Gregg Rosenthal

Position Battles

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Top 50 Position Battles: 21-50

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Brett Favre saga is lurching towards a conclusion this weekend. Which is good, because perhaps then people will realize there are 31 other teams out there. Camp has started with a bang, and Rotoworld you covered in our daily news (now hitting 100 posts a day), columns, blog posts, and videos.

Below is the bottom 30 of my top-50 position battles to watch during camp. The top 20 will be posted Monday as the first Daily Dose of the season. Then we'll have columns for you every weekday until Week 1. It is damn good to be back.


First, let's define what isn't a position battle. Willie Parker versus Rashard Mendenhall in Pittsburgh is not a position battle. Neither is LenDale White vs. Chris Johnson or Ronnie Brown vs. Ricky Williams. These are all situations to watch, but these players are not competing for one job. They all will have the significant roles, and the starter is defined. Sadly, training camp and the preseason will barely provide clues as to the carry splits on these teams. We have to wait for Week 1.

We should learn much more about the battles below. Depth charts on these teams are flexible. Playing time and careers are at stake. Plenty of fantasy points are as well.

21. 49ers third receiver: Arnaz Battle vs. Jason Hill vs. Ashley Lelie

Mike Martz's third receiver spot is usually a treasure trove of fantasy value. There are indications he may use two tight ends more this season, but the winner here is draftable. Battle is the favorite; Bryant Johnson and Isaac Bruce are the starters.

22. Jaguars receivers: Reggie Williams vs. Dennis Northcutt vs. Mike Walker vs. Troy Williamson

With Jerry Porter hurt, the Jacksonville depth chart has opened up. It would be a surprise if Williams doesn't start, but Jack Del Rio has thrown curveballs in the past. Evan Silva called Walker his top prospect in the NFL. Keep an eye on him.

Note: Williams is one of the biggest busts in our online draft guide. Thanks to everyone who has been supporting us in big numbers.

23. Ravens starting quarterback: Troy Smith vs. Kyle Boller vs. Joe Flacco

A rare three-way quarterback battle. Flacco seems unlikely to get the job initially, but his presence limits the fantasy value of the winner. Smith looks like the slight favorite and could be a QB3 in a deeper league.

24. Patriots starting receiver: Jabar Gaffney vs. Chad Jackson

This battle could wind up being overrated. I expect both to get plenty of snaps this season, and I don't expect either player to provide consistent numbers. Gaffney is loved largely for his blocking. Bill Belichick has praised Jackson's development.

25. Rams backup RB: Brian Leonard vs. Antonio Pittman

Pittman reportedly had a big offseason, making him the heavy favorite for Steven Jackson handcuff status.

26. Ravens second receiver: Mark Clayton vs. Demetrius Williams

These two have a chance to emerge as sleepers if Cam Cameron's offense takes hold in Baltimore. I like Clayton's chances much better.

27. Bears starting quarterback: Kyle Orton vs. Rex Grossman

The winner of this battle? America. Patrick Dahl's moles in Chicago believe Orton will get the job. I expect it as well.

28. Dolphins starting quarterback: John Beck vs. Josh McCown

Rookie Chad Henne doesn't have a true chance to start in Week 1, which is probably for the best. Logically, the Dolphins should see what they have in Beck, so he's my favorite. I'll probably rank this winner number 32 out of opening week fantasy options at quarterback.

29. Bears backup running back: Kevin Jones vs. Adrian Peterson

This might be more accurately described as Jones vs. his knee. He needs to prove he's ready for the season before he can backup Matt Forte.

30. Bears receiver scrum: Brandon Lloyd vs. Devin Hester vs. Marty Booker vs. Mark Bradley vs. Earl Bennett

The only team in the league where the first five spots are wide open. Hester and Booker will stick somewhere in the top four, but everything else is up for grabs. Bradley is the most interesting if he could work his way into a starting job. See #26 before getting too crazy with anyone here.

31. Bills second receiver: James Hardy vs. Josh Reed

The rookie is the favorite, but the Bills offense needs major growth before making either player worth owning.

32. Chargers backup running back: Jacob Hester vs. Marcus Thomas vs. Darren Sproles

This could be a phony battle because they may split carries if LT2 gets hurt. Sproles should take passing down work, while Hester is likely to win early down snaps. Thomas is a big underdog. And Tomlinson owners may want to skip drafting his backup.

33. Falcons starting quarterback: Matt Ryan vs. Chris Redman

Redman is likely to get the Week 1 call, but he was out of the league for years. A big preseason could have Ryan starting from day one, which would limit the fantasy upside of Roddy White and company.

34. Titans number two receiver: Justin McCareins vs. the Tennessee Receiver All Stars

McCareins appears locked into a starting role opposite Justin Gage, but he's not good enough to assume the battle is over. Roydell Williams can't get healthy and Biren Ealy looks like a third receiver, so Brandon Jones, Mike Williams, Chris Davis, Lavelle Hawkins, and Paul Williams are all scrapping for playing time. Reminds me of the old saying, "When you have eight receivers, you really have none."

35. Bucs backup running back: Warrick Dunn vs. Michael Bennett

One senses that Jon Gruden wants to take carries away from Earnest Graham, but the options aren't exciting. Dunn is likely to win, but he's a late-round pick at best.

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Gregg Rosenthal has directed Rotoworld's football content since 2003. He co-hosts the NBC Fantasy Fix and covers the NFL for and Catch him on Twitter.
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