Each week, above our full fantasy rankings, SI.com fantasy writer Michael Beller and 4for4 writer John Paulsen will have a brief discussion about some of the most intriguing rankings questions. Scroll down for our full rankings at every position.
Michael Beller: John, it appears the biggest injury of the fantasy season happened at the worst possible time. Melvin Gordon suffered a sprained MCL in Week 12 while playing on a leg that was less than 100%. Gordon should be fine for the Chargers should they reach the playoffs, as is expected, but his status for the fantasy playoffs is in doubt. As it stands, a best-case scenario would have Gordon back on the field in Week 15, and it’s entirely possible he misses the rest of the NFL regular season.
Austin Ekeler steps into the breach as the Chargers’ starting running back. I wrote about him in our Target and Snap Report, but what do you think our outlook for him should be with Gordon on the shelf?
John Paulsen: Ekeler’s rest-of-season value of course depends on Gordon’s availability. He reportedly has a Grade 2 MCL sprain which typically takes from two to four weeks to heal, so Week 15 does sound like the best-case scenario. In the meantime, Ekeler has a semi-tough matchup against the Steelers, ranked 10th in our schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric against running backs, and a gorgeous matchup with the Bengals (32nd in RB aFPA) on the horizon. When Gordon missed Week 7, Ekeler handled 17 touches for 68 yards against the Titans in London, which was a disappointing output given the circumstances. His usage, however, was very encouraging since the Chargers’ offense ran a season-low 44 plays that week. They average 60 plays per game, so if he sees the same usage rate over the next two weeks he could see around 24 touches per game, though that seems extreme.
In that Tennessee game, Justin Jackson had three touches for 14 yards. Jackson played 19% of the snaps in Week 12 en route to seven carries for 57 yards. All of his carries came after Gordon’s final carry, so they were using Ekeler and Jackson in tandem in the third quarter before they gave Ekeler the rest of the day off, probably because they just (stupidly) lost Gordon and didn’t want to risk Ekeler with a big lead. This week, I have Ekeler ranked 11th in half-PPR formats, so I view him as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 in the short term. Jackson is more of an RB4/flex type, but he may be more appealing next week against the Bengals when there may be mop up duty available.
Beller: We seem to be of one mind on Ekeler, though I may be a bit more bullish. Take the offense and expected workload, and add in what he has already proved himself capable of, and I think we could be looking back at him as a league-winner five weeks from now. Depending, of course, on Gordon’s availability.
With that, let’s get to our Week 13 fantasy football rankings.