Training camp battles
Denver Broncos Starting RB: Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman
Two young, very different players are vying to be the lead runner in perhaps the NFL's most potent offense. Hillman is quicker and more proficient as a receiver, which is a valuable trait to have in this pass-first offense. Ball, a second-round rookie, was a workhorse at the University of Wisconsin who can wear down the defensive front.
Many suspect that Ball will come out of camp with the starting job, while Hillman becomes the third-down RB. Fantasy owners are certainly expecting that as Ball is being selected a full four rounds ahead of Hillman on average in drafts. There is also a chance that the two split carries evenly, which would be less than ideal for both of their fantasy values.
Hillman received the opening snap of training camp and is atop the team's first unofficial depth chart. Those are largely hollow honors, but those are the facts.
Leader: Hillman, barely
Giants Starting RB: David Wilson and Andre Brown
If this competition was only about talent, game-breaking ability and speed, Wilson would be the Giants' uncontested starter. Alas, it is not just about those attributes. Giants coaches and beat writers have talked a lot during camp and the offseason about the importance of blocking. Brown is better in that field, but it has been well documented that Wilson has done his best to make improvements as a blocker.
While Brown will have a significant role (and at least be the Giants' goal-line back this season), the team wants Wilson to break through and be their starter. The question is will he do what is necessary – block, hold on to the ball, follow his blocks, learn how to be a better receiver – to take the starting job? Right now, Wilson is a nice RB2.
Packers Starting RB: Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, James Starks, Alex Green and DuJuan Harris
Head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that he considers Harris to be his starting running back. Ah, coach speak at its finest. The reality is Harris has missed all of training camp because of a knee injury and won't be ready to practice for a couple of weeks. While the other four have all worked with the first-team offense, Lacy and Franklin are the two guys to watch intently.
Much like in Denver, you have a power running back and a flashier, quicker running back fighting for the starting job. Lacy, like Ball, is a low-end RB2. Franklin, like Hillman, is more of a RB4 right now. But the separation is clearer in this competition. Lacy probably won't play Friday because of a hamstring injury that isn't considered serious. But he was reportedly the star of the Packers' scrimmage last weekend and is the clear favorite.
Rams Starting RB: Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy
Here's what we know about this situation: It won't be Pead who opens the regular season as the starter. He's been suspended for Week 1. But he will definitely try during the preseason to leave a positive imprint in the minds of Rams coaches. Head coach Jeff Fisher recently said he considers Richardson, the most experienced player of the three, as his current starter. But Fisher has also said that he is open to the idea of a running-back committee. That's not what fantasy owners want, but that's where we are in St. Louis.
Richardson is the early leader, but none of these three are worth more than a mid-to-late-round pick right now. There's a high probability that the look of this backfield changes from week to week.
More battles coming in part 2, including the Steelers backfield and the 49ers second receiver.