Fantasy Football Training Camp Battles: QB and RB


With NFL training camps on the horizon, there are plenty of position battles that will be won and lost ahead of the 2022 NFL season.


In this article, I will break down some of the top training camp battles at the quarterback and running back positions. I will explain who I believe wins the job and how you should approach drafting these players in fantasy football this season.


Carolina Panthers: Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold

The Carolina Panthers finally landed their guy, trading a fifth-round pick for Baker Mayfield after months of rumors and trade negotiations. The Panthers ultimately wanted a quarterback competition for Sam Darnold after a rough first season with the team, and now they find themselves trying to salvage the first and third overall picks of the 2018 NFL Draft. But which quarterback will ultimately start for the team?

Baker Mayfield QB Carolina Panthers

In terms of NFL careers, Mayfield has been superior to Darnold in nearly every way. Since 2018, Mayfield has posted a better completion percentage (61.6% to 59.8%) and more passing yards (14,125 to 10,624), passing touchdowns (92-54) and yards per attempt (7.3-6.5). Mayfield also has a lower career interception percentage (2.9% vs. 3.2%) and a lower sack percentage (6.5% vs. 7.6%) in his career. It is worth noting that Mayfield was on a far more talented Cleveland offense with one of the best offensive lines during that time, so his numbers should be better. While the statistics would indicate Mayfield should be the starting quarterback, it isn’t a slam dunk heading into training camp.

For one, Mayfield is still recovering from offseason surgery to his non-throwing shoulder, so he will likely need time in training camp to get his body ready for the season. Darnold does have a year of rapport with the Panthers’ pass game weapons and head coach Matt Rhule, but both players will be trying to stand out in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense. In terms of physical tools, Darnold has prototypical quarterback size, a strong arm and more athleticism, but he’s never been able to use those to be a good NFL quarterback. Carolina gave up far more to acquire Darnold before the 2021 season, but the team was also forced to start Cam Newton and P.J. Walker last year because of injuries and very underwhelming play.

Mayfield is a Carolina Panther because Darnold didn’t do enough to hold on to the job, so it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t start most, if not all, of their games this season. He is the quarterback worth drafting, but neither may have much fantasy value this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mitch Trubisky vs. Kenny Pickett

Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement forced a changing of the guard at the quarterback position for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers first dipped into free agency to sign Mitch Trubisky to a two-year, $14.2 million contract. They then added Kenny Pickett with the 20th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, making him the first quarterback selected (and the only quarterback taken in the first two rounds). Mason Rudolph is still in Pittsburgh, but he’s never capitalized on any opportunity to show he’s more than a backup quarterback in the league.

It’s easy to harp on Trubisky, but the truth is he’s been an adequate quarterback for most of his career. In four seasons as a starter, Trubisky averaged a 64% completion percentage, 2,652.3 passing yards and 16 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. He also adds a rushing element with 47.5 carries, 264.3 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns per season. Trubisky has his limitations as a passer, but he’s good enough to win games by not turning the ball over. The Steelers will arguably have the best offensive supporting cast of his career.

For the first four years of his college career, Pickett was an unremarkable quarterback with underwhelming numbers. From 2017 to 2020, Pickett completed just 59.9% of passes for 7,984 yards and 39 touchdowns with 25 interceptions. He would have likely been a late-round pick or an UDFA in the NFL draft. Then COVID-19 allowed him to come back for a fifth year, which allowed him to vault into a first-round prospect. In his final season with Pitt, Pickett set career highs in completion percentage (67.2), yards (4,319) and touchdowns (42) while throwing just seven interceptions. Pickett ultimately finished third in the Heisman voting and wound up as the first quarterback selected in the class.

The Steelers have no reason to rush Pickett into the starting role during the 2022 season. Trubisky will likely win the job in camp and will likely hold onto the job as long as the Steelers can win games. Thanks to a strong supporting cast and potential rushing ability, Trubisky can be a fantasy-relevant quarterback this season. He’s an interesting QB2 in superflex leagues and could be a matchup streamer in 1QB leagues once bye weeks come into play.


Seattle Seahawks: Drew Lock vs. Geno Smith

This one shouldn’t take long. The Seattle Seahawks decided to move on from Russell Wilson this offseason, trading him to the Denver Broncos for a cache of draft picks, Noah Fant and Drew Lock. Seattle opted to bring Geno Smith back after he played well during a four-game stretch in 2021 when Wilson was injured. With Baker Mayfield officially traded to Carolina, it seems that the Seattle quarterback competition will be between these two players. (Though there will be Jimmy Garoppolo murmurs until something settles with his situation.)

Lock has plenty of arm talent, but he’s struggled to consistently put the tools together to be an NFL-caliber quarterback. In 24 career games (21 starts), Lock has a 59.3% completion percentage with 4,740 yards and 25 touchdowns with 20 interceptions. In his one true season as a starter (2020), he finished with just one more touchdown (16) than interceptions (15).

Drew Lock QB Seattle Seahawks

Lock will likely get the first crack at being the starting quarterback for the Seahawks as they try to figure out what their future will look like. If Lock plays well, Denver can assess his future with the team to build around him. If he’s bad, that only gives Seattle a better shot at a quarterback in the 2023 class. Regardless, this is a quarterback situation to avoid in fantasy.

Running Back

Buffalo Bills: Devin Singletary vs. James Cook

Through 14 weeks of the regular season, it once again looked like Devin Singletary was going to be a fantasy disappointment. During that stretch, Singletary was averaging just 8.6 carries, 3.1 targets and 54.0 total yards per game. He had scored just two touchdowns and was averaging just 8.8 fantasy points per game. However, his situation changed over the last four weeks of the season, leading Singletary to produce RB1 overall numbers with 20.9 fantasy points per game. From Weeks 15 to 18, the veteran running back averaged 19 carries for 80.8 yards and found the end zone five times. Buffalo continued to ride the hot hand in the playoffs, and Singletary carried the ball 26 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns in two games.

Since then, Buffalo has spent the offseason trying to find a pass game complement to Singletary in the offense. They initially had a deal in place with J.D. McKissic before he opted to return to Washington. Ultimately, they took James Cook in the second round of the draft, leading to buzz around the pass-catching back from Georgia’s National Championship-winning team. The high draft capital has created some upside for Cook as the lead back in Buffalo.

Heading into fantasy drafts, it is highly likely Singletary will dominate the touches in this offense throughout the 2022 season. He showed the ability to be productive as a rusher to close out the season. Cook is the most explosive player at the running back position in Buffalo, but he averaged just seven touches per game in his career at Georgia. In PPR leagues, Cook has definite upside, especially if Josh Allen is forced to check down against defenses trying to limit deep plays.

In fantasy drafts, Singletary is currently being taken as RB28, with Cook coming in as RB35. At that cost, Singletary seems to be the more logical choice. Allen historically hasn’t relied on the running back position in the passing game, which caps Cook’s ceiling as the pass-catching back. If Buffalo’s offense can get ahead in games, then Singletary will likely be the one carrying the ball to close out games. Singletary will get the chance to prove his end of the season wasn’t a fluke and will likely lead this backfield in touches.

Denver Broncos: Javonte Williams vs. Melvin Gordon

The Javonte Williams hype train was derailed after Melvin Gordon returned to the team on a one-year deal in free agency. A lot of the optimism came from the huge game Williams had in Week 13 with Gordon sidelined.

Outside of that, the Broncos had a true split backfield situation, leading both Williams (RB17) and Gordon (RB21) to finish as RB2s in PPR scoring. Even more frustrating for fantasy managers was the fact that their roles essentially cannibalized each other throughout the season. Each player finished the year with 203 carries and over 900 rushing yards. Williams ultimately had the team’s pass-catching role (53 targets), but Gordon seemed to get the high-value touches in the red zone (10 total touchdowns). Unfortunately, 2022 likely won’t provide much clarity going forward.

The addition of Russell Wilson at quarterback will open up the run game now that teams have to respect a quarterback in Denver than can adequately throw the football. Unfortunately, Denver also hired Nathaniel Hackett from the Green Bay Packers, a coordinator who historically split carries between his top two running backs.

In fantasy drafts, Williams is currently being taken in the second round (RB10), while Gordon is going in the ninth round (RB37). While Williams will likely earn the greater role in the backfield, the reality is he isn’t going to siphon enough work from Gordon to justify that high of a draft pick unless there is an injury in the backfield. At cost, Gordon is the running back to prioritize in this backfield.

Houston Texans: Dameon Pierce vs. Marlon Mack vs. Rex Burkhead

The Houston Texans have a lot of holes to fill on their roster, and the running back position doesn’t seem to be a priority at this time. The Texans signed Marlon Mack to a one-year deal worth $2 million this offseason and eventually took Dameon Pierce out of Florida in the fourth round of the draft. They also chose to bring back Rex Burkhead after he was with the team in 2021, creating a possible three-headed rushing attack with zero fantasy relevance.

Mack was able to return to the Colts in a limited role during the 2021 season after tearing his Achilles in the first game of 2020. Mack’s injury allowed Jonathan Taylor to be unleashed, which ultimately cost the former Colt his job. The veteran got just 28 carries for 101 yards in six games last year. Likewise, Pierce enters the NFL after being stuck in a timeshare throughout his entire college career. Pierce had his best season in 2021 (100 carries, 19 receptions, 790 total yards, 16 total touchdowns), but never quite broke through to dominate the backfield. Burkhead led the Texans backfield with 122 carries in 2021, which isn’t saying much since he was competing throughout the season with Mark Ingram, David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman.

Houston will likely lean on a shared backfield throughout the 2022 season, utilizing Mack and Burkhead early and getting Pierce experience as the season goes on. If Pierce can impress, he can eventually take on a greater role in the offense. The best solution in fantasy drafts is to just avoid this backfield completely since it is very unlikely any of these players carve out a significant enough role to matter in 2022.

Kansas City Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. Ronald Jones

Clyde Edwards-Helaire RB Kansas City Chiefs

Rumors have started floating around that Ronald Jones will have an opportunity to earn the bulk of the carries in the Kansas City backfield next season after he joined the team on a one-year, $1.5 million deal this offseason. However, it’s also worth noting that this will be the first real offseason that Clyde Edwards-Helaire will have after the COVID-19 rookie season and a gall bladder surgery last year.

Ultimately, both players have had various degrees of disappointment throughout their careers. CEH was famously selected in the first round, ahead of players like Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift in the 2020 draft. He’s struggled to stay healthy and carve out a consistent role since. In two seasons with Kansas City, he had 300 carries for 1,320 yards and eight rushing touchdowns and added 55 receptions on 77 targets for 426 yards and three receiving scores in 23 games. Edwards-Helaire has struggled to stay healthy and has lost work in seasons to players like Darrel Williams and a well-past-his-prime Le’Veon Bell.

Things haven’t been much better for Jones in Tampa Bay. Jones has been a strong runner for most of his career (4.5 yards per carry) but has historically struggled with catching the ball and in pass protection. Those issues became magnified once Tom Brady arrived in Tampa Bay, leading the team to add Leonard Fournette, ultimately reducing Jones to a situational player. Jones had just 101 carries for 428 yards and four touchdowns last season, the lowest totals since his rookie year.

As it stands, Edwards-Helaire is being drafted as RB26, Jones as RB45 in NFFC drafts. At the very least, CEH will get the first shot at this backfield on passing downs and could very easily get the early-down work as well at the start of the season. Kansas City has invested far more in CEH than they have in Jones or Jerick McKinnon, so a strong start to the season could lead to him securing the lion’s share of the offensive snaps. As an RB3 in fantasy drafts, he’s well worth the shot.

Miami Dolphins: Chase Edmonds vs. Raheem Mostert vs. Sony Michel

The Miami Dolphins overhauled their offense this offseason, adding Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson at wide receiver, Terron Armstead and Connor Williams at guard, and Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel as their running backs. Interestingly enough, all three running backs have the potential to provide strong fantasy value at their current ADP. They all also carry a considerable amount of risk due to their injury histories.

Based purely on contracts, Edmonds will get the first opportunity to establish himself as the lead back and has the most upside given his role as a pass-catcher. Edmonds had the best season of his career with Arizona last season, carrying the ball 116 times for 592 yards and two touchdowns while adding 43 receptions for 311 yards. Unfortunately, a series of injuries limited him to just 11 games, allowing James Conner to take over the backfield. Mostert has familiarity with Mike McDaniel’s offense during their time in San Francisco and is an extremely explosive runner (career 5.7 yards per attempt), but he’s never had more than 137 carries and only played in more than 12 games once in his career. Michel has a history of knee issues but is coming off a strong season with the Rams in 2021 (208 carries, 845 yards, four rushing touchdowns, 21 receptions, 128 yards and one receiving touchdown).

Fantasy managers have struggled to navigate this backfield in drafts. All three of Edmonds (RB34), Mostert (RB60) and Michel (RB61) can provide different levels of value. At this point, Edmonds feels like the safest pick due to his strong efficiency numbers with the Cardinals and his lesser injury history. However, if he goes down once again, then Mostert could have an opportunity to capitalize in the backfield. Michel has the size to handle short-yardage and goal-line work but doesn’t fit the outside-zone scheme that McDaniel historically runs. In fantasy drafts, I’m targeting Edmonds above all else and will likely take Michel over Mostert.

New England Patriots: Damien Harris vs. Rhamondre Stevenson

The Patriots, like the Dolphins, have a backfield that is tough to predict. Both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson had strong stretches of play last season. Each back played in at least 12 games and had at least 130 carries. Both Harris and Stevenson had at least 600 rushing yards. Neither player was much of a factor in the pass game. The primary difference was that Harris was far more effective at finding the end zone, scoring 15 times compared to Stevenson’s five. And ultimately, both players are both being drafted in the RB3 range, with Harris coming off the board as RB27 and Stevenson being drafted as RB36.

Damien Harris RB New England Patriots

Unlike the Dolphins, this is a situation where I am fine taking whichever player comes off the board second in fantasy drafts. Harris was very efficient last season but ultimately saw his snap share decline after Week 8 in the regular season. Coincidentally, that is also when New England decided to lean more on Rhamondre Stevenson. This will truly be a time-share situation, and the Patriots will continue to ride the hot hand in the backfield. Harris is in the last season of his rookie contract, and Stevenson is a second-year rookie, so it wouldn’t be shocking if the Patriots begin to trust Stevenson more to determine his future workload with the team.

Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny vs. Ken Walker

There wouldn’t be a training camp battle article without one of the hottest debate topics in fantasy football on Twitter: Rashaad Penny or Ken Walker. In one corner, you have Penny, who after years of injuries finally put together a healthy stretch of games and a prolific stat line. From Weeks 14 to 18, Penny carried the ball 92 times for 671 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 22.0 fantasy points per game. Penny was a non-factor in the receiving game (just five receptions for 21 yards), but that doesn’t matter much when you’re averaging 134.2 rushing yards and a touchdown per game. With Chris Carson navigating a potentially career-ending neck injury, it seemed like Penny was poised to finally take control of the backfield.

Unfortunately, the Seahawks decided that fantasy managers weren’t allowed to have nice things. Seattle used a second-round pick on Michigan State’s Ken Walker (yes, he goes by Ken now) after a fantastic lone season in East Lansing after two solid but unspectacular seasons at Wake Forest. Walker finished sixth in the Heisman voting last season after leading the Spartans with 263 carries for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns. Like Penny, Walker also wasn’t used much in the passing attack, catching just 13 balls for 89 yards and a score.

So what do we do with this backfield? Odds are the Seahawks drafted Walker not only as an insurance policy for Carson, but also to alleviate the workload on Penny so he can finally put together a healthy season. However, Penny will likely get the first shot at the backfield and get the majority of the touches throughout the season if he continues to stay healthy. In NFFC drafts, Walker is coming off the board first (RB29), with Penny following shortly after (RB33). At the very least, these players should be flipped in fantasy drafts. Penny showed that he can produce at an elite level if given the chance last season and was a strong receiver coming out of college. Walker will have a role in this offense considering Seattle will try to use the run to alleviate pressure on Drew Lock and/or Geno Smith, but he’s being drafted like he’s the lead back. Both are priced reasonably, but Penny is the one to prioritize given what we saw from him during last season.

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