This is the fourth in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.
Entering training camp, starting positions across the league remain up for grabs, available to the players who shine brightest over the next several weeks. Here are the quarterback position battles that fantasy owners should watch closely during preseason action:
Steelers: Byron Leftwich vs. Dennis Dixon
With Ben Roethlisberger suspended for at least the first four games of the season, the Steelers must decide who will open the 2010 campaign for them under center. After letting Leftwich leave for Tampa Bay following the '08 season, Pittsburgh opted to bring the 30-year-old veteran back into the mix, as he knows the offense and saw some action in relief during his one-year stint there. Having started 49 games during his seven seasons, Leftwich has the experience necessary to lead the Steelers' attack, and he was the man running the first unit for most of the offseason work. Dixon, meanwhile, is expected to at least be given a chance to earn the job with a stellar training camp. Now entering Year Three, he started one game in '09 in place of an injured Big Ben, playing OK but not excelling. More of a natural runner than passer, Dixon wouldn't inspire much fantasy confidence. Leftwich, meanwhile, definitely could, as he'll have a nice complement of quality targets and would be allowed to air it out frequently. With the possibility to be productive for a full month, the former Jaguar would be worthy of a late-round flier in leagues that start two QBs.
Predicted winner: Leftwich
Bills: Trent Edwards vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Brian Brohm
Probably the most legitimate QB competition this summer will take place in Buffalo, where three men all have a shot at winning the starting job. With new head coach Chan Gailey starting from scratch with the participants, each has an opportunity to prove his worth during the coming weeks. Edwards began 2009 as the starter but dealt with injuries and confidence issues that severely affected his play, causing his numbers to drop off across the board. After receiving the majority of the first-team snaps in OTAs, he appears to have a slight lead. Fitzpatrick started eight games last season with Edwards hurt, but he was mostly unimpressive and is viewed more as a backup. The wild card is Brohm, a second-round pick in '08 who joined the Bills late last year. He has definite upside, but he has made just one start as a pro — and it didn't go well. Although Gailey said he already has an idea of what the depth chart will look like, expect this battle to play out throughout the preseason. The victor will have the distinction of throwing to one of the league's worst receiving corps, so fantasy value will be limited.
Predicted winner: Edwards
Rams: Sam Bradford vs. A.J. Feeley
After cleaning house at QB, the Rams have a new pair of passers to compete for their starting job in 2010. With the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, St. Louis selected Bradford, a Heisman Trophy winner in '08 who put up gaudy stats while at Oklahoma. Missing most of last season with an injury to his throwing shoulder, Bradford worked hard in draft preparation to get into top shape and hopefully shed his "fragile" tag. Thus far, however, he mostly has taken a backseat to Feeley, a 33-year-old free-agent addition who spent last season with the Panthers. The veteran acted as the Rams' No. 1 QB for a bulk of OTAs, and head coach Steve Spagnuolo named him the starter at the end of June. But Feeley hasn't thrown a pass in game action since '07, and he never has done much to prove he can be an effective NFL signalcaller. Bradford is obviously the club's future at the position, and a decent showing in exhibition games should be enough to vault him to the top. Unfortunately, no matter who triumphs in this battle likely will struggle to have much fantasy relevance in an offense that's dominated by RB Steven Jackson and is devoid of impact wideouts.
Predicted winner: Bradford
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