The Atlanta Falcons have not produced a 1,000-yard rusher since Michael “The Burner” Turner in 2011 and learning that made me feel unnecessarily old. Many hoped Devonta Freeman would be a candidate for a major workload in 2014 Fantasy Football leagues, but he finished his rookie year with less rushing yards than Aaron Rodgers.
Falcons RB Devonta Freeman doesn’t plan on giving up the starting RB job to rookie Tevin Coleman http://t.co/B0sfYwsxT6
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) May 27, 2015
With the addition of Tevin Coleman from the 2015 NFL Draft, Fantasy Football players once again have to predict whether this is the year a lone back can carve out a role in the Falcons’ offense or if the rushing attack for Atlanta will focus heavily on a committee approach.
2015 Fantasy Football: Devonta Freeman
Veteran Steven Jackson was still plugging along in 2014 and accounted for 707 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns and 148 receiving yards. At 5-foot-8, 206 pounds, Freeman lacks the ideal frame to be a workhorse back. When you see the types of injuries that smaller backs such as Andre Ellington and Giovani Bernard have been susceptible to it’s unreasonable to expect Freeman to put the rushing attack on his back and put up a ton of Fantasy production.
In the 2014 NFL Combine, Freeman ran a 4.58 40-yard dash and did not finish as a top performer in any drill. For a smaller back you would expect more of a speedster but that isn’t the case with Freeman. Even though he has a few knocks on his abilities, the second-year back was praised for his durability and as being a student of the game.
As you can see from his college highlights, Freeman is shifty and appears to have good field vision.
2015 Fantasy Football: Tevin Coleman
Mainly relied on to just rush the ball, Coleman had a limited role in the passing attack throughout his college career and returned kickoffs in 2012 and 2013. He finished his final collegiate season with 2,036 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns and 141 receiving yards.
Coleman’s draft profile states that he treats every carry like it is a spring and from his highlight reel that seems to hold true. His running style has been analyzed as violent, but I think it should be considered more of an uncontrolled style than violent. When I think of violent, I think of Marion Barber seemed to actively seek out defenders to run into. Coleman isn’t scared away from tacklers, but he has more of a mindset of just trying to find the end zone anyway possible.
In the NFL the rookie running back will not be able to just rely on his sprinter’s mentality. He needs to develop patience and let things play out which can take some time and coaching. Even though each back has similar physical characteristics, Freeman and Coleman seem to compliment each other. While Freeman is credited with durability and shiftiness, Coleman can be a home-run threat anytime he touches the ball. When you combine that together an interesting running back committee could be in the works.
Devonta Freeman vs. Tevin Coleman
As much as I want to give Coleman the edge, I think Freeman has the better shot of more Fantasy relevance at this moment. I’ll want to see what reports say of Freeman and Coleman’s blocking abilities during the offseason, but I’m leaning towards Freeman because of how the Falcons used Antone Smith.
New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan may know how to get more out of Smith but the last regime seemed clueless.
Here are some of the crazy numbers Smith put up in 2014:
Week 3: Four rushes for 50 yards and a rushing touchdown
Week 4: Four rushes for 62 yards and a rushing touchdown
Week 5: Three receptions for 83 yards and a receiving touchdown
Week 6: Four receptions for 64 yards and a receiving touchdown
Smith only touched the ball 11 more times after Week 6 and broke his leg in Week 11. He’s an older back at 30 and smaller in terms of weight than Freeman or Coleman, but he’s been in the league since 2011 and has been rarely utilized until last season. Adding him into the mix makes a much more crowded backfield and maybe Shanahan figures a way to give him more involvement in the offense.
On FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Coleman is actually going ahead of Freeman but both are selected in Round 7. I think this is a little high for Coleman but it’s not a bad spot to land a potential playmaker. As long as you aren’t relying too heavily on either of them I don’t think it’s a bad gamble to take.
It’s still early and my opinion may change, but I if Coleman doesn’t have the patience needed to see how a play unfolds then Freeman will have the inside track for a more involved role in the Falcons’ rushing attack.
Jack Delaney is the owner of Your Fantasy Football Coach. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook, and make sure to check out his new ebook The Zero RB Theory to start preparing for your 2015 Fantasy Football draft.