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Start Devonta Freeman in Week 15 despite struggles

22 November 2015: Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) rushes in first half action of the Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

Confidence can be a funny thing. One minute, you have it; the next, you don’t.

Early in the 2015 season, guys like Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Jeremy Hill gave fantasy owners confidence. Despite being healthy for the fantasy playoffs, none of those guys are very trustworthy at the moment.

Owners have also seen their assurance levels waiver for other stars such as Eddie Lacy and Calvin Johnson.

For the first time this season, owners are seeing their confidence fluctuate on Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.

The second-year back had his worst game of 2015 last week against the Carolina Panthers. Freeman rushed for 40 yards on 12 carries and caught three passes for 22 yards. On his final 10 rushing attempts, he only had 18 yards.

In the last four weeks combined, Freeman has just 142 rushing yards.

Although he is trending downwards, there are still a couple reasons to leave Freeman in the fantasy lineup for Week 15.

First, there is more to Freeman than his rushing yardage. Despite averaging 35.5 yards on the ground the last four games, Freeman is averaging over eight fantasy points in standard leagues. Also in the last four weeks, he has two double-digit fantasy point performances.

22 November 2015: Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) rushes in first half action of the Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Georgia.  (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

22 November 2015: Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) rushes in first half action of the Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

That’s because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In Week 9 against the San Francisco 49ers, Freeman only averaged 1.0 yard per rush, but he also caught eight passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.

The same happened in Week 13 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Freeman had 47 rushing yards and 56 receiving yards.

His concussion is another thing to consider. In Week 11, Freeman gained 43 yards on his first three attempts, but then had to leave due to a hit to the head. If not for that, his yardage total the last four weeks could be much higher.

In all retrospect, Freeman has really only had one bad fantasy performance since Week 1. It just so happens that it is fresh in fantasy owners’ minds because it happened last week.

Owners should also consider Freeman was up against the Carolina Panthers on the road in Week 14. The Panthers have the fourth-best rush defense and allow the 12th-least amount of fantasy points to opposing running backs in the NFL.

It is also important to note that Atlanta fell behind, 21-0, by the end of the first quarter. It’s hard to stay loyal to the running game when the score is so lopsided.

The Falcons should have better luck against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15. Jacksonville isn’t bad against the run (13th in rushing yards allowed and 14th in fantasy points allowed to running backs), but the Jaguars aren’t nearly as stout as the Panthers.

Freeman has way too much upside for owners to “confidently” sit him this weekend. Even though it seems like a long time ago, the 23-year-old back had 1,062 yards of scrimmage in the first half of the season. And he is still tied for the league lead with nine rushing touchdowns.

Yes, our confidence is shaky but not enough to sit him on the bench. Consider Freeman a low-end RB1 in Week 15.

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