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The fantasy football case for Devonta Freeman over Tevin Coleman

There isn’t a worse phrase in fantasy football than running back by committee. Those four words can give even the best fantasy owners headaches and cost them championships.

But that doesn’t mean owners can’t use the dreaded “RBBC” title to their advantage come draft time. In order to do so, look no further than the Atlanta Falcons’ backfield.

Despite the team’s best efforts, Atlanta’s running game hasn’t been ranked higher than 24th in each of the last three seasons. In 2013, the Falcons were dead last in rushing, averaging 77.9 yards on the ground per game.

To help solve its running game issues, the Falcons have drafted Devonta Freeman in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft and Tevin Coleman in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The two backs have shared first-team reps during training camp (when they haven’t been battling respective hamstring injuries) and are figuring to do the same during the season, thus leading to the hated “running back by committee” title.

Owners could just stay clear of the Falcons backfield all together, but if they want to provide their fantasy team some depth at running back in the late rounds, Freeman is the guy to target over Coleman.

That’s probably not what most fantasy owners will do. Coleman is fresh off a 2,000-yard season at Indiana University, averaging 7.5 yards per carry with 15 touchdowns. At 6’1″ and 210 pounds, owners who do their research and know Coleman’s college stats are going to jump at the opportunity to grab him.

Which is why targeting Freeman, is a much better idea. Coleman has an 89.2 ADP according to Fantasy Pros, so in order to get him, owners will have to take him in the seventh round of a 12-team league.

If you're looking to add value to your fantasy team out of the Atlanta Falcons' backfield, target Devonta Freeman in the late rounds.

If you’re looking to add value to your fantasy team out of the Atlanta Falcons’ backfield, target Devonta Freeman in the late rounds.

Freeman, on the other hand, has a 122.0 ADP according to Fantasy Pros, which makes him a 10th-round pick in 12-team leagues. Does it make sense to select Coleman when one could take Freeman three rounds later? In all likelihood, the two backs will have very similar stats this season.

This isn’t the first time a rookie running back has come into the league in a possible “RRBC” situation and had a much higher ADP than another veteran back already on the roster. The most memorable recent example of this was in Denver two years ago. Veterans Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno took a back seat to highly-touted rookie Montee Ball.

Ball, however, couldn’t pass block, so Moreno received his chance, and he took advantage rushing for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns that season.

Now the example in Denver isn’t exactly the same as the one in Atlanta this season. Moreno was entering his fifth season at the time, so he already had a few years to learn how to pass block. Freeman is coming into just his second season in 2015.

And although Matt Ryan is a very capable NFL quarterback, Moreno obviously benefitted from playing in Peyton Manning’s backfield, particularly in the same season Manning broke the all-time passing record with 5,477 yards.

But the overall point remains the same. Fantasy owners spent a fifth-round draft pick on Ball before that season, and Moreno went well after the 10th round.

Clearly, most owners picked the wrong guy in that “RBBC” two years ago. Even though the difference in ADP between Coleman and Freeman isn’t as great as it was between Ball and Moreno in 2013, picking Coleman in the seventh over Freeman in the 10th is a mistake.

In order to avoid that “RBBC” headache this season, target Freeman. At the very least, he provides better value than the high-profiled rookie.


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