After a breakthrough 2015 that saw Devonta Freeman ascend to the top spot in all of fantasy, expectations were mixed heading into 2016. Freeman still had the starting position in a high powered offense, but most assumed Freeman could not approach his 2015 totals of 1600 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns. He had controlled almost 70% (264) of the backfield's carries and ended third on the team in catches. With a healthy Tevin Coleman looming, these tallys seemed unlikely. The uncertainty resulted in Freeman ranking somewhere between the 5th and 10th projected running back.
2016 saw some of these predictions come true as Tevin Coleman made his impact and Freeman saw 56 less touches. But Devonta still posted impressive totals of 227/1079/11 rushing and 54/462/2 receiving. He continued his 2015 staple of monster games including back to back 2 touchdown performances in week 12 and 13, but he was also consistent, producing 11 games of 9 points or more. And while 2015 saw his performances slow toward the end of his season, the high scoring offense and additional rest saw Freeman drop 19 points or more in 4 of the final 6 weeks. As we all know, that's winning time.
In summation, Freeman posted a nearly identical 1500 yards, 14 touchdown stat line as he did in 2015 and ended up achieving expectations: finishing either 6th or 7th in running back scoring (standard/ppr.) You can do a lot worse than hitting your projection with a first/second round draft pick.
So what to do with Devonta Freeman heading into 2017? Despite proving the haters wrong and posting another big campaign, many of the 2016 fears still loom. How much more will Tevin Coleman eat into his workload? There is no way Atlanta's offense can approach what they did in 2016, right? And can a 5'8" back continue to carry such a high work load (492 carries in two years?)
All of those are legitimate concerns and put a cap on Freeman's ceiling. But Freeman retained his starting role and the majority of the backfield touches (318 to 149) despite Coleman's 4.4 YPC. With 2016 cementing his starter status in the best offense in the league, and his skills as a receiver and a rusher, he presents something fantasy players lust after; a high floor. Freeman isn't going to be one of the first running backs off the board but is a solid selection at his current ADP of 2.04. Be comfortable with him as your #1 running back and look to capitalize on an elite player in the first round.
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Filed under: Fantasy Football Advice
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