Training camp battles relevant to fantasy football

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It's that time of the year again. Optimism is in the air, and there are jobs up for grabs. With the onset of training camp comes heated positional battles. And the winners of these battles can help fantasy owners down the road. So who are we watching in training camp over the next month? Take a look at the list below and make sure to keep a close eye on how these roster spots shape up over the next few weeks. There may just be a league-winning sleeper to discover among the chaos.

Cleveland Browns


Wide receivers

The Browns are in rebuild mode and drafted four wideouts to refresh their receiving corps after parting ways with Travis Benjamin and Brian Hartline. It's a full-fledged position battle in Cleveland and targets are up for grabs.

Corey Coleman - The favorite to lead Cleveland's receiving corps, Coleman was the first wideout selected in the NFL draft in April. He has elite speed and an all-around dynamic skillset. He's being drafted in fantasy leagues in Round 9 and his ADP could rise even higher if he has a strong showing in camp, although Josh Gordon's reinstatement may impact the rookies value later in the season. His fantasy outlook would be brighter if he had landed in a better offense, but he should be featured in Cleveland's air attack and has the potential to lead all rookie wideouts in targets.

Andrew Hawkins - A former Bengals receiver, Hawkins had an injury plagued 2015 campaign and only managed to haul in 27 receptions. He's the oldest wideout on the roster heading into camp at age 30, and should battle for a significant role behind Coleman and Gordon heading into camp.

Rashard Higgins - The fifth-rounder has done enough in offseason OTA sessions to be in the conversation for the No. 3 receiver job heading into camp, but he will have to really shine in order to be considered a fantasy option in standard leagues. He could develop into a deep sleeper to keep an eye on in deeper formats though.

Josh Gordon - While Gordon's reinstatment into the NFL made waves among fantasy circles, there is real risk when it comes to a draft investment. The 25-year-old hasn't caught a professional pass since the end of the 2014 season. But he has shown promise thus far, and Cleveland seems determined to give the troubled wide receiver a second chance. If he can get into football shape and get up to speed on the playbook, there is a real chance that he ends up being one of the biggest bargains in 2016 fantasy drafts. The downside is massive though, so proceed with caution.

Terrelle Pryor - A former quarterback, Pryor transitioned to wide receiver last season. His size, 6-foot-4, 223 lbs. gives him an advantage over some of the more diminutive wideouts battling in Cleveland, and he's been talked up by coaches and teammates alike this offseason. Hue Jackson has even reportedly drawn up special plays just for Pryor. There's an outside chance he earns himself a role as a starter but even if he does, he could be limited to more of a gadget-type of role. In that case, his fantasy ceiling would not be tremendous.

Taylor Gabriel - Entering his third year in the NFL, Gabriel is a smaller (5-foot-8) deep threat type and caught 28 passes last year due to the Browns deficiencies at the position. He'll have to really make a splash in camp in order to vie for a starting role.

Marlon Moore - In his six seasons in the NFL, More has just 26 receptions to his name. He's mainly a special teams contributor and while that could secure him a roster spot with Cleveland this year, he won't be a fantasy option.

Rookies Ricardo Lewis, Jordan Payton and Dennis Parks will also vie for snaps during camp and preseason action but unless something drastic happens, they should be considered far from fantasy relevant.

Quarterbacks

Another new coaching regime in Cleveland presents another opportunity for someone to emerge as the team's starting quarterback.

Robert Griffin III - The verdict on RGIII's offseason has been split. Obviously, coach Hue Jackson talked up his quarterback's development during spring workouts, but some Cleveland beat reporters were not so high on his performance. Whatever the case may be, RGIII has an amazing opportunity to get a second chance at an NFL career. If he has a good showing in camp and preseason action, he'll solidify his spot as the Browns starting quarterback. Without much talent in the receiving corps though, we're not endorsing RGIII as a fantasy option just yet.

Josh McCown - When he was healthy last year, McCown had a mini-run as a strong fantasy quarterback between Weeks 3 through 5. A broken collarbone ended his season in early December though and he's getting up there in age too. RGIII will probably get the first crack as the starter, but McCown's experience gives the Browns a legitimate backup plan. This is one of the more intriguing camp battles to watch this preseason.

Baltimore Ravens


Wide receivers

Kamar Aiken - He's the only sure thing in Baltimore when it comes to the team's receiving corps. Even though Aiken projects as the team's No. 1, he brings sleeper value given his double-digit rounds ADP. He had a strong end-of-season run last year and will likely be the most targeted wideout in Baltimore.

Mike Wallace - The veteran was slated to open camp as a starter opposite Aiken until he failed a conditioning test. When in shape, which he should be soon, he represents the deep threat Baltimore has been lacking since Torrey Smith left and while he may not have the top-notch speed at age 29, he is worth a draft pick given his late-round ADP and potentially heavy involvement in the Ravens offense.

Steve Smith - The goal, according to coach Harbaug, is for Smith to be ready to play in the Ravens' season opener. Coming off an Achilles tear late last season, Smith could have an impact in fantasy early on if healthy. He'll likely miss all of camp and the Ravens' preseason games though. It's a safer bet to leave him undrafted, or pick him up very late in fantasy leagues and potentially scoop him on waivers if he does get back to a starting role.

Breshad Perriman - All eyes will be on the second-year receiver after chronic knee issues kept him off the field for the entirety of his rookie season. He had yet another knee scare back in June and needs some more time to get back to 100 percent, but the latest word from coach John Harbaugh pegged Perriman to be ready for Week 1 and Baltimore is hopeful that he will return at some point during camp. Should he make in imapct in the preseason, his ADP will likely skyrocket. Until then, proceed with caution.

Running backs

Following a season riddled with injuries, the Ravens offense is getting healthy once again. There are some fantasy bargains to be had here, but pinpointing exactly who will emerge as the most valuable asset at each position is a difficult task.

Justin Forsett - The veteran will start the year as the lead back in Baltimore. He's coming off a broken arm suffered last season which gave Javorius Allen a chance to prove himself as a rookie. Forsett's Round 7 ADP is about right for an aging back who could lose his job to younger talent at any point during the season. Although, he seems intent on carrying the load himself and believes he can have a 200-carry, 1,000-yard rushing season.

Javorius Allen - As a rookie Allen saw 137 carries last year in Forsett's stead but averaged a meager 3.8 yards per carry. His passing-game chops are where his value lies in terms of fantasy, and reports back in May stated that Allen could push Forsett for the starting role. Again, this one comes down to how things play out in camp. If Allen can win the preseason, he may earn himself more than just passing-down snaps come September. He's a solid late-round running back sleeper target.

Kenneth Dixon - One of this season's top running back prospects, Dixon slid into the fourth round of the NFL draft. His all-purpose skill set presents a threat to both Forsett and Allen's job security, but he'll have to earn his opportunities as a rookie. Unfortunately, those opportunities may be delayed after he suffered an MCL injury early in camp. He's slated to miss a few weeks of practice, which may not seem like a big deal, but is more magnified for a rookie. In terms of upside, he's probably the most appealing of all Ravens' running backs for fantasy purposes once healthy.

Terrance West and Lorenzo Taliaferro - West has apparently worked ahead of Taliaferro during Spring practice sessions, but neither back has an appealing outlook for fantasy purposes unless injuries strike. The two backs will reportedly battle for the final running back spot on the Ravens roster.

Green Bay Packers


Wide receivers

With Jordy Nelson back in the mix and Randall Cobb returning as Aaron Rodgers' top two targets in Green Bay, there should be a heated battle for the Packers No. 3 receiver spot. Veteran James Jones led Green Bay in receiving last year with 890 yards but was let go by the team during the offseason, leaving an opportunity open for some younger talent to break through.

Devante Adams - Adams has the most experience of the group with 166 receptions, 929 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons. He struggled with drops (53.2 percent catch rate on 94 targets) and consistency last season and became the butt of many a joke in fantasy circles. It seems like he still has a shot to vie for the No. 3 role and as long as he has a consistent camp he's probably the favorite to win the job based on his experience and draft pedigree.

Jeff Janis - Janis, a major contributor on special teams, has just 14 receptions to his name through two seasons. He put himself on the map during the playoffs last year with a big game against Arizona and his fantasy truthers around the world erupted in glee. Unfortunately, he'll have to have a great camp to win the spot. It's possible, but he's nothing more than a deep sleeper for now.

Jared Abbrederis - Entering his third season, Abbrederis has battled injuries since the Packers drafted him in 2014. He managed to get on the field for five regular season games last year but recorded just nine total catches in those contests. He did get some playing time during the Packers' two playoff games and notched six catches for 69 yards. He'll have to take advantage of every opportunity he can during camp to prove to the coaching staff that he deserves a bigger role in the offense, but he clearly has some tough competition ahead of him. Unless he has a ridiculous preseason, he's off the fantasy radar.

Pittsburgh Steelers


Wide receivers

Antonio Brown is a first round pick in fantasy. Markus Wheaton, who will serve as the No. 2 by default, is a great value pick based on his eighth-round ADP. But with Martavis Bryant suspended for the year, who will be the Steelers No. 3 wideout? It's pretty much down to veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey and second-year receiver Sammie Coates.

Sammie Coates - He garnered some praise this offseason (who hasn't), and some expect him to be the biggest benefactor of Bryant's absence. Coates is an athletic freak but he will need to really shine in camp to earn significant snaps that would translate to fantasy value.

Darrius Heyward-Bey - A veteran presence in the Steelers locker room, he had just 24 catches over his last 32 games in Pittsburgh so he's not a viable option in fantasy. Even without Coates as a factor last season, DHB didn't produce enough to be drafted. He's also going to battle tight end Ladarius Green for targets.

Eli Rogers - According to ESPN reporter Jeremy Fowler (via Mike Clay), Rogers has a chance to be the Steelers slot receiver this season. It's an interesting development at the onset of training camp and one worth monitoring. He's a second year receiver without a single reception to his name. He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville in 2015 but suffered a preseason knee injury that kept him out of action. Rogers has a smaller build but possesses explosiveness and burst after the catch. He's got some work to do to move up the depth chart, but its an interesting development at the onset of camp. For what it's worth, Rogers averaged 44 receptions and 505 receiving yards through his four years in college and scored a total of 12 touchdowns.

Tennessee Titans


Wide receivers

The Titans receiving corps was not ideal in fantasy last season as the team's top three, Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham and Harry Douglas combined for 104 receptions, 1,368 yards and nine touchdowns.

Dorial Green-Beckham - DGB had his moments as a rookie and is a massive target in red zone situations. The hope is that he can take the next step this season and emerge as a consistent option in the passing game and a week-to-week fantasy flex option. It remains to be seen, but the upside is there if you feel like throwing a dart at him in the later rounds on draft day. Just know that if he can't get it together early on, there's a good chance the coaching staff keeps him down on the depth chart until he shapes up.

Tajae Sharpe- A fifth-round draft selection out of Massachusetts, Sharpe has garnered some buzz this offseason as he mixed in with the first-team offense in OTAs and will reportedly begin camp as a starter. He's definitely a deep sleeper to keep an eye on as his preseason performance will determine his status as a fantasy option.

Rishard Matthews - Tennessee got Matthews in free agency this offseason. Last year with Miami he posted career highs in receptions (42), yards (662) and touchdowns (4) despite starting in only 11 games due to injury. It's a real possibility that Matthews emerges as a starter in Tennessee and could have sleeper potential late in fantasy drafts depending on how the team plans to use him. He's a near-lock to make the 53-man roster at the very least.

Kendall Wright - Last season, Wright tied for the lead among all Titans wideouts in receptions with 36 and played in just 10 games. That's not a good number and not the kind of volume fantasy owners should be seeking out. Still, he's worth a late-round dart throw since he's the favorite to serve as the No. 1 slot receiver at the onset of camp.

Harry Douglas - Douglas led Titans receivers in snaps (744) and targets (72) a season ago. Unfortunately, it sounds like he'll have to have a great camp in order to be considered one of the team's top four wideouts due to the additions of Matthews and Sharpe. Nothing at this point is certain, but Douglas is far from fantasy relevant.

Justin Hunter - Hunter will likely be battling with Douglas for the final starting spot. He only played in nine games last year and had just 22 receptions for 264 yards. He's entering his fourth season in the NFL and to this point has been a major bust considering he was drafted in the second round back in 2013. He's not a relevant fantasy option.

Chicago Bears


Running backs

The Bears backfield is basically a muddled mess from a fantasy standpoint and has even been referred to as "hell for fantasy owners" by a Chicago beat reporter.

Jeremy Langford - Based on his success as a fantasy option last season, Langford is probably the first Bears running back to target in drafts. While his ADP has fallen since Spring, he's still going as a late fourth-rounder according to 12-team data on FantasyFootballCalculator.com. That's just too rich of a price for a guy who's going to be a potentially three-man committee member. But he's worth watching in camp to see if he can separate himself from the rest of the pack.

Jordan Howard - The rookie will have to earn his snaps in camp, and a strong preseason showing could lead to more opportunities once the real games commence in September. Howard is built like an early down and short-yardage banger so there's a chance he develops into the team's goal-line back. He's definitely worth a dart throw as a sleeper considering his current Round 13 ADP.

Ka'Deem Carey - Carey is a longshot to have a fantasy impact but could still be a relevant member of Chicago's backfield committee. He managed to vulture a few touchdowns late last year and with this situation in flux, it's not out of the question for Carey to slide up the depth chart with a strong showing in camp. For now though, he's off the fantasy radar.

Jacquizz Rodgers - The senior member of the Bears running backs corps, Rodgers is last on this list for a reason. He's mainly a passing-down type and his best season came in 2012 as a Falcon with 402 receiving yards on 53 receptions. Unless there is an injury, Rodgers likely won't be much of a factor here.

New Orleans Saints


Wide receivers

Beyond third-year stud Brandin Cooks as the No. 1 it's unclear how the Saints receiving corps will round out. New Orleans lost tight end Benjamin Watson (74 rec) and veteran wideout Marques Colston (45 rec). So who will fill these voids and potentially emerge as fantasy assets down the line?

Michael Thomas - A second-round selection by the Saints, the rookie received mixed reviews during the offseason program with one Saints.com reporter going as far to say that Thomas won't beat out Coleman for the No. 3 job. For the most part though the feedback on the rookie has been glowing, and we're buying into that. Thomas saw snaps with the first team offense and has apparently already gained the trust of his quarterback, Drew Brees. Some think the rookie will fill Colston's role since he's basically a clone of the veteran in terms of size. Still he'll have to fend off Coleman who has a few years of experience but isn't considered a lock for the gig.

Brandon Coleman - The 6-foot-6 receiver only started three games last year and once Snead emerged, Coleman's role in the Saints offense was greatly diminished. He saw just a single target in eight games and was quickly forgotten as a fantasy asset. Back in February, it was reported that Coleman would fill Colston's role. That was before the team drafted Thomas though. If the rookie can flash in camp, he'll likely start ahead of Coleman.

Willie Snead - Snead fell just shy of 1,000 receiving yards last year and was a fantasy waiver wire gem, especially in PPR leagues as he averaged 6.7 targets per game. He will still have to shine in camp to earn himself the No. 2 role but building a rapport with Brees last season surely helps his case. He doesn't have much touchdown upside with bigger-bodied guys like Thomas and Fleener the go-to red zone targets but Snead will once again be an asset in PPR formats and could push for 1,000 yards for the second straight season.

San Francisco 49ers


Quarterbacks

With a new coaching staff in San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick could get another shot at the starting quarterback job for the 49ers. Kap had his moments as a fantasy asset and his ability to run the ball added value. But Blaine Gabbert got on a roll late last year despite the lack of talented weapons for him to work with. So who will coach Chip Kelly chose?

Blaine Gabbert - After taking over as the 49ers starter halfway through last season, Gabbert provided fantasy owners with streaming value. His worst outing was a 10.8 fantasy point game against Cincinnati's stingy defense and his ceiling reached 25.34 points against Chicago in Week 13. Signs point to Gabbert winning the starting job under new head coach Chip Kelly, but there's still an outside chance that Kaepernick can compete if he has a good camp.

Colin Kaepernick - Coming off of surgeries on his knee, shoulder and thumb, Kaepernick was limited during Spring minicamp sessions. He should be a full go for training camp and could force Chip Kelly to make a tough decision if he flashes the athletic ability that made him a top-10 fantasy QB in 2013. His development is worth keeping an eye on in the new San Francisco offense.

Denver Broncos


Quarterbacks

With the retirement of Peyton Manning and the departure of Brock Osweiler to Houston, the reigning Super Bowl champions have to hit the reset button at quarterback.

Mark Sanchez - Sanchez is entering his eighth season in the NFL and will likely win the starting job due to his veteran status. He has playoff experience and is surrounded by elite-level weapons in Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and C.J. Anderson. Although he may not be the best option as your starting fantasy quarterback, he could have some matchup-based streaming potential during the season. He's not the locked in starter yet, but a strong showing in camp will solidify his job as the team's first option at signal-caller. According to coach Gary Kubiak, he's off to a good start.

Trevor Siemien - While Sanchez is the favorite to win the job, there is a definite competition brewing in Denver. Siemien, a seventh-round draft selection last year, apparently has a shot at winning the starting job. This could just be coach-speak in order to drive competition and boost performance, but at this point we have to take it seriously. It remains to be seen what kind of fantasy value Siemien would bring if he did start for the Broncos, but hopefully we will get a good look at what he can do in the preseason.

Paxton Lynch - A late first round selection in this year's draft, Lynch finished Spring OTAs as the third quarterback on Denver's depth chart. If he makes progress in camp though, he could capitalize on added reps if either Sanchez or Siemien falter. The quarterback situation in Denver this year is reminiscent of what happened with Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet in Houston in 2015.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Tight Ends

Due to the offseason meltdown of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, his job as the Bucs starting tight end is evidently in jeopardy.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins - The negative offseason narrative regarding ASJ has snowballed out of control. First, he had undergone surgery to repair a shoulder injury which kept him off the field for nine games in 2015. Then, during spring practices, the coaching staff kicked him off the field for mental lapses. Things are trending in the wrong direction for the third-year tight end. He'll have to step up in camp, and prove that he can stay healthy in order to reclaim the starting role.

Cameron Brate - Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter wasn't shy about voicing his concern with Seferian-Jenkins and even said that he would have to hold off Brate for the starting role as tight end. The third-year player out of Harvard has been talked up as a red zone presence and with a strong showing in camp, he cold become a fantasy-relevant option as far as sleeper tight ends go. We're keeping a close eye on this one.

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Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattFranchise.

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