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NFC Training Camp Position Battles

NFL training camps are right around the corner. Which means we will get our first (real) glimpse at how teams expect to set up their starting rosters. Although you can never take what happens in training camp as gospel, you can usually get a better idea of how some position battles are going to shake out. Here are some intriguing position battles (in no particular order) from the NFC that could have an impact on the fantasy landscape:

RB Tim Hightower v. RB Beanie Wells (ARI): Hightower was largely ineffective last year, gaining under 3 yards per carry. But he did notch 10 TDs. So he was not entirely useless. As I have said before, I am not a huge Beanie Wells fan. But the Cardinals have a very high-powered offense. If he can become the goal line back — which is questionable, given Hightower’s performance last year — he would be attractive. He also needs to show that he can catch the ball out of the backfield. But watch to see how the Cardinals use these two during the preseason.

RB Derrick Ward v. RB Earnest Graham (TB): People have been assuming that Ward is just going to take over the starting job now that he is in Tampa. But I think Graham will still be heavily involved. I suspect Ward will likely end up being the starter on Day 1, but do not expect him to carry the full load.

RB Brian Westbrook v. RB LeSean McCoy (PHI): This is really a position battle. Mostly, it will be interesting to watch McCoy during the preseason to see how well he performs. Westbrook had ankle surgery in June, and although the Eagles say he is fine, he will likely miss most if not all of training camp. Which means McCoy will get a lot of reps. If he looks good, his workload could increase. And, when Westbrook inevitably misses time due to injuries, his value could skyrocket.

RB DeAngelo Williams v. RB Jonathan Stewart (CAR): Again, I am not sure that this is really a position battle, but the fantasy value of both RBs will be heavily determined by how much each is used. I have a feeling that it will be very unpredictable and will change from week-to-week. Which, unfortunately, reduces the value for both. Based on age/experience/production, I suspect Williams will be the starter. But, if Stewart can stay healthy, I think he is the better RB (despite how well Williams played down the stretch last year).

RB Julius Jones v. ? (SEA): Okay, so maybe I am reaching here. But there just are not that many intriguing position battles in the NFC this year. But it will be interesting to see what happens in Seattle. They were absolutely awful last year. But QB Matt Hasselbeck should be healthy, new-arrival WR TJ Houshmandzadeh, and potentially-healthy WR Deion Branch should provide a boost to the offense. And OC Greg Knapp’s run-blocking scheme actually fits Jones quite well. But he will give way to TD-vulture TJ Duckett around the goal line. Assuming he can hold off second-year (undersized) RB Justin Forsett, Jones should be a solid RB3 option that could even be a RB2 if Seattle can put things together on offense.

WR Miles Austin v. WR Sam Hurd (DAL): Now that WR Terrell Owens has taken his home-wrecking show to Buffalo, there is a spot open as the Cowboys’ No. 2 WR that could produce a useful fantasy WR. WR Roy Williams will be the No. 1, unless something completely unexpected happens, but the No. 2 spot seems wide open. However, you have to remember that TE Jason Witten and QB Tony Romo are cosmically connected, so the No. 2 WR will end up being the 3rd option.

WR Anquan Boldin v. The Cardinals (ARI): Boldin still wants a new contract or to be traded. And the Cardinals do not seem interested in giving him either. However, I am confident that Boldin will show up for camp and play hard, regardless of his contract situation, just like he did (for most of) last season. However, you should pay attention to how this plays out, because his fantasy value is obviously heavily tied to whether he stays or goes.

Check out the AFC Training Camp position battles.

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