Prior to 2018, Devonta Freeman was a fantasy dream for owners, especially in PPR leagues. He totaled 35 touchdowns between 2015 and 2017 and had over 150 receptions. In those years, he totaled over 1,000 yards combined in the air and on the ground, all this while sharing the backfield with Tevin Coleman and watching the Falcons throw the ball a lot more than run.
In 2018, though, Freeman owners didn’t even get two full games out of him as he landed on the injured reserve and sat out most of the season. Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith shouldered most of the load, but neither really made much of a dent in the stat books and the Falcons missed out on the playoffs.
As 2019 starts, Freeman is the main weapon in the Falcons backfield. Coleman is off to San Francisco and Ito Smith is now the number two. Smith will likely not see the same workload as Coleman, and there’s no one else really in the Falcons backfield that will see much of any playing time. The Falcons, therefore, will put a lot of trust in Freeman.
The question is, should you?
Given where most draft boards have him ranked, I would answer that with a resounding yes.
Freeman is not a first rounder anymore on most draft boards and seems to be getting overlooked because of his silence a year ago. Not to mention we’re in a passing league now and younger backs are stealing the spotlight. Freeman is 28 and coming off major injuries from a year ago. However, he still is part of an offense that is filled with talent around him and plays in a stadium where speed is rewarded.
If you’re in a PPR league, he is worthy of your first pick in the third round after picking two high quality wide receivers, or a Saquon Barkley-type back coupled with a stud wideout (He is being taken as late as mid-fourth round in some leagues). Freeman still brings plenty of value in the passing game and has the speed and athleticism to put up big fantasy numbers. The Falcons still will be a pass first team, but a successful passing game also usually results in a successful running game.
Now if you’re drafting in a dynasty league, I’d have more hesitation on Freeman as I do think he’s down to his last couple years as an impact player. I wouldn’t completely ignore him in dynasty leagues, but I’d definitely look at nabbing Ito Smith later in a dynasty draft as he brings more youth and his carries could increase as the season wears on should Freeman struggle.
However, when talking strictly about 2019, there are not many starting backs who are going to get as much playing time as Freeman will and who are surrounded by the kind of talent he is. I’d invest in the talent, but also look at Ito Smith late as an insurance policy should Freeman fall victim to injury again. The Falcons offense is still every bit as dangerous, and dangerous offenses use their backs wisely.