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Fantasy camp battles: TE Dan Arnold vs. Ian Thomas

The Carolina Panthers have two tight ends with the potential to earn the lead job in 2021. Who will win the camp battle between Dan Arnold and Ian Thomas?

Carolina Panthers Training Camp
Ian Thomas of the Carolina Panthers walks the field prior to Panthers Training Camp at Wofford College on July 30, 2021 in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers begin Year 2 of the Matt Rhule era with a new quarterback in Sam Darnold. The Panthers hope he can achieve his potential after failing to make an impression with the New York Jets and have put him in a great position to succeed with his skill positions. Christian McCaffrey is one of the most versatile players in the league and the wide receiver trio of DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall Jr. will command a lot of attention. However, there’s a tight end battle between Ian Thomas and Dan Arnold to round out the skill group offensively.

Latest camp news

Week 2 preseason recap: Neither man registered a single target in the Panthers’ 20-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday. Thomas stepped on the field for only nine offensive snaps while Arnold was on the field for eight.

Week 1 preseason recap: Neither Thomas or Arnold appeared in the Panthers’ 21-18 loss to the Colts on Sunday with rookie Tommy Tremble and backup Colin Thompson getting a bulk of the work at tight end on Sunday. Tremble played 22 snaps and caught three of four targets for 19 yards and the team’s lone touchdown on the day.

August 8: Darnold and Arnold have a connection in training camp, according to NFL.com. Rhule has praised Arnold as a receiver, which bodes well for the free agency signing. Thomas has the tenure but it seems the Panthers want to move on from him when they signed Arnold. It appears the newcomer has the edge at the position right now.

Current odds on DraftKings Sportsbook

There are no props available for Thomas or Arnold, which suggests this is truly an open competition.

Next preseason game: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Panthers will close the preseason on Friday, August 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET when welcoming the Steelers to town. Both men will most likely get more snaps as the regular season draws near.

Fantasy football verdict

Heading into Week 3 preseason: Arnold is still being positioned as the starter according to reports from Carolina camp and I’d still slot him as a backup tight end option at best in fantasy leagues. Thomas still has to worry about Tommy Tremble emerging as a more viable pass catching option after Tremble caught two passes for 18 yards in the Ravens game.

Heading into Week 2 preseason: I’d fully anticipate Arnold emerging as the undisputed starter in the Carolina offense with Thomas seemingly having to fend off the upstart Tremble for the backup role. As far as Arnold’s fantasy prospects go at the moment, he’s a late-round backup option in deeper leagues. There is some upside with him coming off a career year in Arizona, but the presence of receiver threats like Moore, Anderson, Marshall, and even McCaffrey will cut into his ability to command targets for himself.