Fantasy football season is just around the corner, which means drafts have begun, mock drafts are in full effect, and degenerates everywhere are preparing for the season. Every year, there are a few rookies that have fantasy value, not just in dynasty leagues, but in redraft as well. Last year, we saw Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, and even guys like Cordarrelle Patterson and DeAndre Hopkins contribute in year one. Who will it be this year?
This is part two of a 32-part series, where one offensive rookie from each team will be analyzed, and their fantasy value will be determined. Each player’s ADP, college statistics, depth chart status, and more will be broken down, and a proper value will be placed on each player.
Without further ado, part two of Rookie Profiles. Meet Atlanta Falcons’ fourth round pick: running back Devonta Freeman.
Weight: 206 pounds
Freeman comes from the reigning champion Florida State Seminoles as one of their many talented backs. We discussed yesterday in Troy Niklas’ profile about blocking, discussing how Niklas was the best blocking tight end in college football. Freeman could have been one of the best pass blocking backs in the country last season, and that will lead to more playing time.
At Florida State, Freeman rushed for 2255 yards and 30 touchdowns on 404 carries in his career, including 1016 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. His 404 carries in a college career is not a lot, which bodes well for Freeman’s durability in the NFL. A lot of backs come into the league with the infamous “tread on their tires” label, and fortunately for the Falcons and Freeman, he does not have that issue.
When he has the ball, Freeman is a very strong runner, always pushing forward for those extra yards. At his size, a 40-yard dash of 4.58 seconds seems “slow”, but when he runs downhill it seems that he is 235 pounds, not 206. Freeman will need added burst to be an every down back in the NFL, but as far as fantasy football is concerned, he will find the field.
The Falcons currently have Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers on their roster, but with Jackson turning 31 next month, and Rodgers’ inability to be much more than a receiving back, Freeman’s role could increase as the year goes on.
As far as the Falcons running backs are concerned, their average draft positions are: Jackson, (106.74), Freeman, (108.85), and Rodgers is being drafted well later than 200. The two who are in position for fantasy value are obviously Jackson and Rodgers, but who else could be had at that ADP? Terrence West, Maurice Jones-Drew, Danny Woodhead, and Darren Sproles are all within the next 10 picks. If you see value in those guys, and do not have faith in a 31-year old Jackson, Freeman could be your RB4, or possibly RB3 in some leagues.
If Freeman lands the starting job, he instantly becomes a RB2, simply because of the scarcity of good starting running backs. Expect his ADP to fluctuate during the next two months, as when most drafts start, players who are new always seem to drop in ADP. That could lead to a value pick later in the draft, which is all we ask for out of a rookie running back.
Last year, the Falcons split their snaps among running backs. Rodgers received 441 snaps, Jackson played in 426, and Jason Snelling played 233 snaps. With Snelling out of the picture and Jackson getting a year older, Freeman could replace Snelling’s snaps and take away a few from both Rodgers and Jackson, especially because of his ability in pass protection.
Freeman will be on rosters across fantasy football this year, and could be the second rookie running back drafted behind Bishop Sankey. Keep an eye on his ADP, and the running back situation in Atlanta, because he could be a diamond in the rough in August fantasy drafts.
Projection: 90 carries for 415 yards and four touchdowns, 25 catches for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Statistics via ProFootballFocus, College Football Reference, NFL.com