Each week, above our full fantasy rankings, SI.com fantasy writer Michael Beller and 4for4 writer John Paulsen will have a brief debate about some players they view differently. Scroll down for our full rankings at every position.
Michael Beller: I think we need to start with Atlanta's backs this week, John. I wrote about the situation earlier this week, but to sum up here, I think that Tevin Coleman is the big winner with Devonta Freeman going to IR. I know a lot of people were rushing to get Ito Smith, but I don't see him as more than a depth back. Sure, he has a touchdown in each of the last three games, but he has totaled just 62 yards on 21 carries in those contests. We know what Coleman is, and, in my mind, he's capable of being an RB1, especially in an offense like Atlanta's. How do you view the backfield?
John Paulsen: I agree that Coleman holds significantly more value than Smith. I think he’s a solid RB2 with Freeman out. In the four Freeman-less games this season, Coleman has averaged 16.3 touches for 73 yards and 0.5 touchdowns, while Smith has seen 9.5 touches for 40 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns. However, in the last two Freeman-less games, Smith's average touches (11.5), total yards (35) and touchdowns (1.0) have been higher, so he seems to be earning a larger role in this backfield. Coleman has averaged 14.0 touches for 59 yards and 0.5 touchdowns over the same span, which supports this notion. Inside the opponent's 10-yard line, both Smith and Coleman have carried the ball five times, while Coleman has seen two targets, catching both for scores. Smith has two rushing touchdowns and Coleman has one from inside the 10. It looks like the Falcons are giving Coleman the lead back touches, but he's not assuming all of Freeman's work. Consider Smith an RB3 who should see 10-13 touches per game, including some receptions and some (or most) of the goal-line work. Smith is a decent pickup, but I’d rather roll the dice with Marlon Mack or Corey Clement, if available.
Beller: Moving right along, Josh Gordon might be the most interesting receiver, from a pure fantasy rankings standpoint, in the league. He had 42 yards on five catches last week, numbers that don't exactly jump off the page, but he got nine targets, his most in three games with the Patriots. What's more, he played more than 80% of the team's snaps after playing about one-fourth of them in his first two games with the team. Where do you peg his rest-of-season value?
Paulsen: At 4for4, we have Gordon ranked as a WR3, which is about the best-case scenario for this early in his New England tenure, given all the other weapons the Patriots have in their pass-catching corps. The big jump in targets and snaps is very encouraging, but there’s not a whole lot of room for growth at this point. I think his ceiling is limited by the presence of Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, James White and Chris Hogan. When Gordon had his monster season back in 2013, he averaged 11.4 targets per game, with a catch rate of 54.7%, and I don’t think he’ll see that sort of volume in New England. His catch rate could rise since he’ll be playing with a great quarterback, so perhaps he could post WR2 numbers the rest of the way, but even that seems like a stretch.
Beller: Yeah, I want to get on board with the Gordon boomlet—truly, I do—but I agree that WR2 production seems like the best-case, somewhat unlikely scenario. I think people are underestimating Gronk’s presence here. He’s a bona fide No. 1, regardless of what position he plays, and that alone precludes Gordon from having the status he did in Cleveland. I think he can be a regular fantasy starter, but he’s not going to be a league-winner.
Finally, let's go to New Orleans, where Alvin Kamara will once again be making way for Mark Ingram. I'll defer to you here. Do you think the breakdown in workload will be similar or identical to what it was last year, or do you think Kamara secured himself a larger share of the touches with the way he played while Ingram was suspended? If it is the same, do you think the duo can possibly be as efficient as it was a season ago?
Paulsen: My initial thought was that Kamara would see three to four additional touches on top of the 14.0 (8.5 rush, 5.5 rec) that he netted from Week 4 on last season, but I’ll admit that I was a little worried after Ingram out-touched Kamara 18 to nine in his first game back. Thinking about it, the Saints held a comfortable lead for most of the game, and they probably wanted to give Kamara a break after feeding him 22.8 touches per game in the first four weeks. Coming off of the bye, I think Kamara will settle into 15 to 17 touches per game moving forward with Ingram getting around the same amount. The running game is likely to regress from a year ago, though both players can regress a bit and still post strong fantasy numbers.
Beller: I think the larger concern is that Drew Brees has to steal back some of the touchdowns that the backs hogged last year. Even with that reality, though, I think the Saints will give the fantasy community two RB1s the rest of the way. And with that, let’s get to our Week 7 rankings.