Why Tevin Coleman Will Help You Win Your League (Fantasy Football)

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Finding a running back that will actually see playing time is hard enough, but finding one past the fourth round often requires an injury or some serious research and a little bit of luck. I’ll get into plenty of reasons why Tevin Coleman is a phenomenal value at his ADP, but I want to preface it with an important trend. The NFL is changing, and three down running backs are slowly disappearing. I’ll dive deep into that towards the end of the month, but for now just know this: almost every team has been taking a committee approach in the last few years. Two back systems are becoming the norm, not the exception. The workhorse back isn’t something you should expect to see from very many guys, especially once you leave round one of your draft. Let’s take a look at one guy that will be a 1B for his team but will be a huge value for yours: Tevin Coleman.

Coleman was a solid RB2 through the first nine weeks of the 2019 season where he saw almost 14 attempts per game. The narrative switched in Week 10 when Raheem Mostert took over the 1A gig and ran away with it. Obviously it’s never a great sign to see someone lose a starting role, but there’s a lot more here than meets the eye. Matt Breida took his talents to South Beach, which freed up 123 rushing attempts and 22 targets at the running back position. Some of these will funnel to Kyle Juszczyk, the never-forgotten but always disappointing Jerick McKinnon, or one of the two newcomers (Salvon Ahmed and JaMycal Hasty), but the bulk of them should fall on the shoulders of Coleman and Mostert. Volume is king in fantasy football, and the 49ers provide plenty of it for their running backs.

The Niners were second to only the Ravens in rushing attempts per game in 2019, and that matters a lot when considering a player who isn’t the top-dog on his team. There’s plenty to go around in San Francisco, and there’s even more of it now that Breida is gone. If Coleman sees just a third of the missing work, it would put him near 200 touch territory. In 2019, every running back that saw 200 or more touches finished as a top-30 fantasy running back, and Coleman is currently being picked as the 34th back off the board in 2020. Keep in mind that most of the guys that missed the top-20 didn’t play on an offense as run-dominant as Kyle Shanahan’s.

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In terms of goal-line work, Coleman had a very respectable season, especially when you compare him to Mostert. The obvious caveat was the distribution at seasons end, but it’s still something to examine. Coleman saw twice as many red zone attempts as Mostert in 2019, and he had more attempts inside the five-yard line than Saquon Barkley, and finished with the same total as Chris Carson and Josh Jacobs. Touchdowns are a unique advantage in fantasy for running backs, and the guy who sees the goal-line work for a good offense will always be valuable. If they let Mostert handle the work between the 20s and have Coleman finish drives, he’ll end up as a thorn in the side of your opponents and a major value at a position that doesn’t have many. There’s plenty of scenarios on the table, and all of them point to his ADP being way too low.

Based on his roster situation combined with his offense, I’d expect to consider him as a mid-round dart throw. Right now he’s being picked in the ninth round, which typically houses bench stashes and low-cost guys with lottery upside. Coleman is a solidified back they went out of their way to sign, who performed very well, and now has a less crowded backfield. He’s going off the board behind guys like Jordan Howard, James White, Marlon Mack, and Ronald Jones. I’m not saying this group is worthless, but only Mack plays on an offense that’s on the same planet as San Francisco from a run game standpoint. Mostert performed very well last season, but Coleman also had a huge game in the playoffs when he went down. He’s given us enough information to feel comfortable that he can produce big games when given the opportunity. In today’s running back landscape, that’s not something we say too often. I don’t want to be ageist here, but Mostert is 28….. that’s like 104 in running back years. Most ball carriers fall off a cliff production-wise by his age, and he’s only 197 pounds which doesn’t bode well for workhorse potential. I really like Mostert as a fantasy pick, I’m just speaking to the fact that a committee approach is a near certainty.

Coleman is all but guaranteed touches, but he’s an afterthought right now in fantasy drafts. Both guys have a shot at work this year and Shanahan will have zero reservations switching right back if Coleman steps up.  He’s a play-calling wildcard and we’ve seen this story three years in a row. Remember Jeff Wilson? That was fun. Coleman has a huge opportunity, and he should absolutely be on your radar earlier than his draft spot suggests.

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