This year we have witnessed the meteoric rise in dynasty Average Draft Position (ADP) of Jerick McKinnon following free agency, where he signed as the lead back for the San Francisco 49ers:
McKinnon’s incredible increase in value has since increased the value of next year’s free agent running back class; everyone has been scrambling to buy Tevin Coleman or Duke Johnson, as both have been seen as “next year’s Jerick McKinnon.” Unfortunately, Duke Johnson has since signed an extension with the Browns, leaving Tevin Coleman as the sole coveted free agent running back next offseason.
Lost in the excitement around Tevin Coleman is his current Falcons backfield partner, Devonta Freeman. If Tevin Coleman is a lock to leave the Falcons, why does nobody care about Devonta Freeman? This time next offseason, Freeman is going to be a locked in 3 down back on a top offense. Last time this was the case, Devonta Freeman was the most valuable RB in fantasy football.
Devonta Freeman is the reverse Jerick McKinnon, as his value is going to rise astronomically once Coleman signs elsewhere in fantasy. You need to buy him now before his price shoots up next offseason.
2015 League Winner:
How soon we forget that Freeman was the fantasy MVP in 2015, essentially guaranteeing victory for whoever drafted him. Over the past three years, his MFL10 win rate of 27.8% that year is 2nd only to Todd Gurley’s 2017 win rate of 30.5% among players drafted at least 50 times. His magical 2015 season is the 5th highest scoring RB season in the past three years. His 317 points would have made him the RB3 in both 2016 and 2017, behind only David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott in 2016 and then Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell in 2017.
What makes his 2015 season even more impressive is that Freeman was not even the full-time starter until week 3, and he missed two games through injury (1 full game, left another game after just three carries). If we filter just his healthy weeks as the starter, Freeman averaged 24.08 ppg. This monstrous production trails only the historic seasons of Bell and Johnson in 2016 (26.26 and 25.36 ppg respectively) and Gurley in 2017 (25.55 ppg).
While Freeman has shown a monstrous ceiling on par with these 1st round startup picks, he is not being valued anywhere near that price. His Dynasty Football Factory dynasty ADP is currently RB9 at 2.07 overall, while his Dynasty League Football ADP is currently RB13 at 3.04 overall. He will only be 27 heading into the 2019 NFL season, and Coleman’s departure should once again vault him to top 5 RB production at a massive discount.
Injuries create an opportunity for value. Freeman fought through MCL and PCL injuries that severely limited him late in the season, altering the perception of dynasty owners. While the exact date of these injuries is unknown, Freeman noticeably lacked rushing volume and effectiveness following his Week 15 explosion of 30.4 PPR points:
Week 16 Production: 11 carries, 3.3 YPC
Week 17 Production: 11 carries, 2.1 YPC
Wild Card Round Production: 18 carries, 3.7 YPC
Divisional Round Production: 10 carries, 0.7 YPC
The Devonta Freeman fresh on the minds of dynasty owners is not a healthy Devonta Freeman. Many owners also have the perception that Freeman lacked opportunity last season due to the loss of Kyle Shanahan and Tevin Coleman’s enhanced presence.
This perception is inaccurate:
Freeman’s 16 game carry pace of 238.7 in 2017 (excluding Week 10 where he left early due to injury) would have been greater than his 227 carries in 2016, and his target pace of 57.84 would have only been slightly below his 65 targets in 2016. Per playerprofiler.com, his opportunity share remained consistent from 2016 (58.9%) to 2017 (57.4%). His 13 goal-line carries in 2017 ranked #3 in the NFL, indicating he was still getting high-value touches.
So if Freeman maintained his volume from 2016 to 2017, what kind of production should we expect in 2018 and beyond? Freeman has been very consistent in points per opportunity (PPO) since entering the NFL:
With similar volume as last season, Freeman should once again finish as an RB1 in points per game in 2018 after finishing as RB1 in 2015, RB7 in 2016, and RB12 in 2017. In 2019, its wheels up for Freeman. Assuming his PPO remains consistent, the increase in volume that should accompany Coleman’s departure will lead to massive fantasy points once again for Freeman.
If you could buy a top 5 RB in 2019 at an RB13 price tag in many leagues, would you do it? The answer is a resounding yes. Don’t wait until next offseason, buy Devonta Freeman at a discount now.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think. Comment and share below. You can read more of my work below, and find me on Twitter @DFF_RyanB.