Fantasy Football: Make Up or Break Up with Devonta Freeman in 2019?

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Devonta, Devonta, Devonta,

It’s a curious position we find ourselves in. After your meteoric rise in 2015, that saw you finish as the overall RB1 with 14 TDs, people were already starting to doubt you. I defended you, over and over, and it paid dividends as you followed up with an RB6 overall finish in 2015. Since then, the only thing that could be relied on was your unreliability and we are at a crossroads. Now that you own the Atlanta backfield once again, can we expect to see what we saw those 4 years ago? Or is it time for us to go our separate ways?

I’m not going to say that I predicted what you’d do in 2015, that is not true at all. But I did draft you just about everywhere and reaped the benefit of that RB1 season. In the 3 years that have passed since then, only 9 RBs have been able to score more points than you did in 2015. Afterward, the Falcons went out and added Tevin Coleman and the narrative became that you would lose work and become but another cog in the wheel. I debated this over and over and even wrote a piece showing the error in these thoughts and my loyalty was rewarded. You followed up the 2015 season with more yards on fewer carries and finished as the RB6. And I thank you for that.

But then, those gold-diggers out in San Francisco came in and swept away Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator that helped you shine. He was replaced by Steve Sarkisian and it became immediately apparent that he had no idea how to best use you or Tevin Coleman. In 2017, you still finished as the RB13, but your volume, especially in the passing game, was a shadow of what we saw in those Shanahan years. Things did not improve in 2018.

Unfortunately for those that drafted you, 2018 was basically a non-existent bust. A knee bruise and sports hernia limited you to just 2 games and for someone that we burned a 2nd Round pick on, that was not the expectation. This is what brings us here. The last time we saw you play, you looked like a middle of the road guy and last season you were nowhere to be found. Who will you be in 2019?

Let me paint you a picture of my expectations of 2019 and we’ll see if you can live up to them. Sarkisian is gone (Thank goodness) and Tevin Coleman followed Shanny to San Fran, so 2 of your biggest hurdles are already in the past. The new OC, Dirk Koetter, was with the team from 2012-2014, which includes your rookie year, so there should be some familiarity there. In his 12 years as a head coach or offensive coordinator, Koetter has produced five RB1, two RB2, and three RB3. Last season he was even able to make Peyton Barber a top 30 RB. What I like is that he used Barber as a true workhorse, giving him 234 of 296 total carries. If that is the usage we can expect for you in 2019, you should blow away your 3rd Round, RB16 ADP.

So if usage is no longer an issue, let’s talk about those injuries. Interestingly, the main knock that I hear about you is concussions. But your last reported concussion was back in November of 2017 and the year off you had last season probably helped on that front. The biggest concern isn’t even the sports hernia surgery you’ve had most recently or last season’s knee bruise. To find your reddest flag, we have to go back to Week 17 of 2017, when you hurt both your MCL and PCL. To quote Matthew Betz, who wrote the injury report for the 2019 Ultimate Draft Kit:

“The core-muscle surgery (hernia) should heal well, but the knee injury is a concern in 2019…The MCL has healed by now but the PCL, which sits outside the knee, is likely to linger.”

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Not exactly a glowing recommendation but by age 27, most RBs have a few warts. Five of the fifteen RBs being drafted ahead of you have the “injury-concern” designation and none of the RBs being drafted after you have been the RB1 in the last 5 years. The reward seems to outweigh the risk.

The truth is: You’ve burned many an owner over the last 2 fantasy seasons and some may never draft you again. The Fantasy Footballers have you ranked as their consensus RB13, 3 spots ahead of your current ADP, and I won’t be surprised to see that ADP fall even further as we get closer to August and the bulk of fantasy drafts. Fantasy football is about value and that is what you represent in 2019 and that is why I will happily take you back, Devonta. You have RB1 potential and your lowest ADP since 2015. You’re still 3 years away from that 30-year-old “kiss of death” for running backs and seemed primed to be a workhorse again in 2019.

To put it plainly: You are forgiven.

~Ryan Weisse

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