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Fantasy Football: QB camp battle updates, first day of training camp notes, and the latest QB and RB rankings

I bet the first day of training camp for NFL players is a lot like the first day of school. You’re all anxious about seeing all your old friends again, and you know you’re going to make a whole bunch of new friends. 

But you also know the first day isn’t going to necessarily be full of action. It’s just about getting reacquainted, figuring out what your new year is going to look like, and getting settled in. Teams weren’t throwing on pads and installing new packages Tuesday, they were just reporting, getting their physicals, getting tested, and getting ready. 

But from our perspective, there was quite a lot to keep track of. Because the first day of training camp is also the day we get a bunch of injury updates, quotes from coaches and star players, and a bunch of roster moves. So today’s newsletter is all about catching up on the news you might have missed if you weren’t paying close attention. 

Plus, I’ve updated my rankings for quarterback and running back, with some brief thoughts there. I’ll be updating my rankings regularly and sending them your way, so make sure you can keep an eye out for who is rising, and who is falling. 

Here’s what we’re looking at today:

  • Garoppolo locked in?🔒
  • Denver QB battle update 📈
  • Notable quotes📣
  • Updated QB and RB rankings⬆️

Training Camp Day 1 Notebook

There is no QB competition in San Francisco

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 25: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 talks to George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers during a game against the New England Patriots on October 25, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters Jimmy Garoppolo is his starter. Point blank. There wasn’t any hemming and hawing. Of course, that could change if Garoppolo struggles in camp or the preseason, or Trey Lance really shines. The latter is certainly possible, given that the 49ers took him third overall, but it’s hardly a given. Lance has only played in one real game since 2019, and he played at the lower FCS level in college, so it would be quite a leap from that to a starting job. Don’t count it out, but don’t count on it.

And, if you’re hoping to stash Lance as a high-upside QB starter, the bad news is, Garoppolo is just good enough not to lose the job outright. At this point, it’s pretty clear he’s not the franchise QB the 49ers thought they were getting, but he’s capable enough of running this offense. It’s an offense that does make the job very easy for the quarterback, thanks to Kyle Shanahan’s playcalling and the team’s bevy of excellent playmakers, and so the 49ers could return to being a contender even if Garoppolo isn’t necessarily a difference maker.

I think the most likely outcome is, Garoppolo is good enough to keep the job for Lance’s redshirt season, the same way Alex Smith was good enough in Patrick Mahomes‘ rookie season. However, there could be an early path for Lance, as the 49ers play the Packers, Seahawks, and Cardinals in three straight weeks before their Week 6 bye. If they go 0-3 or 1-2 and Garoppolo just isn’t getting it done, that seems like a natural spot for Lance to get a chance. I wouldn’t target him in a re-draft league where you only start one QB, but Lance remains an excellent late-round stash in any league with two spots in your lineup for a starting QB.  

The Broncos will split QB reps 50-50 at first

Jun 1, 2021; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) and quarterback Drew Lock (3) during organized team activities at the UCHealth Training Center. 
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There were two ways to spin what the Broncos announced Tuesday. You could either go with the headline I went with or you could go with this one: “Drew Lock will get the first rep at QB.” Technically, both are true, but the latter seems to tell a somewhat less accurate story than the former. Lock is the incumbent and he’ll get the first snap when practice opens, but he and Teddy Bridgewater are in a legitimate battle. Maybe it won’t be 50-50 every day — one day, it might be Lock getting more work, then Bridgewater the next — but this is an open competition and nobody seems to be in the lead right now.

And that’s fine. Lock and Bridgewater both bring different things to the table. I look at it like this: This is Lock’s job to lose. He’s got considerably more upside than Bridgewater as a big-armed, aggressive QB with pretty good athleticism. If he figures it out, he gives the Broncos offense a higher ceiling, and him figuring it out would be very good news for Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, and the rest. 

But, I wouldn’t say Lock is the favorite to win the job because there’s a pretty good chance he will lose it. He’s been mistake-prone and inaccurate so far in his NFL career, and if he doesn’t improve that, the flashes of upside won’t matter. The Broncos know what they have in Bridgewater, more or less — a solid starting QB who can move the chains but won’t light up the scoreboard. If Lock can’t be better than that, Bridgewater is at least a good bet to give the team better QB play than they’ve gotten in the last few years. 

  • Aaron Rodgers reported to camp — It wasn’t just a dream. Rodgers is back in Green Bay, the Packers’ skill position players are back to being locked in, elite Fantasy options, and they’re going to give it one more go. Hooray! If you want more analysis, I wrote about it yesterday, but there really isn’t much to say: Davante Adams is the No. 1 WR, and Aaron Jones should be no lower than RB8. 
  • Curtis Samuel (groin) was placed on the active/PUP list — Samuel was limited by the injury during minicamps, and it’s still an issue, apparently. It’s not clear how serious it is, but it’s certainly more serious than we thought if he’s not medically cleared yet. Hopefully this is just a one or two-day thing because Samuel is going to be an important part of the Football Team’s offense — and one of my favorite targets in the WR3 range. 
  • The Packers are working on a trade for Randall Cobb — It’s been reported that this is part of appeasing Rodgers, though there’s no guarantee a deal gets done — and it certainly doesn’t sound like Rodgers is going to walk away at this point. The Packers have plenty of speed in their WR corps, but Cobb could be a reliable target for Rodgers in the short and intermediate range working in the middle of the field. Cobb hasn’t averaged more than 50 yards per game while playing with Rodgers since 2015, so he wouldn’t have much Fantasy appeal even if he does make his way to Green Bay. 
  • Zach Ertz reported to training camp — According to reports from last week, Ertz sounds like he’s open to sticking around with the Eagles after requesting a trade earlier in the offseason. Of course, that could just be posturing until a tight end needy team offers the Eagles something worth their while. If Ertz does return to the Eagles, it certainly complicates Dallas Goedert’s breakout chances, because Jalen Hurts looked for Ertz more than any other receiver last season. 
  • Zach Wilson is still working on his contract — Which is why he hasn’t reported to camp yet. There’s no question Wilson will be the starter for the Jets, and they should be vastly improved after finishing as the league’s worst offense a year ago. In fact, with what could be a pretty good offensive line and a surprisingly talented WR corps, this could actually be a fairly soft landing for Wilson if he can get up to speed quickly. I’m not expecting him to be a top-12 Fantasy QB or anything like that, but he’s an interesting sleeper for 2QB and SuperFlex leagues.
  • Courtland Sutton (knee) has been cleared for training camp — It’s going to be interesting to see what the hierarchy at wide receiver for the Broncos looks like. Sutton is the presumed top option and he’s certainly got the best track record, with a 1,112-yard season back in 2019 to his credit. But Jerry Jeudy is an elite talent who could absolutely push him to be the top option. Sutton is a terrific big-play receiver (16.1 yards per catch for his career) while Jeudy might be a bit more well-rounded assuming he continues developing. I could see both being top-12 Fantasy WRs, but they’ll need better QB play than Denver has gotten in the past. 
  • Odell Beckham (knee) has been cleared for camp — Not unexpected, but still a nice sign. The odds are heavily stacked against Beckham ever getting back to the WR1 range, but a bounceback season isn’t totally out of the question. I’m still ranking him outside of the top 30 at the position, however, and haven’t drafted him at any point this preseason, so I’m obviously not optimistic. 

More news and notes

Joe Burrow probably won’t play in the preseason. But he’s been fully cleared for training camp and will be there in Week 1. …  Logan Thomas signed a three-year extension with $10.3 million guaranteed. That’s a nice-sized commitment for last year’s breakout TE. …  Kadarius Toney (COVID-19 list) is expected to practice sometime this week. He’s behind schedule after missing time during offseason workouts and working with the second team. … Gus Edwards was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and will have to be away from the team for 10 days. He’s expected to be back before preseason action starts. … The Saints signed Chris Hogan. Hogan, who has 22 catches over the last two seasons, is hardly anyone’s idea of a Michael Thomas replacement …  Justin Jackson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He’ll have to stay away from the team for 10 days, and while that will still give him time to be ready for preseason action, it’s not good news for a guy who is already on the roster bubble. This could be good news for Joshua Kelley’s chances of locking in the No. 2 role behind Austin Ekeler.

They said it … 

  • Getting David Montgomery 20 carries per game is “very doable.” -Matt Nagy. That’s the second time Nagy has said something along those lines in the last few months. I’ll take the under on 340 carries, obviously, but I did recently move Montgomery up in my rankings given the news that Tarik Cohen is not guaranteed to be ready for the start of the season. How high did I move Montgomery? He’s RB18, but he’s getting closer and closer to the discussion of top-12 backs. Montgomery has averaged 19.1 PPR points in 12 games without Cohen active in his career. 
  • “He’s the type of player who is going to shock the world.”Mark Andrews, on Ravens WR Marquise Brown. Andrews noted this is Brown’s first “normal” offseason since getting to the NFL, and that’s a good point; Brown was recovering surgery on his foot as a rookie in 2019 and then obviously the entire NFL had an unusual offseason last year. Brown came on strong late last season, with 534 yards and six touchdowns in his final eight games, and is looking to build on that — with competition from first-round pick Rashod Bateman and free agent signee Sammy Watkins. Brown is a sneaky breakout candidate heading into his third season. 
  • “Hopefully I’ll get some more down-the-field routes.” –Nyheim Hines. That kind of note always makes my ears perk up. A passing game role is always valuable for running backs, but especially if you can start to earn targets down the field. Hines had just four targets that traveled farther than 5 years down the field last season. Hines seems likely to lose playing time after having 89 carries and 76 targets last season, but if he can add on a handful of downfield targets, that could help offset some of what he’s likely to lose and keep him in the “useful PPR fill-in” range. What would be really interesting would be if Jonathan Taylor saw some downfield targets — just two of his 39 went more than 5 years.

QB Rankings

The thing to keep in mind about quarterback is, there might be a lot of shuffling in the rankings between now and the start of the season, but it’s because everyone is so closely bunched together. The top seven clearly stand out from the pack, and 8 through 12 are in their own tier for me, as well. After that? A small change in anyone’s projection could cause them to move 10 spots, and it wouldn’t actually mean much. Unless you’re reaching for one of the true difference makers at the top, your best bet is still to wait and snag whichever one of the top 12 falls furthest. 

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Kyler Murray
  3. Lamar Jackson
  4. Josh Allen
  5. Russell Wilson
  6. Aaron Rodgers
  7. Dak Prescott
  8. Jalen Hurts
  9. Ryan Tannehill
  10. Justin Herbert
  11. Tom Brady
  12. Joe Burrow
  13. Cam Newton
  14. Matthew Stafford
  15. Tua Tagovailoa
  16. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  17. Carson Wentz
  18. Ben Roethlisberger
  19. Trevor Lawrence
  20. Kirk Cousins
  21. Tyrod Taylor
  22. Daniel Jones
  23. Matt Ryan
  24. Derek Carr
  25. Andy Dalton
  26. Jameis Winston
  27. Jimmy Garoppolo
  28. Jared Goff
  29. Zach Wilson
  30. Baker Mayfield
  31. Drew Lock
  32. Sam Darnold

RB Rankings 

I’ve held steady with Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara at the top of my rankings, and Michael Thomas‘ injury only solidified my belief that Kamara belongs at No. 2. … I might be too high on Joe Mixon, but nothing I’ve seen this offseason has made me want to move him down, because I think he’s locked into one of the most high-volume rushing roles in the league and has more pass-catching upside than ever before. … One player who did move down, naturally, is Saquon Barkley. I still expect him to be ready for Week 1, but it’s not 100% guaranteed, and it does sound like we should expect a limited role in the early going. He still has massive upside, but it’s also worth noting that he has averaged just 5.5 targets per game in 12 games with Daniel Jones, as opposed to 7.2 in 19 without him. … The gap between No. 12 and 18 at this point is less than a point per game in my projections, and there isn’t a real dropoff until RB20 in PPR. 

Note: Non-PPR ranking is in parenthesis:

  1. Christian McCaffrey (1)
  2. Alvin Kamara (3)
  3. Dalvin Cook (2)
  4. Austin Ekeler (13)
  5. Joe Mixon (9)
  6. Aaron Jones (8)
  7. Ezekiel Elliott (7)
  8. Najee Harris (11)
  9. Derrick Henry (4)
  10. Jonathan Taylor (5)
  11. Saquon Barkley (10)
  12. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (14)
  13. Antonio Gibson (12)
  14. Nick Chubb (6)
  15. D’Andre Swift (23)
  16. Chris Carson (15)
  17. Myles Gaskin (21)
  18. David Montgomery (17)
  19. Darrell Henderson (18)
  20. Miles Sanders (20)
  21. Melvin Gordon (22)
  22. J.K. Dobbins (16)
  23. Josh Jacobs (19)
  24. Mike Davis (24)
  25. Travis Etienne (28)
  26. Kareem Hunt (27)
  27. Chase Edmonds (31)
  28. James Conner (25)
  29. David Johnson (29)
  30. Raheem Mostert (26)
  31. Kenyan Drake (38)
  32. Michael Carter (33)
  33. James Robinson (30)
  34. Javonte Williams (41)
  35. Latavius Murray (32)
  36. Jamaal Williams (37)
  37. A.J. Dillon (35)
  38. Devin Singletary (34)
  39. Leonard Fournette (39)
  40. Nyheim Hines (47)
  41. J.D. McKissic (46)
  42. Damien Harris (36)
  43. Zack Moss (44)
  44. Tony Pollard (45)
  45. Ronald Jones (40)
  46. James White (50)
  47. Trey Sermon (42)
  48. Gus Edwards (43)
  49. Tarik Cohen (51)
  50. Giovani Bernard (57)
  51. Tevin Coleman (48)
  52. Rashaad Penny (49)
  53. Darrynton Evans (56)
  54. Malcolm Brown (55)
  55. Darrel Williams (54)
  56. Phillip Lindsay (52)
  57. Kenneth Gainwell (61)
  58. Alexander Mattison (59)
  59. Joshua Kelley (62)
  60. Chris Evans (70)

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