NFL teams all over the country are reporting to their respective training camps. Things are about to get real. Positional battles will be waged. Highly touted rookies will shine or stumble. And as we see every season, storylines will take shape — whether you choose to believe them or not is up to you.
The same goes for fantasy football. Fantasy gamers can learn a lot from what happens in camp, and as every team begins to ramp things up for the season, here is a major storyline to monitor for each squad.
Los Angeles Rams: Todd Gurley’s knee
Few fantasy storylines loom larger than the status of Todd Gurley, and whether the revelation of an “arthritic component” to his knee will prove detrimental to his performance on the field. Gurley himself has said the knee is “good” and that we’d “find out in training camp.” Nonetheless, his fantasy stock has taken a downturn in early drafts (17.8 average draft position), and only time and Gurley’s work this summer will tell the true extent of the ailment’s effects on the star runner.
Arizona Cardinals: The Kyler Murray era
The stage is set for rookie quarterback Kyler Murray to succeed this year. His coach, Kliff Kingsbury, and the Cardinals front office are betting on him. The Air Raid offense in place is one that may harken back to the one Kingsbury had in place when Patrick Mahomes was his QB at Texas Tech. The Cardinals have a plethora of weapons for Murray to put to use. Our very own Brad Evans is extremely high on Murray and currently has him fifth in his quarterback draft rankings. Will he live up to the expectations in 2019?
San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo x Kyle Shanahan
Fantasy gamers who drafted Jimmy G in 2018 only enjoyed two-and-a-half weeks of his services before the now-27-year-old suffered a devastating season-ending ACL tear. We have yet to see what a full season of Garoppolo and offensive-wizard Kyle Shanahan can bring to the 49ers and fantasy, but maybe 2019 will be that year.
The Seahawks were the No. 1 rushing offense in the league last season, averaging 160 yards per game. Music to fantasy gamers’ ears, right? Just draft the starting runner in Seattle and you’re set, right? Well, not so fast. The Seahawks proved in 2018 that they’d go with the hot hand at RB in any given game, which got frustrating. It seems like Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson are the two most trustworthy runners this season — the question is, who will provide the most bang for your fantasy buck?
Denver Broncos: Joe Flacco has the keys ... for now
The Broncos traded for Joe Flacco, and I’m sure Flacco-truthers will stan him on this team. Yet, the question remains: How many sub-200-yard, three-interception games will John Elway put up with before someone else is given a shot? You would think that Elway favorite, rookie Drew Lock, would be first in line in case Flacco falters, but as of this point, it’s not looking like that. The rookie himself is making the situation interesting, because head coach Vic Fangio said that Lock is “not a quarterback yet,” and when you look at the quarterback depth on the Broncos after Lock, Flacco’s job seems pretty comfortable — unless Lock or someone else makes otherworldly improvements in camp.
Oakland Raiders: Can Antonio Brown help “fix” Derek Carr?
Derek Carr actually delivered his highest QB rating since 2016 (93.9) as well as yardage total (4,049) of his career last season, but he also threw for the lowest touchdown total of his career and fumbled a whopping 11 times, losing seven of those. New addition and All-World receiver Antonio Brown is expected to help Carr reach a new level of success, and we’ll start to know more about this connection in training camp.
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon’s holdout
Talk about delivering an offseason bombshell (although, the signs may have been there all along). Melvin Gordon revealed that not only would he not report until he received a new contract, but that he’d also demand a trade if his terms weren’t met. Fantasy gamers will have to watch this situation very, very closely.
Kansas City Chiefs: Super Bowl or bust
The Chiefs were one win away from the Super Bowl last season, but running into Tom Brady (more on him later) and Bill Belichick in the playoffs is something no one would ask for. Nonetheless, the Chiefs remain a fantasy bounty on offense, and the sky’s the limit for this team.
Tennessee Titans: Will Derrick Henry finally reach his potential?
Derrick Henry put on a late-season stretch for the history books, with 606 total yards and seven touchdowns from Weeks 14-17. We’ve been waiting on Henry to erupt since he was drafted — here’s to hoping it happens in 2019 for a full season. News is already emerging of the monstrous RB being the focal point for the Titans this year:
Jacksonville Jaguars: Nick Foles to play hero again?
The Blake Bortles era (if we can even call it an era) ended in Jacksonville, and now, Nick Foles is the new QB1 for the Jaguars. Foles enjoyed legendary success in Philadelphia, but can he work some of that magic into this team (and will Leonard Fournette be healthy enough to help)?
Houston Texans: Can Deshaun Watson be fantasy’s No. 1 QB?
Deshaun Watson finished 2018 as the fourth highest-scoring fantasy quarterback on the heels of a 4,000-yard season and a pristine 26:9 TD:INT ratio. He also rushed for over 500 yards and five scores. The tools are there for an even better season in 2019, but can he match up with the likes of Patrick Mahomes in fantasy (and can the Texans O-line give him a chance to do so)?
Indianapolis Colts: Just how good will this team be in 2019?
The Colts had a dream season in 2018, complete with a healthy, dominant Andrew Luck, a formidable rushing attack, and a strong defense. Unfortunately, they ran into the buzzsaw that is the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs in the playoffs. We’ll start to see more of the continued evolution of this team very soon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: How high can this offense fly?
Well, if there was ever a chance for Jameis Winston to prove himself, it’s now. Paired with Bruce Arians and expected to produce in the coach’s high-flying passing game, Winston and the offense should, in turn, produce for fantasy gamers. The question is, will a hero emerge at running back to supplement the aerial attack?
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton’s shoulder
2018 was a tale of two halves for Cam Newton. The half where he was a top fantasy option at his position, and the half where he could barely throw a ball past 10 yards. Christian McCaffrey’s heroics weren’t enough to overshadow Newton’s throwing issues. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery and is reportedly set to unveil a new throwing motion, but is Newton trustworthy this season?
Atlanta Falcons: Offense continues to be key
Matt Ryan. Julio Jones. Calvin Ridley. Devonta Freeman. The Falcons are not short of fantasy goodies this season, and they’re all expected to excel. Even with a healthy and improved defense, this team starts and stops with the offensive attack. Whether they can take the NFC South throne back from the Saints in 2019 is another question entirely.
New Orleans Saints: Alvin Kamara is now the man
When I say “the man,” I don’t mean that Kamara has a 100% stranglehold on the backfield touches. Latavius Murray and Buck Allen will surely get their chances to tote the rock, as head coach Sean Payton loves to spread the ball amongst his runners. “The man” in this instance means that Alvin Kamara is the man in fantasy on a Saints team that seems to be pivoting towards a more defensive-oriented, run-based gameplan (maybe to protect Drew Brees from the jaws of Father Time). Kamara has a legit chance at a 1000-1000 season.
Detroit Lions: Is Kerryon Johnson really going to become the centerpiece?
Head Coach Matt Patricia hasn’t made it a secret that he wants a run-based attack in Detroit. This should be excellent news for Kerryon Johnson, who flashed at times as a rookie. The situation is laid out perfectly for him — but will fantasy gamers trust him with a high pick this draft season?
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers with a new offense
The NFC North was one of the more exciting divisions in football last season, but for the first time in a while, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were not at the forefront of the success there. Injuries to their All-World QB and (seemingly) discontent with his head coach led to the Pack stumbling to a 6-9-1 record. It remains to be seen whether Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur will mesh this season.
Minnesota Vikings: Can Dalvin Cook rebound?
As someone who drafted Dalvin Cook last season, I understand the frustration many fantasy gamers felt when the talented runner was held back time and again by a nagging hamstring injury. That said, there’s hope for a bounce-back, healthy season this year, especially when you have guys like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs on the outside. Not to mention, head coach Mike Zimmer clearly wants a more run-based attack.
Chicago Bears: The running back room
Matt Nagy’s offense is innovative and exciting, but fantasy gamers want players they can trust week in and week out. No longer will the Bears be fixed to Jordan Howard’s early down work and Tarik Cohen’s passing down production. Now, rookie David Montgomery — already getting rave reviews — and former Seahawk Mike Davis join the ranks with Howard gone. All three backs will have to catch passes, but it’s probably no secret that fantasy gamers are hoping Montgomery separates himself as the lead.
Cincinnati Bengals: Will battered offensive line ruin fantasy weapons?
The Bengals can’t catch a break. Their first round pick in 2019, highly talented Jonah Williams, will need season-ending surgery. A faulty O-line is sure to affect the likes of Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and Joe Mixon. The Bengals were mortified by injuries last season, and 2019 is already off to a sour note.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson’s passing progress
Just like Mitchell Trubisky, Lamar Jackson’s progression as a passer will be closely watched in training camp. That said, Jackson’s legs are what made him a popular fantasy commodity last season, and as long as he stays healthy he’ll continue to eat in this run-based offense. A couple of steps forward as a passer would definitely not hurt, however.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Life, post-AB/Bell
Antonio Brown is gone. Le’Veon Bell is gone. James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster are now RB1 and WR1, respectively, in the Steel City. We’ve seen Conner succeed sans Bell, but what of Smith-Schuster? Will Big Ben experience regression without two of his most talented weapons?
Cleveland Browns: How much of the hype can become reality?
The hype meter in Cleveland is through the roof, and you can’t really blame them, all things considered. Training camp will go a long way in showing how Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the resurgent Browns mesh.
Washington Redskins: Is Dwayne Haskins the savior?
The Washington quarterback depth chart leaves much to be desired. As such, it makes sense that the dominating storyline is whether rookie Dwayne Haskins can win the job outright in training camp, or if the ‘Skins decide to go with one of their veteran options.
New York Giants: Saquon, Saquon, (Eli), and Saquon
The Giants received a lot of flak for drafting Daniel Jones in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but let’s not kid ourselves. With OBJ out of town and Eli Manning in decline, this offense belongs to Saquon Barkley. He’s expected to be drafted No.1 overall in most fantasy leagues. That said, will Manning’s struggles hurt Barkley’s production this season?
Dallas Cowboys: Do you take Ezekiel Elliott No. 1 in fantasy drafts?
While nowhere near as shell-shocking as the Melvin Gordon contract situation, it seems like Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys could be heading towards a contract face-off themselves. It’s something of note as we head into training camp, especially considering Zeke is arguably worthy of the No. 1 fantasy pick as well.
Philadelphia Eagles: Can Carson Wentz stay healthy?
When Carson Wentz is healthy, he can deliver MVP-caliber play at the quarterback position. Unfortunately, one too many times in his three-year career have we used the phrase “if he can stay healthy.” Here’s to hoping 2019 is free of headlines regarding injuries to the Eagles QB.
Miami Dolphins: Do we even pay attention to this team?
Ehhh ... uh ... hmmm. Hey, they signed Ryan Fitzpatrick! Umm ... maybe it’s DeVante Parker’s year (again)? Kenyan Drake, FTW!
I’m sorry. The Dolphins are gonna be rough this season.
Buffalo Bills: Intriguing fantasy pieces
At first glance, the Bills might not look like a fantasy bounty, but there’s some intrigue here. Josh Allen had some exciting weeks late last season. Robert Foster and Zay Jones flashed last season. They drafted Devin Singletary and signed John Brown. Don’t be surprised if this team, well, surprises, this season, and it starts in training camp.
New York Jets: Expectations are high for Sam Darnold
Expectations would have been even higher for Darnold if the Jets hadn’t lost emerging tight end Chris Herndon for the first four games of the season due to a suspension. Nonetheless, Darnold had his moments last season, especially when he was protected, and now with Le’Veon Bell by his side, a sophomore leap could be in the cards for the youngster, and it starts in training camp.
New England Patriots: How much does Tom Brady have left?
If you didn’t know already, it’d be a fool’s errand to count out Tom Brady and the Patriots. Father Time is so far undefeated, but Brady has been holding him off for years. Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see Brady’s work throughout training camp and the preseason heading into his age-42 season.