With Green-Ellis gone, Ridley could be the feature back
This year, there is no training camp battle that has stolen the spotlight in such a manner, but there are still some important battles around the league that will affect fantasy football.
Here’s a look at the nine most important training camp battles for the 2012 fantasy football season.
Can Martin step in and be the every down back?
Doug Martin, the 31st overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, will be competing with incumbent LeGarrette Blount for starting duties in Tampa Bay. Martin is the clear choice on third downs with a demonstrated ability to catch passes out of the backfield and pass-block at Boise State.
Blount was inconsistent in 2011, finishing with five touchdowns and five fumbles. He ultimately lost late-season carries and a chance to cement himself as the team’s starter in 2012.
If Martin ends up as the featured back, he has a chance to out-produce fellow rookie starter Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns.
A big question in Detroit is who will be the main beneficiary of lining up across the field from Calvin Johnson this year.
Nate Burleson was the No. 2 receiver last year, with 110 targets resulting in 73 receptions for 757 yards and three touchdowns. Titus Young had six scores in his rookie season last year, but only 48 receptions. Things may be looking up for Young, though, as all six of his receiving touchdowns came Week 8 or later.
Young’s role should expand in 2012, and that could leave Burleson (now 30) as the team’s fourth receiving option behind Johnson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
Ryan Broyles is a receiver who could thrive in the slot with the Lions, but he is coming off a knee injury sustained in November. He could be an impact player later on in the season and a popular waiver pick-up.
Tate mainly returned kicks in 2011
Another receiver battle is taking place in Cincinnati to fill the No. 2 slot opposite of A.J. Green. Two other young players, 24-year-old Brandon Tate and rookie third-round pick Mohamed Sanu, seem to be the front-runners at the moment.
Jerome Simpson, a man best known for one play, was the Bengals' second-leading receiver in 2011. Simpson signed with the Vikings this offseason, leaving an open competition in Cincy for his starting spot.
Tate, a former third-round pick himself by the Patriots, was used primarily as a kick and punt returner, with one return touchdown in 2011. Sanu caught 115 balls last year at Rutgers, but only at a 10.5 yards per reception clip.
If neither player distinguishes one's self, tight end Jermaine Gresham could become an even more integral part of the Bengals offense and leave both Tate and Sanu irrelevant in fantasy.
The departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the Bengals has opened a vacancy in New England.
Stevan Ridley, the second-year back from LSU, rushed for 5.1 yards per carry in his rookie season while seeing limited action behind Green-Ellis. He could step into the starter’s role, but there is competition from Shane Vereen and, to a lesser extent, Danny Woodhead and Joseph Addai.
The Patriots are hardly known for their rushing attack; last year, Green-Ellis led the team with just 667 yards. But Ridley could improve on that if given the carries.
Ridley had five runs of 20-plus yards last season on 87 carries. Green-Ellis had no such runs on 181 attempts.
A fantasy question of interest lingers in San Diego after Vincent Jackson decided to take up Tampa Bay's lucrative offer.
Malcom Floyd would be the pick to slide into the lead role after producing 856 yards receiving on just 43 receptions in 12 games in 2011. His 19.9 yards per catch was the highest average in the NFL.
But the 30-year-old has managed to make it through the 16-game season in its entirety just once in his career.
Former Saint Robert Meachem and holdover Vincent Brown head up the main competitors for Floyd in getting the most targets from Philip Rivers.
Brown had 19 receptions last season as a rookie. Meachem had nine TDs with the Saints in 2009 but has never caught more than 45 balls in a season.
Locker has good mobility as a big QB
Of course, there are training camp battles at quarterback this year as well. But it’s hard to see any QB in this group emerging as a QB1 this season. Here’s a quick breakdown of the training camp battles under center.
Matt Hasselbeck vs. Jake Locker
Locker could be a fantasy force in the future, but the Titans have stuck with Hasselbeck thus far despite Locker finding some success in limited action. Hasselbeck started all 16 games last season, while Locker played in five and produced a QB rating of 99.4 on 66 pass attempts. Hasselbeck had a rating of 82.4.
The Titans could go pass-heavy this year with talented receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and tight end Jared Cook. Of the QBs battling for jobs, Hasselbeck and Locker are the most likely to have a fantasy impact this season.
Matt Moore vs. David Garrard vs. Ryan Tannehill
The Dolphins' aerial attack is riddled with questions after the loss of top receiver Brandon Marshall and the addition of No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill to compete with incumbent Matt Moore and veteran David Garrard as the team's signal-caller.
Matt Moore was a decent fantasy backup with Brandon Marshall as his main target, but the WR corps of 2012 looks meager, headlined by 34-year-old Patriots castoff Chad Ochocinco, Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. The fantasy outlook for Tannehill and Garrard would be just as bleak.
Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton
While neither Kolb nor Skelton is likely to end up starting in many fantasy leagues, the battle will affect fantasy stud Larry Fitzgerald and rookie Michael Floyd. Fitzgerald had some of his best games late in the season when Skelton was under center, averaging 117 yards per contest in Weeks 14 through 17.
Kolb hasn’t lived up to expectations since being acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles last July, but is probably the favorite heading into training camp by simple fact that the Cards already paid a considerable price for his services.
Tarvaris Jackson vs. Matt Flynn
Jackson was a non-factor in fantasy in 2011. Meanwhile, Flynn only had an impact for one game in those leagues that count Week 17, when he set records for Green Bay QBs with 480 yards and six touchdowns.
The offense has run through Marshawn Lynch the past two years in Seattle and likely will again in 2012, making it unlikely that Jackson or Flynn will be anything more than a fantasy bye-week fill-in.