4 Reasons Why Tevin Coleman Is a Better Option Than Devonta Freeman in Fantasy Football
Matt Ryan is one of the better starting quarterbacks in the NFL, Julio Jones is one of the most talented young wide receivers, and Roddy White has been a strong presence as a pass-catcher for years. Yes, the Atlanta Falcons should continue to score points in 2015, and that's great news for the team's running back in fantasy football.
But which one?
Back in May, Atlanta selected Tevin Coleman in the third round of the NFL Draft, adding to the team's depth after Steven Jackson's offseason departure. But the Falcons also have second-year back Devonta Freeman on their roster, a fourth-rounder selected in last year's draft.
So, again, I ask: Which one?
Which running back -- Coleman or Freeman -- is the one to own in fantasy football this year? Which runner will have the most success?
Well, as you sleuths have probably already figured out by the title, there's a pretty clear answer. Here are four reasons why your man is Tevin Coleman.
1. Freeman Was Horrible Last Season
I'd be more optimistic about Freeman this season if he wasn't so turkey-sandwich-from-Subway mediocre last year. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures the number of points a player adds or subtracts from his team based on expectation, Freeman finished 2014 with a -18.80 Rushing NEP total, good for a -0.29 per rush average. Perhaps that doesn't make a lot of sense to you, so let me put it in context: among 50-plus attempt rushers last season (there were 73 of them), Freeman's per rush NEP average ranked dead last.
He was literally the worst.
Among this subset, Freeman's Success Rate on the ground -- his percentage of "positive" runs (by NEP) -- was 24.62%. That not only was by far the worst of any running back in 2014, but among the 1,007 running back seasons since 2000 where the back saw at least 50 rushes, it was third worst.
Freeman was effective through the air last year, which is a plus for his game. But you don't just want a third-down back on your fantasy squad. You want the guy who can carry the ball 200-plus times and be strong weekly starter.
2. There's a New Regime, and That Regime Chose Coleman
Let's also not overlook the fact that there's a new regime in Atlanta, and this regime has no ties to Freeman. Plenty of talk has surrounded Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme in Atlanta -- a scheme that's seen plenty of young runners emerge out of nowhere, becoming uber fantasy relevant. According to many, Freeman fits the system, while Coleman doesn't.
But not only do some see Coleman as a fine fit for the offense (including Coleman himself, prior to the draft), but can we talk about how the Falcons used a third-round pick on the guy? Trust me, I understand that teams don't always make the best, optimal choices when they draft players, but if Coleman's not at all a zone-blocking back, then you have to question a lot more than who's going to lead the team's backfield this season.
Think of it this way: Atlanta has one of the more in-demand offensive coordinators in the game now, and his coaching staff just selected a running back by using more draft equity than the team (under a different regime) did with Devonta Freeman, a back who was insanely ineffective a season ago.
This shouldn't be ignored.
3. Coleman Is More Athletic
And then there are the measurables. Coleman didn't participate in the Combine thanks to a foot injury, but his Pro Day 40-yard dash clocked in at 4.39 seconds. That's nearly 0.2 seconds faster than Freeman's 4.58.
According to MockDraftable.com, one of Coleman's top physical comparables is Lamar Miller, with other relevant (not great) backs listed as well. Freeman's best comp is probably Duke Johnson, only because the rest of the players listed for him have done next to nothing at the NFL level and Johnson still has everything to look forward to.
4. Ambiguity Matters
Sometimes a little ambiguity in fantasy football is a good thing. Because ambiguity pretty much just means variance, it looks at both sides of the equation for a player -- both the good and the bad.
In Coleman's case, the "bad" has to do with Freeman's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, a potential fit in Kyle Shanahan's offense and general inexperience. But as I showed above, each of these reasons aren't incredibly meaningful considering Freeman struggled mightily toting the rock last year, this regime with Kyle Shanahan selected Coleman in the third round, and inexperience also means potential.
Let's face it: the "good" for Tevin Coleman is much better than the "good" for Devonta Freeman. We saw Devonta Freeman last season. We saw that he wasn't an effective running back. Is his ceiling really getting you excited?