Fantasy mailbag: Trust Dion Lewis, Antonio Gates


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@MikeTriplett: Yes, he is. New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss, who knows how frustrating the Patriots' unpredictable use of running backs has been to fantasy owners over the years, said he feels "pretty strongly" about Dion Lewis, whom the team just signed to a two-year extension.

Reiss said Lewis has earned the trust of the coaching staff and is the "new Shane Vereen," who played 52.9 percent of the Patriots' snaps last year as a runner and receiver out of the backfield.

"You know they have wild swings in terms of the snaps that they play their guys. But Dion Lewis is their clear-cut No. 1 passing back, third-down, change-of-pace guy. And that's the guy that really plays the most for them anyway because they're throwing so much," Reiss said. "And it's take-it-to-the-bank solidified that as long as Dion Lewis is healthy, that's the guy. He's not gonna get supplanted all of a sudden by James White. That's not happening. They love Dion."

As for LeGarrette Blount, he is still "clearly" New England's top power runner. But Reiss said, "I'd be more hesitant to invest in him, because the Patriots are more apt to be throwing it than power running. The Week 2 game against Buffalo is a great example. LeGarrette Blount took seven snaps in the game. I find it hard to believe there will be a game when Dion Lewis plays seven snaps."

@MikeTriplett: That's another yes. Of course Antonio Gates might have the normal limitations that come with being a 35-year-old tight end. And his 12 touchdown catches from last season might be unsustainable. But San Diego Chargers reporter Eric Williams expects Gates to dive right back into the same role he played last year now that he's back from his four-game suspension.

Gates ranked second on the team with 98 targets last year and has always been quarterback Philip Rivers' "security blanket," Williams wrote in this week's NFL Nation Insider trading column.

"Don't expect limited touches for Gates," Williams wrote. "He returned to Chargers Park from his four-game suspension in shape and ready to resume a leading role in San Diego's offense."

Williams also pointed out that San Diego has a lot of playmakers this year with receivers like Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd and running backs Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon, which will make it hard for the Pittsburgh Steelers to bracket Gates on Monday night. "He'll find a way to win if he's singled up," Williams said.

@MikeTriplett: This one is a little harder to predict. Obviously you can't count on a third straight week of three touchdowns and 149-plus yards from scrimmage from Devonta Freeman. But Atlanta Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure said he expects Atlanta to stick with the hot hand now that rookie Tevin Coleman is back from a fractured rib.

"My gut feeling is moving forward, Freeman, with his powerful running style, will remain in the starting role unless his production really tails off. Then Coleman can be brought in as the change-of-pace guy with his speed burst," McClure said. "If Coleman starts taking it to the house on his touches, then the Falcons will have a decision to make about which player should start. But boasting two talented backs is a good problem to have."

McClure said that Freeman has always described himself as a running back who performs better when he gets into a rhythm. In Week 1, Freeman had just 10 carries for 18 yards while Coleman served as the starter. Then Freeman really broke out when he had 35 touches in Week 3 and 19 in Week 4.

"So I'm figuring about 20 touches a game should allow Freeman to get into a rhythm," McClure said.

However, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said he is typically only concerned about rhythm when it comes to quarterbacks, so McClure said it will be interesting to see how touches are distributed upon Coleman's return.