Camp Battles To Watch
In this day and age of running back by committee, running back battles have far less of a fantasy implication than they did just a few years ago. But most coaches still like to have a go-to-guy and certain players will fit certain roles that may cause their fantasy value to go up…or down. Since running back by committee has become so popular, the position battles at quarterback and wide receiver have become just as popular in fantasy football circles, so we will take a closer look at a couple of those this year as well instead of just sticking with the rushers.
The winner of the Tampa Bay quarterback battle sounds like a fantasy loser anyway. The Buccaneers' new staff wants to run the ball and run it a lot. That means they are just looking for a quarterback who can run the offense and keep the turnovers down. Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich will battle for the starting job initially, but rookie Josh Freeman should be in the mix at some point. The team wants him to sit on the bench for a year, but it may become clear pretty early (like well before the season even starts) that Leftwich and McCown are not the answer. Tampa Bay may have to throw more than they want if the offense struggles in general. The Bucs will find themselves behind and be forced to throw and that is a good thing for fantasy owners, but it would not be wise to draft any Tampa Bay quarterbacks until the preseason is over and the situation is sorted out.
It seems like Jeff Garcia does this to some young quarterback every year. He shows up, proves that he is the gritty leader that the team needs and ends up starting. The Raiders, or at least Al Davis, want JaMarcus Russell to play no matter what and the coaching staff may have to oblige if they want to keep their jobs. Yet, this is the Raiders and something crazy could happen. Garcia is the type of player a team rallies around and if that happens, Coach Tom Cable might not have a choice but to play him if Russell is struggling. Russell might be worth picking up in deep leagues since he has a ton of potential and the backing of his owner, but be ready to cut him and pick up Garcia on waivers.
Assuming Darren McFadden can stay healthy and recover from his turf toe issues from last season, this should not be too much of a battle. McFadden will be the main rusher and Justin Fargas and Michael Bush will get some carries in certain situations. The fact that McFadden can even split out wide while Fargas or Bush are in the game makes him an even more attractive fantasy option. However, fantasy footballers should keep an eye on McFadden's injury before they draft him and keep in mind that he is still relatively unproven. After 113 rushes for 499 yards during his rookie campaign, he still has a lot to prove. Do not get caught up on his potential because if he falters at all the Raiders know they have a proven back in Fargas who can carry the load.
Tim Hightower did a great job in the red zone, finishing last season with ten touchdowns, but obviously Arizona did not consider him the back of the future since they used a first round draft pick on Chris Wells out of Ohio State. The problem with Hightower is that he only averaged 2.8 yards per carry last year. He carried the ball ten more times than the now departed Edgerrin James, but was out-rushed by James 514 yards to 399. Hightower will probably be the starter in week one, but Wells has a ton of talent and even more potential to emerge as a very productive back even as a rookie. Yet, it will be Hightower who racks up the touchdowns even if Wells gets most of the yards, so that makes Hightower the more relevant fantasy back…at least for now.
The Seahawks were apparently happy enough with Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Justin Forsett to not even take a chance on a running back late in the draft. Jones will be the primary ball carrier, but Forsett will take enough carries away to annoy fantasy owners off Jones and Duckett will get a majority of the opportunities in the red zone. Last year Jones led the team with 158 carries, but only had two touchdowns. Duckett only had 62 carries, but eight of them went for touchdowns. Even without Maurice Morris, Forsett will take enough carries away from Jones to make him a pretty worthless fantasy option.