Tevin Coleman & The Other Side of Recency Bias

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Usually when we discuss recency bias, it about a good performance. Examples would be Amari Cooper and Derrick Henry. Both had more bad games than good in 2018 but finished the season with multiple very strong weeks and are being drafted high on the backs of those performances.

Tevin Coleman finds himself on the other side of that coin. Seemingly from the moment that he was drafted, the talk of the fantasy football world was that he was too good to play second fiddle to Devonta Freeman and once he went to another team, he would be a fantasy treasure. So when he finally landed elsewhere and, even better, signed on with the coach that helped produced his best seasons, you would think fantasy owners would be lining up to draft him…you would be wrong. A subpar showing with Freeman injured in 2018 has destroyed all of the goodwill that Coleman had as a backup.

This gives you a chance to grab a guy with proven top-20 potential in the 5th Round and I, for one, could not be happier.

Find out which tier and where the Ballers have Tevin Coleman projected in the Ultimate Draft Kit.

A 2018 to Forget

At the beginning of 2018, most everyone was already focusing on Tevin Coleman‘s 2019 free agency. He had finished as an RB2 for the last two seasons despite being a backup on his own team. The expectation was that he would play Robin to Freeman’s Batman for one more season and then move on to a new team and a starting role. Instead, Freeman’s season ended after two games and 14 carries and the talk turned to Coleman taking over the world. After Freeman left in Week 2, the optimism was well deserved. Coleman rushed for 107 yards on 16 carries in that game and looked primed for a big year. The rest of the season did not go as planned.

From Week 3 to Week 16, Coleman only managed six games of 10+ fantasy points.  After that great Week 2 performance, he did not eclipse 100 yards again until Week 15. He only managed more than four YPC in eight of 16 games, despite a career YPC of 4.2 coming into the season. The final result of this “terrible” season? Coleman finished with 800 rushing yards, four rushing TDs, and added another 276 yards and five TDs thru the air. In other words, he managed over 1,000 total yards and nine TDs. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? The great thing about Coleman is that he doesn’t need to get it done on the ground to be viable for fantasy. He has scored 11 receiving TDs in the last three seasons and hasn’t finished worse than the RB22 in 0.5 PPR during that span. So, why is he now being drafted outside of the top-25 RBs?

This is where recency bias rears its ugly head. In the last six weeks of the season, Coleman only managed more than 50 rushing yards two times and had two games where he didn’t cross the 10-yard mark. He basically had one good game for fantasy purposes and two more where a TD bailed him out. He was impossible to trust and there was no way to start him in the fantasy playoffs. That left a bad taste in fantasy owner’s mouthes so when he ended up in San Francisco with the coach that helped shape him into yearly ADP outperformer, there was no excitement. Instead, fantasy owners were more concerned about the triple timeshare with McKinnon and Breida when they should have realized that their fantasy dreams had come true.

The Bounce Back

There are a few points in time I want to help you remember right now. Think back to 2017, when Tevin Coleman turned a less than 50/50 timeshare into an RB22 finish. Or better yet, in 2016, with Kyle Shanahan, when he turned a 60/40 split (he was the 40) into an RB19 fantasy finish. Coleman has already shown you what he can do in Shanahan’s offense, even if he does have to split carries. The thing is, even if he does lose carries, he should still end up with the lion’s share this time around. He is clearly the most talented of the backs on San Francisco’s roster, and neither Jerick McKinnon nor Matt Breida represents what Devonta Freeman did in Atlanta. Coleman is the lead back this time around and that will make all the difference in the world.

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To start, McKinnon is likely starting the season on the IR, right away that puts him out til at least Week 10. That means Coleman is competing with Breida, Jeff Wilson Jr and Raheem Mostert. No offense to Wilson and Mostert, but they are getting the scraps here, not competing for relevant carries. It’s Coleman vs Breida. Looking over Shanahan’s last four years, in Atlanta and San Francisco, his team runs the ball on average 406 times per season and targets the RB 132 times. During that span, the lead back accounted for 54% of the running work and 53% of the targets.

In a man-to-man competition against Breida, Coleman is going to be that lead back. That should give him a stat line that looks something like this:

[lptw_table id=”160682″ style=”default”]

In 2018, that would’ve made him the RB12. In fact, in the last four seasons, RB12 would’ve been the worst possible finish for that stat line. These are not unattainable numbers and at his current ADP, Tevin Coleman is going to be a steal this season.

The stat line above illustrates Coleman in a relatively best-case scenario. In a worst-case scenario, he repeats what he did in 2016 or 2017 and still outperforms his ADP by five spots. So to sum it all up, at his best he becomes what Freeman was in this offense and you just grabbed an RB1 in the 5th Round of your draft. At his worst, he’s Tevin Coleman, who hasn’t finished worse than a fantasy RB2 in the last three years. We call that high ceiling/high floor and it wins you fantasy championships.

Listen to the Ballers give their takes on the top-10 fantasy RBs and beyond in a recent podcast.

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