There isn’t a good chance for Steven Jackson to ever be fantasy football relevant again, but rookie Devonta Freeman could be a top-20 back for your fantasy football team in 2014.
There is no denying that the Atlanta Falcons will be a pass-happy offense with a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White in the lineup, but Matt Ryan will be without chain-mover Tony Gonzalez this season. What the casual fan may not know, however, is that the backs for the Falcons are much more active than you would suspect in the running game.
In 2011, Michael Turner totaled 301 carries, Jacquizz Rodgers ran the ball 57 times and Jason Snelling finished the season with 44 carries. That means that the Falcons’ backs had 402 carries from its main rushers, and while the rushing attempts decreased in 2012, Turner still had his opportunities for fantasy relevance. He had lost his nickname of the “Burner” by this point, but he still ran the ball 222 times. If Freeman can turn receptions into big gains and finish the year with 200 or more carries, he should find success for fantasy owners.
Freeman doesn’t have hands like fellow rookie Charles Sims, and the 22-year-old back only 22 receptions in his final college season. Even though he wasn’t heavily involved in the passing game, however, he can still produce when the ball is thrown his way. On his 22 receptions, Freeman totaled 278 receiving yards, which averages to 12.6 yards per reception. If his college stats are any indication of his future in the NFL, Freeman could have extra value in PPR formats.
The rookie also has in his favor the fact that Rodgers has never proved himself as a lead back. The organization doesn’t really seem to know how to get the best out of him, and Freeman’s spot behind Jackson on the depth chart should not scare anyone. Freeman can surpass Rodgers before the season starts, so fantasy players should pay attention to any news involving any Falcons’ back.
With an opportunity to take over the rushing attack in Atlanta, Freeman should be on your fantasy radar before he becomes part of your opponent’s roster.