The Atlanta Falcons had a disappointing year in 2018, finishing 7-9 without a postseason appearance.
The team struggled, but running back Devonta Freeman did as well. His year ended with just 14 carries in two games.
Considered one of the best running backs in football before last year, Freeman already seems like an afterthought now. He is no longer talked about when people debate the top running backs in the NFL.
2019 is poised to be a bounce-back year for Freeman, though. What exactly can he do?
Here are three bold predictions for the Falcons’ star ball-carrier.
He Will Play in All 16 Games
Devonta Freeman has the “injury-prone” tag on him and it’s 100% recency bias.
In his career he has appeared in 16 games, then 15, then 16, then 14, then 2 — in that order.
He is more likely to appear in 16 games than any number under 14 — at least thus far.
Two games last season was simply an anomaly. A lot of people seem ready to believe this is the new norm for Freeman — that he will miss a lot of games. He is healthy and ready to contribute, however — and that’s what one should expect from Freeman.
It’s not bold to say he’ll play a heavy majority of the games. Outside of last season, he has done that every year so far. What is bold is to expect him to be ready for all 16 games — he is definitely hungry enough.
1,000 Rushing Yards and 50 Receptions
Devonta Freeman has been considered a fantasy football beast for the majority of his career. That’s due to his fantastic dual-threat ability on the ground and in the passing game.
In 2015, Freeman racked up 1,056 rushing yards and 73 receptions (14 total touchdowns). He followed that with 1,079 rushing yards and 54 receptions (13 total touchdowns).
2017 involved a dip in production. In 14 games Freeman posted 865 rushing yards (seven touchdowns) on the ground. He also had just 36 receptions and one touchdown in the passing game.
What is different: Freeman is healthy again. Tevin Coleman is also off the Falcons. That means more snaps for Freeman to get. If he isn’t splitting carries with Coleman, that means he has more chances to put up bigger numbers.
With that in mind, Freeman also becomes the only true goal-line threat. The Falcons will use him to push the ball into the end zone every chance they get, meaning a bundle of touchdowns will come his way.
This could be the year Freeman puts up his best numbers.
Top-3 Fantasy Running Back
Just two seasons ago, this wouldn’t have been a bold prediction at all. Devonta Freeman’s ability to do everything on offense made him a perennial first-round pick in fantasy drafts.
He’s coming off his two worst seasons, yes. 2017 was a down year. Then he appeared in just two games in 2018, never getting a chance for a bounce-back year.
That bounce-back year was simply delayed. Freeman can go after a fantastic season in 2019. He is poised to do just that.
Again, with Coleman gone, the Falcons don’t have a stud running back behind Freeman. That means they won’t be splitting carries nearly as much.
That can be proven by his career numbers. Freeman has never had more than 265 carries in a season – and that was back in 2015.
Now he’ll be the clear-cut backfield weapon in both the rushing game and the passing game.
The passing attack led by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will help. They’ll open up the defense more, giving Freeman more room to run. This will also allow him to be covered by more linebackers, creating mismatches he can exploit in the passing game.
1,000-plus yards and 50-plus receptions will definitely make him a top-tier running back in fantasy production. The 15-or-so touchdowns he’ll score will push him over the top.