Mini-camps, organized team activities -- this is football in it's weakest form. Offensive and defensive linemen working footwork and logging mental reps, all while the collective fanbase and local beat look to log reps of their own, tallying wins and losses at each session. Forgive me, but you don't care about wins and losses in pass protection during the months of May and June. You just don't. Or you shouldn't. Again, this is the appetizer. OTA football is a fluffer -- it's still football so we love it but the main attraction is a totally different experience.
And with training camp approximately a month away, we can apply OTAs and mini-camps as effectively as we ever could right now. How? By identifying who is in the running for what. And that's exactly what we're here to do -- identify the 10 best positional battles of the 2019 offseason for rookies from the 2019 NFL Draft.
Buffalo Bills - Cody Ford vs. Ty Nsekhe vs. Dion Dawkins (LT/RT)
Listen, Ford is going to start either way. But is he going to start at tackle or guard? That depends on who the two best men are in this three way battle for the left and right side of the line in Buffalo. Dawkins is the incumbent at left tackle and was a really solid starter as a rookie for Buffalo in 2017 -- but that play wasn't sustained in 2018. So the Bills, to their credit, didn't stand pat -- they signed the best swing tackle in football in Nsekhe and drafted Cody Ford with a top-40 pick. Can Ford, who had some doubters of his ability to play outside at the NFL level, step up and force the Bills to push Dawkins to left guard and plug Nsekhe in his place?
New York Giants - Eli Manning vs. Daniel Jones (QB)
At least one Giants reporter, a friend in Pat Leonard, thinks that Daniel Jones' skillset meshes enough with what coach Pat Shurmur wants to do offensively to warrant a competition in training camp. I, for one, am here for it. Eli Manning being the starter in 2019 has been an assumption for months, mainly because the Giants played their hand to suggest they're content with Eli at the helm. But if you draft Daniel Jones at 6, you might as well take him out of the garage and give him a spin. Let him cut it loose and if things go swimmingly, great. Begin the transition from old guard to new guard sooner rather than later.
Philadelphia Eagles - Miles Sanders vs. Jordan Howard (RB)
Huh? Didn't the Eagles just trade for Jordan Howard? Yes. They did. And THEN they drafted Miles Sanders -- which tells you exactly how much the Eagles feel Howard is going to be a long-term part of the plan here in Philly. Sanders is a better scheme fit. He's a more versatile back and he can contribute more effectively on all three downs -- the only two things Howard has in his corner vs. Sanders in Philly's zone heavy rushing offense are overall experience and ball security. Sanders can take this job but he needs to keep the ball off the turf.
Washington Redskins - Colt McCoy vs. Case Keenum vs. Dwayne Haskins (QB)
This triple threat is even more weird than the first one. The Redskins (for some reason) seem to really love Colt McCoy. Enough that I feel like they'd be willing to not let Haskins run with the starters immediately even though he's a hopeful future face of the franchise. It's hard to blame Washington for bringing Keenum into the mix, considering they traded a bag of chips for him. But can he recapture the magic of Minnesota? If not, this three way race will come down to Haskins and McCoy rather quickly.
Green Bay Packers - Elgton Jenkins vs. Lane Taylor (LG)
Let the best man win. All reports out of Green Bay seem to suggest that Jenkins is, in fact, a guard -- and that center Corey Linsley's gig as the starting center is secure, even with Linsley not active in OTAs. And with the Packers backing up the money truck to Billy Turner in free agency, one has to imagine the offensive lineman on the chopping block is Lane Taylor. Jenkins isn't necessarily the best mover in the world but he showcased powerful clamps at Mississippi State and if he's considered an upgrade in pass protection, it's game on.
Jacksonville Jaguars - Will Richardson vs. Cedric Ogbuehi vs. Jawaan Taylor (RT)
The bad news? These are all #brand players for yours truly. The worse news? Ogbuehi has been a flop and Richardson doesn't have this on lock despite being an early Day 3 pick last year -- because the Jaguars ended up picking Taylor.
The good news? SOMEONE HAS TO WIN, DAMN IT! And based on my player assessments of each coming out, it should be Jawaan Taylor. Taylor's tumble down the boards was reportedly connected to medicals -- but that should be a long-term concern. Taylor is the best talent and he ought to win this job outright.
Tennessee Titans - AJ Brown vs. Tajae Sharpe (Outside WR)
I got to be honest, I'd prefer to see Brown shake things out with Adam Humphries in the slot, I really would. But as things stand, Brown sounds like he's going to get the majority of his reps on the outside, opposite Corey Davis. More power to the Titans, but I think that takes away some of Brown's strengths as a player and will tighten the gap between him and Sharpe -- who is kind of the anti-thesis of AJ Brown. Sharpe isn't physical but he's sudden and has been a smooth route runner for years. Brown? He's more of a power player and his production (and mental reps) came inside more often than not at Ole Miss. This one will be interesting.
Kansas City Chiefs - Juan Thornhill vs. Armani Watts vs. Jordan Lucas (S)
Thornhill is the favorite to win this job despite tweaking his calf during OTAs. With experience as both a cornerback and a safety, Thornhill has a deep, intimate understanding of secondary play and is more versatile than either Lucas or Watts. Watts was scrappy in man coverage during his days at Texas A&M but his tackling resume is quite ugly and sets him behind Thornhill in a head to head perspective. Lucas has pretty solid tape at Penn State but he's been unable to segue that into a secure gig in the NFL and I wouldn't expect that to change in 2019.
Oakland Raiders - Daryl Worley vs. Trayvon Mullen
Worley vs. Mullen should be a fun battle to see play out opposite Gareon Conley in the Raiders' backfield. The team added Worley in 2018 and he proceeded to start 9 of the 10 games he dressed for in Oakland -- so he does have a bit of a head start. But Mullen was hand selected by coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock, so you know he's got the goods the Raiders are looking for on the outside. And while Worley has experience -- he doesn't have enough clout to really wall off a full competition for his gig.
Seattle Seahawks - Marquise Blair vs. the field (Strong Safety)
Make no mistake -- you don't take Marquise Blair in the top-50 unless you have visions of Kam Chancellor 2.0 in the back of your mind. As such, it's hard to envision Blair not getting on the field -- but how do the Seahawks reshuffle the deck? Pete Carroll spoke highly of 2017 3rd-round pick Delano Hill earlier this offseason, seemingly content to pair him with veteran Brad McDougald. McDougald had a career year in 2018, logging 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 9 passes defensed and 78 combined tackles. That would make Tedric Thompson the assumed man out -- but then Blair would still have to beat out Delano Hill.