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Fantasy Football Training Camp Battles: Wide Receiver

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The NFL season is getting closer and closer, as we begin to approach the start of training camp. This is a critical point in the offseason with new information continuing to cycle throughout the next couple weeks. It’s important to differentiate news from noise during this period while paying attention to what teams are telling us based on their actions. My primary focus will be on tracking positional and depth chart battles. Today, we’re looking at tight ends. 

Check out my other looks at training camp position battles: QBRB| TE

 

Arizona Cardinals 

This offseason, the Cardinals released DeAndre Hopkins, who has led the team in targets (9.09), receptions (6.29), receiving yards (76.34) and receiving touchdowns (0.49) per game (including playoffs), since joining the team in 2020. With Hopkins serving a six-game suspension at the start of last season, Marquise Brown stepped up as the alpha, averaging 10.7 targets for 7.17 receptions, 80.83 receiving yards and 0.5 touchdowns in Weeks 1-6. Greg Dortch was third on the team in receiving yards last season (467), but primarily operated as the backup to Rondale Moore who was the preferred option. Moore dealt with injuries, but commanded targets at an elite level, finishing 20th in targets per game (8) per game and 15th in receptions per game (5.98). Arizona signed Zach Pascal to a two-year contract in free agency. He started two games with the Eagles last season, Jonathan Gannon’s former team. They also added a receiver in the draft, selecting Michael Wilson in the third round (No. 96 overall). Wilson has played in just 14 games over the last three seasons but has the capital to see meaningful playing time. 

Buffalo Bills 

Behind Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, the Bills struggled to find consistency from their third wide receiver, primarily rotating between Isaiah McKenzie and Khalil Shakir. With McKenzie no longer on the team, Shakir should be first in line for the WR3 role but did not do much in his rookie season, catching just 10 passes for 161 yards and 1 touchdown. He is unlikely to be handed the starting job considering Buffalo also added Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield in free agency. Harty missed 13 games last season, but had a career year in 2021, logging 36 receptions on 57 targets for 570 yards and three touchdowns with the Saints. Sherfield played inside the division with the Dolphins last season, finishing third on the team in receiving yards (417), trailing Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The Bills also spent a Day 3 pick on the position, selecting Justin Shorter in the fifth round (No. 150 overall). Shorter played just nine games for Florida last season but posted a career-high 577 receiving yards. 

Denver Broncos 

The Broncos didn’t have a single-1,000-yard-wide receiver last season. Jerry Jeudy led the pack, catching 67 passes on 100 targets for 972 yards and six touchdowns. Courtland Sutton was not too far behind, logging 62 receptions on a team-high 109 targets for 829 yards and two touchdowns. After Tim Patrick went down with a torn ACL last offseason, 2020 second-rounder KJ Hamler vaulted up the depth chart, opening the season as the starter. However, he also dealt with injuries, playing in just seven games before suffering a hamstring injury. New head coach Sean Payton brought in a familiar face in free agency, signing Marquez Callaway to a one-year contract. Callaway had his best season in Payton’s final year with the Saints, catching 46 passes on 84 targets for 698 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Denver did not have a first-round pick in the draft, but used their first selection on a receiver, trading up for Marvin Mims in the second round (No. 63 overall). As a freshman, Mims received FWAA Freshman All-American honors, catching 9 touchdowns in 11 games, the most by a first-year player in school history. Over the last two seasons, Mims led the Sooners in receiving yards while averaging 20-plus yards in each of them. In 2022, Mims set career highs across the board, catching 52 passes for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns. 

Houston Texans 

The Texans traded Brandin Cooks to the Cowboys this offseason. Cooks led the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards in each of the past three seasons, since joining the team in 2020. Cooks missed four games last season, but still saw a team-high 93 targets, catching 57 passes for 699 receiving yards and three touchdowns. When active, Nico Collins was the second option behind Cooks, averaging 6.22 targets, 3.78 receptions, 49.56 receiving yards and 0.11 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending foot injury in Week 13. In free agency, the Texans signed Robert Woods, who posted career-worse efficiency in 2022, his first season off an ACL tear. They brought in other veterans on more budget-friendly deals, signing Noah Brown and Chris Moore to one-year contracts. After selecting CJ Stroud with the third overall pick, Houston added weapons for their new quarterback, drafting Tank Dell and Xavier Hutchinson in the third and sixth rounds. Dell was reportedly hand selected by Stroud, leading the FBS in receiving yards (1,398) and touchdowns (17) last season. Hutchinson fell in the draft but posted a career year in 2022, leading Iowa State in targets (163), receptions (107), receiving yards (1,171) and receiving touchdowns (6). Former second-round pick John Metchie is also set to make his debut next season, after missing all of 2022 while battling leukemia. 

 

Kansas City Chiefs 

In his first season without Tyreek Hill, Patrick Mahomes led the league in passing yards (5,250) and was third in pass attempts (648), yet no Chiefs wide receiver posted 1,000 receiving yards. The Chiefs let JuJu Smith-Schuster walk in free agency after finishing second on the team in targets (101), receptions (78) and receiving yards (933), trailing only Travis Kelce in all those categories. Behind Smith-Schuster was Marquez-Valdes Scantling, who quietly posted career-best marks in targets (81), receptions (42) and receiving yards (687). They received little to no production from second-round rookie Skyy Moore who started in just three games, logging 22 receptions on 33 targets for 250 yards, without a single score in the regular season. Kadarius Toney has emerged as the favorite to take over as the WR1 after Kansas City traded for him before the deadline last season. Toney played 10 games with Kansas City (including the playoffs) but never more than 42% of snaps. In a limited role, Toney hauled in 21 passes on 27 targets for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Although the production wasn’t great, Toney demonstrated an elite ability to earn targets, posting a 29.4% targets per route run rate, which ranked first at the position from Week 9 on. The Chiefs spent another second-round pick on a receiver in the previous draft, trading up and selecting Rashee Rice at No. 55 overall. Rice earned first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors in 2022, finishing top-five in the FBS in receptions (96) and third in receiving yards (1,355). He also led SMU in receiving touchdowns, finding the end zone 10 times in 12 games. 

Tennessee Titans 

The Titans passing game struggled in their first season without A.J. Brown, without a single player surpassing 530 receiving yards. At 31 years old, Robert Woods led the team with 527 receiving yards, one season removed from a torn ACL. First-round rookie Treylon Burks had difficulty adjusting to the next level and staying healthy, hauling in 33 passes on 54 targets for 444 receiving yards and one touchdown in 11 games. His numbers were not too far off from Nick Westbrooke-Ikihine, who saw 50 targets for 25 receptions, 397 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. Fifth-round rookie Kyle Philips worked ahead of Burks at the start of last season, but he only played four games, dealing with a hamstring injury. Tennessee has been in discussion with DeAndre Hopkins but did not make any significant moves in free agency, signing Chris Moore to a one-year million contract. Moore posted career highs in targets (74), receptions (48) and receiving yards (548) last season, playing for the division-rival Texans. 

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