
“The runs went pretty early [in the draft] and once we got to a certain spot, with the group we had coming back—it wasn’t like we weren’t looking to add to that competition—we just felt there wasn’t a lot of great candidates that were locks to make our team next year,” he said via the team’s official website.
Receivers like Jake Kumarow and Equanimeous St. Brown will also be involved in this competition, and whichever emerges closest to Adams on the depth chart will be worth scooping up relatively early—much higher than the 183 ADP that Lazard currently holds, per Fantasypros.
Cam Akers vs. Malcolm Brown vs. Darrell Henderson in Los Angeles
Los Angeles Rams rookie running back Cam Akers has an ADP of 87, according to FantasyPros, which is a bit low for a starter but not at all unreasonable for an unproven rookie. The problem is that while Akers could be a fantastic sleeper at that draft point, he could also be a major disappointment.
Working in Akers’ favor is the fact that he has impressed during the Rams’ virtual offseason program.
“One player I’m told who stood out in virtual meetings was rookie running back Cam Akers for his engagement, assertiveness and asking all the right questions,” NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz reported.
However, the Rams aren’t going to simply hand Akers the starting job.
Akers will have to beat out veteran backup Malcolm Brown and second-year man Darrell Henderson first. If he does, he’ll have to potential to be a rookie sleeper in the mold of Josh Jacobs or Nick Chubb. If he doesn’t, Los Angeles could be looking at a committee backfield and a situation worth avoiding in fantasy.
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