Job Battles: Unsettled Miami Backfield
Job Battles: Unsettled Miami Backfield

This article is part of our Job Battles series.

Nothing is conclusive and everything is tenuous, but there are still recent details to sort through when guessing where workloads are headed. Here are some selections from the most recent developments. Entries are listed by alphabetical geographic order within their positions.

QUARTERBACK

Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Josh Rosen, MIA

It's not necessarily conclusive, but Fitzpatrick opened training camp as Miami's first-team quarterback. He'll always have the veteran advantage over Rosen, a second-year pretty boy out of UCLA, but Fitzpatrick is just about the worst example of ostensible veteran stability.

This isn't to shame risk-taking – we'd presumably love to see it out of more quarterbacks – but Fitzpatrick's fearlessness of the turnover is a negative or close to it, and in the past it's prevented him from finishing the season as starter. Rosen is a better backup candidate than most, so Fitzpatrick's leash is up to speculation.

RUNNING BACK

Devin Singletary vs. LeSean McCoy vs. T.J. Yeldon vs. Frank Gore, BUF

The consensus is that David Montgomery is a fourth-round pick in Chicago, yet at the very next pick Singletary is generally overlooked. Nothing is new regarding McCoy, Yeldon, and Gore, but the latter two appear capable while McCoy seems worthless to the Bills. Perhaps an imminent event will shake things up. Unfortunately, it's just about impossible to tell where things are headed in the meantime.

Tony Pollard vs. Darius Jackson vs. Mike Weber, DAL

It's far too early to impart any lasting meaning, but Jackson opens Dallas camp as the lead running back two years after the team selected him in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. Jackson is hyper-athletic – he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and posted both a 41-inch vertical and 133-inch broad jump at his pro day – but his skill level might be within reach of not only the fourth-round pick Pollard, but even the seventh-round pick Weber. Pollard and Weber are the rookies, so while they might have a talent advantage, Jackson has the experience advantage for now.

Jamaal Williams vs. Dexter Williams, GB

Jamaal gives you motor if nothing else, but if he's hurt he can't give you that much. Dexter is the new toy as a rookie sixth-round pick, and as a Notre Dame standout he boasts superior recruiting pedigree to Jamaal, a BYU product. If Jamaal keeps missing time with his hamstring issue, Dexter can't be ruled out as Aaron Jones' backup. And Jones has proven far from durable to this point.

Kenyan Drake vs. Kalen Ballage, MIA

As a former buyer of Drake in the late fourth-early fifth round, I'm now off of him until the sixth or so. That's because Ballage opened camp as the team's lead runner.

Drake is almost certainly the better player – he deserves credit for transforming himself from a raw runner into a well-rounded back in the last couple years – but if Ballage has the respect of Brian Flores then the ADP needs to account for it. Ballage is nothing if not big and fast, boasting 4.46 speed at 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, so he's an extremely easy sell in the double-digit rounds until further notice.

WIDE RECEIVER

Marquise Brown vs. Miles Boykin, BAL

Brown has yet to make his debut after suffering a Lisfranc injury that required surgery in January, but his arrival is near. Until then, however, Boykin is the Baltimore rookie stealing headlines, standing out as the top Ravens receiver early on in camp. It's anyone's guess whether the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Brown displaces Boykin when healthy, but the first-round pick (Brown) and the third-round pick (Boykin) stand on uncertain but promising ground for the time being.

If Boykin stands out, then it's no wonder how he does it. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Notre Dame product is immensely athletic – something like the Byron Jones of wideouts with Olympic-level combine testing. Not only did Boykin run a 4.42-second 40-yard dash – a figure the 170-pound might not necessarily have beaten if healthy – but he also posted a 43.5-inch vertical, 140-inch broad jump, and 10.84 agility score.

Boykin's strong training camp reviews to this point give him an early lead in the Baltimore wide receiver competition. Brown may gain ground, but if not, then Boykin would stand at the front in the race for outside snaps. Willie Snead and Seth Roberts appear to be the lead candidate for slot snaps.

John Brown vs. Zay Jones vs. Robert Foster, BUF

This one is pretty simple – the starting outside receivers stand a decent chance of producing in the Buffalo offense. That's particularly true in the case of Brown, a burner with downfield skills that suit the rocket-armed abilities of quarterback Josh Allen.

It remains to be seen whether Foster can push for a starter-like workload, but all indications in Buffalo training camp imply that the Bills will first give a shot to Brown and Jones at outside receiver.

N'Keal Harry vs. Maurice Harris vs. Phillip Dorsett vs. Braxton Berrios, NE

Harry is a first-round pick who arrives after a dominant three-year career at Arizona State, but he evidently struggled somewhat in minicamp. That leaves his interests pitted against Harris and Berrios, slot receivers, and Dorsett on the outside.

Early reviews indicate Harris has excelled in his role, placing him first or among the New England receivers aside from Julian Edelman, who is clearly unchallenged as the lead slot target. If Edelman is present, Harris' route to playing time would be obscured as a result. Harry, Dorsett, and Berrios have the athleticism to play outside, but it's anyone's guess whether they would thrive in such a capacity.

Harry's Arizona State career was dominant and his skill set varied such that no one could blame New England for placing him as both a near-starter outside and the top backup inside, so his playing time wouldn't necessarily die out if Harris won in the slot and Dorsett won outside. But Harris and Dorsett both appear hard-pressed for production in an offense that quite simply needs neither.

TIGHT END

Jordan Thomas vs. Jordan Akins, HOU

I don't consider Kahale Warring, a rookie third-round pick out of San Diego State, a serious threat to these second-year tight ends. So I'm taking the liberty of identifying Thomas and Akins as the top two on the depth chart.

But Thomas appears the team's lead tight end in training camp, while Akins figures to push for the snaps left by Thomas and the wide receivers. As a former centerfielder prospect, Akins has plenty of athleticism to work in the slot, pitting him against wideout DeAndre Carter for snaps if either of Fuller or Coutee should miss time.

Thomas is unique from the more athletic Akins, because Thomas boasts a three-down frame at 6-foot-5, pushing 280 pounds. Thomas doesn't move like a 280-pounder, however – he'd sooner resemble a 250-pound target. If the Texans throw 30-plus touchdowns this year, perhaps Thomas gets in on it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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