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Fantasy football draft battles

Stan Heeb, current commissioner and member since 1974, fills out a paper form during the Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League's annual fantasy football draft at Francesco's restaurant on Sept. 8, 2015 in Oakland, Calif. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group/TNS via Getty Images)

Player rankings and general “this guy over that guy” lists are great and helpful for fantasy football players, but every now and then it’s beneficial to see specific battles broken down more thoroughly.

This offseason, our Mike Tagliere has been doing just that, tackling specific dilemmas fantasy players might face in drafts and diving in, figuring which guy offers more value, both overall and considering draft capital spent to acquire them. We’ve linked each of these battles below, and check back for more as we lead up to the regular season.

August 25: Eddie Lacy vs. LeSean McCoy

After a disappointing 2015, with weight issues and playing time lost, reports have Lacy looking lighter in 2016 and shooting to raise his stock back up. Meanwhile, McCoy has been a steady contributor for years, and his team just released the most obvious handcuff he had. Which guy makes more sense as a second-round fantasy investment?

August 19: Eli Manning vs. Philip Rivers

These two were traded for one another more than 12 years ago, and now in 2016, they're facing off in a head-to-head battle. Rivers has his pet targets (wide receiver Keenan Allen, tight end Antonio Gates), but Manning has one of the best targets any quarterback could possibly have in wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Which makes for the better fantasy pick this year?

August 13: Demaryius Thomas vs. Sammy Watkins

Watkins has finally found some quarterback stability at the same time that Thomas has apparently lost his. But that was true last year, and Thomas outperformed Watkins then. So is another year with Tyrod Taylor enough for Watkins to overcome the advantages Thomas already has? And can Watkins stay healthy for 16 games?

August 9: C.J. Anderson vs. Carlos Hyde

Hyde has a new coaching staff to work with. Anderson has a new quarterback (whoever it ends up being). Both were disappointments in 2015. But which one offers more promise for this season?

August 6: Amari Cooper vs. Mike Evans

The third-year Buccaneer had a huge rookie season, but touchdown regression really hurt his 2015. Meanwhile, the second-year Raider is a popular breakout choice for 2016. Who is the better play?

August 5: Keenan Allen vs. Alshon Jeffery

Two receivers with huge potential who both missed big chunks of 2015 to injury. Do you want the San Diego guy with the stud quarterback, or the Chicago option with a slightly longer track record of success?

July 30: Brandin Cooks vs. Brandon Marshall

Cooks has the advantage at quarterback, but Marshall has the height. Marshall finished third in fantasy scoring last year, but is 32 now. Can the younger Cooks overtake the veteran?

July 12: Larry Fitzgerald vs. Donte Moncrief

On one side, a long-time star veteran who had stretches last season of ridiculous production. The other is a third-year guy who hasn’t really had a monster season yet, but has had rumblings all offseason that he could do well with a healthy Andrew Luck at the helm.

July 5: Duke Johnson vs. Ryan Mathews

With DeMarco Murray gone from Philadelphia, there has been plenty of buzz around full-time-starter-again Mathews. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Johnson has Isaiah Crowell to deal with, but under Hue Jackson’s leadership, there’s reason to believe in multiple running backs.

June 22: Devonta Freeman vs. David Johnson

Both guys were big surprises a season ago. Neither even began the season as the starter. Johnson has plenty of offense around him, while Freeman has Julio Jones and a lot of question marks.

June 8: A.J. Green vs. DeAndre Hopkins

The Bengals receiver has been a fantasy stalwart for years, while his Texans counterpart is newer on the scene. Hopkins has yet to have a long-term connection with a quarterback, but now could have Brock Osweiler for several years, while Green has been paired with Andy Dalton his entire career.

June 6: John Brown vs. Larry Fitzgerald vs. Michael Floyd

The trio of Arizona pass-catchers were all excellent for at least parts of 2015. But they fill different roles in the offense and, with the ascension of running back David Johnson, there might not be as much to go around in 2016.

June 1: Drew Brees vs. Ben Roethlisberger

Brees has been better for fantasy for most of their respective careers, but Roethlisberger has such a load of weapons in Pittsburgh that early ADP suggested he was closing the gap and maybe even overtaking the veteran Saint.

May 1: Randall Cobb vs. Golden Tate

Two NFC North receivers who do a lot of their work on short routes. One has lost his primary running mate (Tate and Calvin Johnson), while the other gets his back (Cobb and Jordy Nelson).

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