As discussed in the previous article with A.J Green, it’s very hard to predict how a player will fare after missing a big chunk of the previous season with a nasty injury. However, in Devonta Freeman’s case, his age is certainly a plus point and I absolutely love the situation he’s coming back in to.
The Falcons in 2018
It was a tough campaign for the Falcons last season, probably down to the never ending injury list on the defensive side of the ball with stars Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Deion Jones and Andy Levitre missing for multiple weeks, but also the finger could be pointed at the inept abilities of Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
The offense just didn’t seem to do enough despite Matt Ryan statistically having his 2nd best season of his career. Julio Jones was slow to get going, Tevin Coleman proved he’s more effective in a committee and Austin Hooper failed to impress once again contributing just 4 touchdowns on the season.
The pieces are there in Atlanta to be a successful franchise, so I think we just need to chalk 2018 down to some bad luck with injuries and poor offensive coaching. With Dirk Koetter entering the fray as the new OC calling offensive plays, tied in with the return of Devonta Freeman, 2019 could end up being a lot different to last season for the Atlanta faithful.
It’s looking set for Freeman to hit the ground running in the 2019 season. He was always going to be “their guy” which was proven when he signed a $41.25 5-year contract and his main competitor Tevin Coleman was allowed to walk out the front door as a free agent this off-season.
The stats are there to back him up too. Discounting last season, his yards per game average since being named the starting back in 2015 equates to 66.5 ypg which is in the same vicinity as elite RB’s such as Jamaal Charles (63.6), Matt Forte (67.1) and Melvin Gordon (66.0). Tie that into two out of the last three seasons scoring 11 TD’s makes the perfect blend for an elite level running back.
As previously mentioned, Freeman’s main competitor for touches in Tevin Coleman is no longer with the team, so you’d expect Freeman to automatically be played as the 3 down workhorse who just so happens to be a more than competent pass catcher too.
Ito Smith offered very little other than a couple of glimpses that he could be of any serious threat to Freeman on his return with a measly 3.5 yards per carry average in his rookie campaign, and at this moment in time, 5th round pick-up Qadree Ollison will likely serve as a bit part player unless injuries give him an opportunity to rise up the depth chart.
High Floor, High Ceiling
It looks as if last season’s ailments of knee, foot and groin issues which ruled him out have healed as Freeman is a full participant in current OTA drills. Hopefully with a successful pre-season campaign, he will likely see the majority of running game snaps immediately from week 1’s match-up in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the Vikings.
I will assume Freeman is going to get around 65% of carries heading into the season. If you put that with last years team rushing yards figures (1,573), he should be able to move over the 1,000 yard mark for the season.
Add in 10 touchdowns which we know he is capable of, a return to around his career average in receptions and receiving yards (48 receptions and 407 yards per season) with the additional upside of inheriting some of Coleman’s passing down work and touchdowns… Freeman should have a top 10 finish in fantasy leagues, especially considering these stats are more of a floor projection considering the Falcons should be able to improve on a lackluster offensive performance in 2018.
Freeman has achieved a top 10 fantasy finish in 50% of his 4 complete seasons with the Falcons to date and I fully expect with him being an integral part of this high-powered offense for that feat to repeat. At a current PPR ADP of 26th overall (RB14), Freeman is a fantastic RB2 candidate who will win people fantasy leagues, you can count on it.
My Stat Projection: 242 carries, 1,054 rush yards, 10 TD’s with 45 receptions, 423 yards and 4 TD’s
by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller
Feature Image Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports