How Does Devonta Freeman's Release Impact the Falcons' Backfield?
The Atlanta Falcons released Devonta Freeman on Monday, creating an immediate opening in their backfield. Freeman was with the team for the last six seasons and a fixture in their offense, leaving a void that needs to be filled. The Falcons' passing game will still be strong, but what can we expect from their rushing attack? Who is on the roster? Who will be seeing playing time?
There are plenty of questions to talk about, so let's jump in.
Freeman has been on the Falcons since 2014 and has played 14 games or more in five of these six seasons. Everyone remembers when he only played two games in 2018 due to injuries, but other than that, he has been healthy throughout his career. In his first season, Freeman wasn't the starter and only had 65 total rushing attempts for 248 yards. But he has been the starter since 2015 and piled up 800 rushing yards or more in three of the four seasons since then -- not counting 2018 when he played only two games.
On top of his consistent rushing production, Freeman has also played a strong role in the Falcons' passing attack, giving him great fantasy value. Freeman posted 50 receptions or more and 400 receiving yards or more in three of his last four seasons -- again, not including 2018. Freeman might not be an "elite" running back, but he is a very solid option and has been in the RB2 range for fantasy production.
Where Does It Go Now?
With Freeman out of the picture, who will be seeing the volume in the Falcons' backfield?
On the Falcons' current roster, they have Ito Smith, Brian Hill, and Qadree Ollison, who have all seen playing time to varying degrees in recent seasons. Smith could be the Falcons' de facto starting running, which would make him very popular once we come to season-long drafts. In his first two seasons in the league -- both with Atlanta -- Smith has a total of 112 carries for 421 yards and 5 touchdowns. Hill also managed to add on 38 receptions and 239 receiving yards, which is decent production for what was a clear backup.
Hill had somewhat similar numbers over the last two seasons with the Falcons, but if he is set to be the backup -- not third-string -- we could see an increase in production. It's also unknown at this point if the Falcons will sign another running back and further change the dynamic of their backfield.
The Falcons have a high-scoring offense and middle of the road defense, often finding themselves in high-scoring games. They have been a team to target in both season-long fantasy football and DFS, bringing value to their players. Regardless of what happens, one thing is clear -- whoever becomes the starting running back for the Falcons is in for solid production and on their way to being a great fantasy asset.