Fantasy 5: Don’t worry about Devonta Freeman’s workload

The Falcons RB is still a top fantasy option. Plus, Drew Brees is set for another big year, Corey Coleman is an intriguing WR3, and more.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Brad Penner)

(AP Photo/Brad Penner)

Fantasy 5: Don’t worry about Devonta Freeman’s workload

Today is the first day of the rest of your fantasy football life. Too dramatic? Okay, I’ll give you that one, but the time to start prepping for fantasy drafts is now. You don’t want to wait until late-August to start figuring things out. If you do, you’ll be behind your league-mates and more likely to make mistakes on draft day. Don’t be that person.

The good news is we’ll be helping you every step of the way here at PFF. Like we do every day, here are five things you need to know:

1. Don’t overreact to the Devonta Freeman “news”

Freeman is coming off of a breakout season where he was one of seven running backs to top 1,000 yards rushing, finished third among backs in receptions, and led the position in fantasy scoring. However, Falcons running backs coach Bobby Turner said the team wants to give Freeman fewer touches and get Tevin Coleman more involved. Fantasy Twitter broke shortly thereafter.

In all seriousness, though, it’s very easy to overreact to news at this time of year. We’ve been dealing with the same data set since February, and there hasn’t been any real news since offseason practices let out a few weeks ago. While many want to immediately move Freeman down in their rankings, comments like Turner’s don’t merit much attention at all.

[Where should you draft Freeman? Take a spin with PFF’s new Draft Master tool to find out, plus get recommendations on the players you should target in every round of your draft.]

A close read of what he said is that they’re going to get Coleman more involved to keep Freeman fresh. That’s not new information at all. In fact, it’s exactly what we’ve expected all along, and we have that logic baked into our projections here at PFF. Last season, Freeman touched the ball 338 times. While we have him just as involved as a receiver – roughly 70 catches – our projections have his carries reduced from the 265 he saw last season to 220 this year. Despite a drop-off of roughly 45 touches, Freeman still projects out as the No. 3 running back in PPR scoring. So don’t overreact to this news. Freeman is still a strong fantasy option who currently offers nice value with an ADP of the eighth running back off the board.

2. Browns rookie WR Corey Coleman is an intriguing boom-or-bust WR3

The new regime in Cleveland immediately set out to overhaul the roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball – drafting four wide receivers in April’s draft. The first one selected, Baylor’s Corey Coleman, appears poised to emerge as the Browns’ No. 1 receiver in 2016.

Coleman enters the league following a 20-touchdown season in the high-powered Baylor spread offense. He’s an explosive playmaker, but isn’t as polished of a route-runner as fellow first-rounder Laquon Treadwell. Last season, Coleman ran essentially four types of routes: slants, gos, hitches, and screens. He’ll be asked to run a much more complex route tree this season, which could result in some growing pains. However, he’s the best receiver on the Cleveland depth chart, and a strong bet to lead the team in targets. With triple-digit target potential and his off-the-charts athleticism, Coleman makes for an intriguing boom-or-bust WR3 this season.

3. Drew Brees is poised for another strong fantasy season

Over the last decade, there hasn’t been a more consistent producer at the quarterback position than Brees. He’s topped 30 touchdown passes in each of the last eight seasons, and went over 5,000 yards four times. No one else has accomplished that feat more than once. In fact, Brees owns five of the top-10 single-season yardage marks. Surprisingly, the only other repeat name on that list that includes names like Brady, Manning, and Marino is Matthew Stafford.

However, Father Time has a way of catching up with everyone, even seemingly immortal quarterbacks (see: Manning, Peyton). Brees is entering his age-37 season, but Saints head coach Sean Payton doesn’t see any signs of decline from the veteran quarterback. Of course, it’s the season of coach-speak, but there’s some merit to Payton’s words.

Last year, Brees ranked second in completions (428) and completion percentage (68.3) despite losing Jimmy Graham and having a lackluster wide receiver corps. He also battled through an early-season shoulder injury, missing just one game. With an upgraded complement of weapons, including free-agent TE Coby Fleener and rookie WR Michael Thomas, Brees is poised for another strong year and is a threat to finish as fantasy’s top quarterback.

4. The Broncos quarterback situation hurts the team’s overall fantasy value

Trevor Siemian is not a threat to finish as the top fantasy quarterback, but he’s certainly in the mix to be under center for the Broncos in Week 1. While he still may garner the occasional “Who?” response, Siemian has made a bit of a name for himself as a dark-horse candidate for the starting job in Denver. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak even went as far as saying, “I wouldn’t sleep on Trevor to win the job.”

Right now, Siemian appears to be even with Mark Sanchez for starting duties, with first-round rookie Paxton Lynch a distant third. Of course, a lot can change between the start of camp and Week 1, but it’s fairly clear that the Denver offense won’t offer anywhere near the fantasy production it did in the Peyton Manning era. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanual Sanders should be downgraded on all draft boards. With Sanchez/Siemian/Lynch under center, it’s tough to trust Thomas as anything more than a WR2, and Sanders should be considered a mid-range WR3.

5. Karlos Williams is not a lock to be LeSean McCoy’s handcuff in Buffalo

As fantasy owners, we want our running backs to be hungry for the end zone, but Williams was just straight-up hungry this offseason, reporting to Bills minicamp 20-25 pounds overweight. Williams blamed the weight gain on sympathy eating during his fiancée’s pregnancy. With camp just a few weeks away, he’s likely to be sidelined for conditioning work for the Bills’ first few practices.

Despite only touching the ball 104 times last season, Williams finished 31st in fantasy scoring and was one of the most productive running backs on a per-opportunity basis. He also averaged 2.9 yards after contact per attempt, which was among the league leaders. However, his conditioning issues have opened the door to the No. 2 job.

The Bills drafted Jonathan Williams out of Arkansas, and also have incumbent Mike Gillislee on the roster. Of the two, Williams really stands out. Foot surgery cost Williams his 2015 season, but he racked up an impressive 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns in a platoon with Alex Collins in 2014. He’s not a burner – 4.59 40 time at his pro day – but Williams has NFL size (5-11, 220) and was the fifth most-elusive back in the nation in 2014, causing 65 missed tackles on 211 rushing attempts. With three-down ability, Jonathan Williams has the potential to emerge as the primary backup to McCoy, which carries significant value if McCoy misses time due to injury.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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