You can’t blame a team for using its best weapons. Atlanta features a quartet of incredible offensive players in QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones, WR Calvin Ridley and TE Austin Hooper (and I’m not including Mohammed Sanu, who’s been at least as good as Ridley so far this season). We’re not far from Devonta Freeman being the third-best player in Atlanta only behind Ryan and Jones in fantasy leagues. It happened in 2017 and Freeman racked up 202.2 points to finish as RB14 overall. But after missing all but two games last year and with Atlanta’s pass-heavy scheme (second in pass attempts, 28th in rushing attempts) active in 2019 things don’t look good for Freeman going forward.
Freeman’s last 16 games have yielded 11.7 fantasy points on average. From Week 1 to Week 4 he has posted increasing points each time (6.1, 9.4, 12.5 and 18). The problem is that Freeman is the leader of Atlanta’s backfield with 47 carries (compared to Ito Smith’s 17) yet most of his production has come through the air. Freeman has never been a pass-first tailback. He has always been close to doubling his receiving yards with his rushing yards during his career, and his best game this season (in Week 4) was all thanks to catching eight passes for 72 yards while only rushing for 28 yards on 12 carries. He reached 88 yards on the ground against Indianapolis in Week 3, but needed 16 attempts to do so. Smith is a no one in Atlanta’s offense, but he has carried the ball three times inside the five-yard line so far and vultured a touchdown from Freeman last week on just two attempts. I think we should consider Freeman a productive RB2 awarded an RB1 role nowadays.
Fantasy football analysis, Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman
If you think Freeman production hasn’t been good so far (it hasn’t been; 157 yards on 47 carries in four games doesn’t cut it), don’t expect an improvement this weekend. Atlanta and Houston will play in a high-scoring affair with the highest O/U total points of the main slate at 50. Houston enters as a four-point favorite and Atlanta — luckily for them — will need to keep up with the Texans by making heavy use of the passing game. Leonard Fournette, Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey were limited to under 100 yards rushing by the Texans in the past three weeks. On the other hand, Houston has been torched by WRs and QBs through Week 4. They are giving up 41.1 points per game to receivers (seventh most) and 23 to quarterbacks (11th most). This game could turn into a shootout and Atlanta will be primed to exploit Houston’s bad secondary, giving no chance to Freeman to have a good day.