This week's edition of Spin Doctors brings you another backfield battle. Fantasy forecasters Liz Loza and Brad Evans examine the merits of Devonta Freeman and Carlos Hyde. Loza gives the edge to the Falcon. While, Evans, is hot for Hyde. Which RB are you more likely to roster? Peruse their perspectives and then add your own thoughts in the comments section below.
Loza digs in on Devonta: You want to talk about underdogs? Freeman’s 2015 campaign defined the word. An undersized back left over from the previous regime, Freeman found the end zone more times (14) than any other back in the business. From a fantasy perspective, he was the best player at the position and averaged over 16 FPTS/game. Selected in the ninth round of fake football drafts last summer, Freeman was the virtual game’s biggest stunner a season ago.
So can a guy who is neither big nor fast do it again? I say, yes.
No, his workout metrics don’t wow, but his vision and patience are at an elite level. Willing to let blocks develop and in possession of a keen ability to spot emerging holes, Freeman uses his compact build and savvy to beat defenders from the neck up. (Something that can’t *insert shocked emoji face* be measured by a stopwatch or bench press.) Plus, he was a major weapon in Atlanta’s passing game. Second in targets to Julio Jones, Freeman averaged nearly 5 catches per contest and racked up 578 yards through the air, the third most of any RB in 2015.
A true workhorse in his sophomore season, Freeman notched 265 totes and averaged close to 18 carries per game. I expect Tevin Coleman to chip away at that this coming fall, and encourage fantasy owners to stash the former Hoosier in the back half of drafts. However, one of the major cons of Coleman’s game is his upright running style that undeniably invites contact. As evidenced by his injury-plagued rookie outing, Coleman is far from a sure thing. Freeman, on the other hand, has proven he can stay healthy and produce.
As for Hyde, his upside is obvious. But he’s also a guy who’s struggled with conditioning since college. Considering he missed the last half 2015 due to a stress fracture in his foot (that required surgery) one would hope he’s able to keep his weight in check. Furthermore, he’ll be entering a new, intensely rigorous system. In just two seasons the former Buckeye has missed 11 games, so there are legitimate durability concerns at play… especially when considering San Fran’s putrid offensive line.
Look, for the price Hyde is an excellent value. And to be totally honest I have Freeman and Hyde back-to-back in my rankings. But to dismiss everything the Falcon accomplished last season in favor of the 49er’s potential is dubious at best. Perhaps not the flashiest of players, Freeman remains the more tried and true option.
Evans has the hots for Hyde: In this argument, Hyde is a true underdog.. Unlike Freeman, he isn’t blessed with an exploitable situation and hasn’t established himself as one of the game’s elites, at least on the surface.
Over his first two years in the league, Hyde, when in uniform, has shown considerable promise. He’s routinely blasted through would-be tacklers, made defenders look silly and has exhibited reliable hands. His downright delectable 69.3 yards after contact percentage and 27.8 missed tackle rate from ’15 support the notion. Point blank, when given opportunities, the kid has produced. His 10.0 fantasy points per game last fall, much of it tallied on a bum foot and in less than ideal conditions, should be lauded.
Now enter Chip Kelly. The controversial head coach, who was regularly admonished by the Philadelphia media during his tumultuous three-year run with the Eagles, is exactly what Hyde needs. His zone-running, shotgun-based scheme is tailored perfectly to the young back’s skill set. As a pro, Hyde has averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 84 from-the-‘gun runs. Throw in the fact the former Buckeye has little to no competition and he’s far more attractive than what critics claim. Recall LeSean McCoy netted 337 touches per year his first two seasons under Kelly.
Yes, the Niners offensive line, which ranked No. 31 in run-blocking last year, is a work in progress and Blaine Gabbert is the square root of Sam Bradford, but it’s hard to dispute Hyde’s expected volume. RBs who average 20 touches plus per game are short-lines-at-Disneyland scarce. Even on a suspect offense, he could crawl his way to 1,500 combined yards and 7-9 TDs.
Here’s the deal with Freeman. Though his final numbers set the pace at the RB position in per game average last year, much of that was accomplished over the season’s first half. When touches began to pile up down the stretch he whimpered. He averaged a meager 3.1 yards per carry from Week 9 on. Because the diminutive back isn’t built to shoulder another 22 touches per game, Tevin Coleman will be given every opportunity to force a timeshare. It would be no shocker if Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan installed a 60-40 split between Freeman-TC. That happens, and Devonta’s fantasy stature is sure to diminish. He’s an enormous risk at his current 14.3 ADP (RB7).
Hyde, who is going roughly 26 picks later, is pure gold (40.9 ADP).
Pump up the volume, gamer. Don’t Hyde from Carlos.
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