One step outside tells you the summer is here. Along with the rising temperatures, the NFL rumor mill is heating up. Before we know it, the preseason will begin. But before it does, we need to know what AFC training camp battles to watch ahead of our fantasy football drafts.
Not every AFC squad has a battle that is noteworthy, but every team does have something fantasy-relevant that football fans should monitor.
In addition to our committee backfield article, here are battles for all 16 AFC teams that fantasy enthusiasts should keep an eye on this summer.
Baltimore Ravens – WR Rashod Bateman has become a popular breakout candidate for good reason. But after Bateman, the Ravens don’t have any proven wideouts. Devin Duvernay will compete for a job in three-wide sets, but James Proche ran 86.4% of his routes from the slot in 2021; the 10th-highest rate in the NFL. Baltimore’s backfield is also worth watching. J.K. Dobbins is expected to lead the way but might not see a preseason snap as he recovers from a torn ACL. Gus Edwards routinely outplays his ADP and the Ravens will use multiple backs. Edwards looks like a very good late-round value once again.
Buffalo Bills – As Super Bowl favorites, the Bills don’t have a lot of question marks in their high-powered offense. It will be exciting to see how WR Gabriel Davis performs as the club’s No. 2 wideout. Off the heels of his four-score playoff performance, Davis is being targeted rather high in drafts. That makes him a candidate to be a rather risky boom/bust option. Jamison Crowder should be an upgrade over Cole Beasley out of the slot. Also, we’ll watch Isaiah McKenzie who is also making a play for that role. Keep an eye on second-round rookie RB James Cook, who could be a solid PPR option. Incumbent starter Devin Singletary should maintain most of the carries and offers top-15 upside if he retains short-yardage work.
Cincinnati Bengals – Looking for a real sleeper tight end? Hayden Hurst will take over the starting role vacated by C.J. Uzomah. Even playing a reserve role in Atlanta, Hurst was far better than Uzomah in most metrics last season. Uzomah earned 63 targets en route to a top-20 fantasy finish a year ago. Drew Sample caught 40 balls in this offense in 2020- most of which was without QB Joe Burrow. Hurst has a real shot at 75 targets and could even contend for TE1 numbers.
Cleveland Browns – Everything in the Cleveland passing attack is up for grabs. QB Deshaun Watson is looking at a likely year-long suspension at a minimum. With Jacoby Brissett poised to be the starter, it’s a downgrade for the offense overall. Rooke WR David Bell has impressed and could offer some upside as the big slot receiver. Donovan Peoples-Jones should start on the perimeter opposite of Amari Cooper. David Njoku finally has the chance to be the full-time starter but has lost some luster without Watson under center.
Denver Broncos – We’ll watch how new QB Russell Wilson builds a rapport with his talented teammates. The biggest question in the passing game is which wideout will emerge as Wilson’s favorite- Courtland Sutton or Jerry Jeudy. Also, we expect Javonte Williams to take on a larger share of carries, so watching Melvin Gordon‘s role will be crucial.
Houston Texans – Outside of Brandin Cooks, the Texans don’t have many established pass-catchers. Nico Collins is the favorite for WR2 duties and a decent target share. Rookie John Metchie is battling cancer and is unlikely to play in 2022. Our thoughts are with Metchie. The Texans will also have a competition for lead-back duties between Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead, and rookie Dameon Pierce. Mack is the favorite to open the season but a committee backfield looks likely.
Indianapolis Colts – Can WR Parris Campbell finally stay healthy? Campbell has been an “offseason standout” once again but has missed 34 of his possible 49 games so far. In OTAs, Campbell was running with the first team and flashed a good rapport with new QB Matt Ryan. Campbell is the favorite to earn slot duties while second-round rookie Alec Pierce is expected to start opposite Michael Pittman. We’ll monitor how Ryan divides his targets this summer, as the Colts offer a ton of offensive and fantasy potential.
Jacksonville Jaguars – It’s another complete re-start in Jacksonville. Fortunately, Doug Pederson should be a significant upgrade for the entire offense. The Jags spent big money to upgrade weapons for sophomore signal-caller Trevor Lawrence, who needs to show rapid growth for that money to be well-spent. Keen an eye on all three wideout spots and how Pederson rotates TEs Evan Engram and Dan Arnold. Pederson has a history of heavily featuring his tight ends.
Doug Pederson’s TEs in PPR pts/game:
2013- Fasano 6.8 (39th)
2014- Kelce 11.5 (9th)
2015- Kelce 11.8 (9th)
2016- Ertz 13.1 (3rd)
2017- Ertz 14.6 (3rd)
2018- Ertz 17.5 (2nd)
2019- Ertz 14.4 (4th)
2019- Goedert 9.9 (13th)
2020- Goedert 10.6 (10th)
Evan Engram current ADP TE24
— #TagsStrong💪 (@JodySmithNFL) June 21, 2022
Kansas City Chiefs – Another excellent offensive-minded coach with an influx of new talent, Andy Reid will have to rebuild his playbook for the Chiefs to remain serious contenders. With Tyreek Hill gone, Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and holdover Mecole Hardman will all compete for targets. The backfield is also unsettled, with Ronald Jones competing with Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Las Vegas Raiders – The Raiders declined to extend RB Josh Jacobs and added promising rookie Zamir White to the fold. Will they choose to load Jacobs up with all the touches he can handle on his way out the door or go full-blown committee? As for the passing attack, the biggest topic will be the rapport between QB Derek Carr and newly acquired WR Davante Adams.
Los Angeles Chargers – There has been some talk of trying to limit Austin Ekeler‘s workload, so watching the preseason role for fourth-round rookie Isaiah Spiller will be imperative. Spiller was considered to be the draft’s No. 2 RB before slipping after an uninspiring Combine. Josh Palmer should be the clear WR3 and has a lot of late-round value appeal.
Miami Dolphins – Miami will be one of the most important teams to scout this summer. The Dolphins have complete turnover at RB and WR. Chase Edmonds is the clear favorite but don’t discount a full-blown RBBC with Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, and Sony Michel all contending for touches. If Edmonds struggles or does not get goal-line looks, this is a backfield to avoid in fantasy drafts. Tyreek Hill is an obvious must-watch but it’s hard to envision his ADP paying off with Tua Tagovailoa. The Fins also signed Cedrick Wilson to take over as the starter opposite Hill. We aren’t optimistic that Jaylen Waddle will be able to repeat last year’s lofty target numbers with all these new faces.
New England Patriots – DeVante Parker was the big offseason acquisition for the Patriots and is the presumptive No. 1 receiver. But with little knowledge of what kind of offense they’ll employ or even who will be calling plays, the Patriots have lots of questions. Jakobi Meyers is still likely to lead the club in targets but doesn’t offer much ceiling. Keep an eye on the short-yardage carries. If Damien Harris retains that role, he’s got RB2 upside. If Rhamondre Stevenson or Pierre Strong gets those opportunities, Harris’s fall could be precipitous.
New York Jets – Here’s hoping that QB Zach Wilson takes a giant leap in Year Two because the Jets have some intriguing young skill-position players. RB Breece Hall has all the tools to be a three-down star but we’ll have to monitor how many touches Michael Carter commands in August. The real battle will be at WR, where Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, and Corey Davis give Wilson plenty of play-making ability. Wilson will need to improve on his disappointing accuracy for any of those wideouts to emerge as every-week options. At tight end, Tyler Conklin seems to have an early lead over C.J. Uzomah for starting honors.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Quarterback will be the biggest offseason development in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers are breaking in a new signal-caller for the first time since 2004. Veteran Mitchell Trubsiky has a significant lead over first-rounder Kenny Pickett but the rookie could still win the job with a solid summer. At wide receiver, George Pickens should win the outside spot opposite Chase Claypool. Pickens won’t be in on two-wide sets but offers the size and speed to make an immediate impact.
Tennessee Titans – Essentially, the Titans traded A.J. Brown for Treylon Burks, so the dynamic rookie will certainly be one of the most highly-anticipated rookie wideouts. Robert Woods is also returning from an injury and is new to the club. We’re eager to see how QB Ryan Tannehill meshes with his new pass-catchers, including TE Austin Hooper, who is off to a fast start in OTAs. RB Derrick Henry should be fully healthy and ready to resume his workhorse role. Hassan Haskins can fill in on passing downs but will also have to unseat Dontrelle Hilliard for the RB2 role.
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