By now, you’ve undoubtedly conducted your fantasy draft, and you may have wound up with Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, or both. Congratulations! You have at least half of what figures to be one of the NFL’s most productive tandems working on your behalf. Now you just need to know how the Falcons plan to divvy up the touches, so you can plan who you’ll start on a weekly basis, and whether you should hold out hope for Coleman’s fantasy value.
We will not be discussing Terron Ward or Patrick DiMarco in this post, because if you own either in fantasy, you are probably boned.
How will the carries be divided?
This is a pretty straightforward question. Freeman is the lead back, the man more likely to get short yardage work, and a physical, hard-nosed runner who can legitimately carry the load if he needs to, even if he did wear down late in 2015.
Coleman, meanwhile, should be able to pick up anywhere from 5-12 carries per game in relief of Freeman. His speed and considerable ability make it likely that he’ll have a few big weeks even with that modest volume, but you’re not going to start him unless the Falcons’ passing attack suffers a massive setback or Freeman is out.
What about passing work?
Freeman wins out here, too, even if Coleman has reportedly improved a great deal as a pass catcher in camp. Freeman was actually the team’s second-leading receiver a year ago behind Julio Jones, and will likely be the third or fourth biggest beneficiary of Matt Ryan’s largesse this year, as well.
Coleman should pick up more passes than last year, and could be legitimately intriguing if the Falcons line him out wide. Again, though, Freeman holds the clear edge here, and likely will all season.
Conclusion: Freeman over Coleman
This is an obvious case in fantasy, even if it’s a little less obvious in real life. Freeman will still get the majority of the touches and is a better bet to score and reel in passes, making him potentially one of the most valuable running backs in the NFL in most formats. If you have Coleman, too, whether you’ll want to get him involved will depend on the strength of the opponent and what’s going on with Freeman.
If you’re a Coleman owner who doesn’t have Freeman, he’ll be a decent flex option against weak run defenses, and he’ll become extremely valuable if Freeman ever misses time. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t going to be the year your late round gamble on Coleman pays off in a big way.
In summary, start Freeman with confidence, and get Coleman as a high-upside handcuff if you can. Freeman’s the man to own, and the biggest fantasy asset not named Julio Jones on this Falcons team.