Is Tevin Coleman the 49ers RB to Target in 2019 Fantasy Football?
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tevin Coleman
- Who is the best fantasy football running back option to target in a crowded 49ers backfield?
- Ian Hartitz breaks down whether Tevin Coleman is the back to go after.
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The San Francisco 49ers were a trendy pick to make some noise in the NFC West last season. Then Jimmy Garoppolo tragically tore his ACL in Week 3, and the 49ers limped to a 4-12 finish.
Now the 49ers boast a win total of eight after coming in at 8.5 last season. It’s an interesting downgrade in expectations considering they managed to make several solid additions on both sides of the ball.
Let’s take a look at what fantasy football investors should expect from this backfield in 2019 after the 49ers signed Tevin Coleman to a two-year deal worth $10 million.
Tevin Coleman Is an Incredibly Versatile Running Back
Coleman is no stranger to Kyle Shanahan’s offense, as the pair spent two seasons together with the Falcons in 2015 and 2016. While Coleman received only 89 total touches as a rookie in 2015, he managed to finish 2016 as the overall PPR RB19 thanks to his heightened workload and elite efficiency.
Coleman has demonstrated the ability to function as a potent No. 1 back for extended stretches while filling in for Devonta Freeman.
- With Freeman (39 games): 8.2 rush attempts, 34 rush yards, 0.31 rush TDs
- Without (17 games): 12.2 rush attempts, 59.8 rush yards, 0.35 TDs
Coleman has averaged 9.71 PPR points per game with Freeman in the lineup compared to 13.1 per game without.
The fifth-year back has managed to make the most of his touches thanks in large part to his big-play ability: Coleman has the fifth-highest rate of runs for 15-plus yards among 84 running backs with at least 150 carries since entering the league in 2015 (per Pro Football Focus).
Even more impressive has been his ability to function as a true wide receiver. This aspect of his game has been criminally underused throughout his career.
Imagine having Tevin Coleman for four years and never giving him even 50 targets in a single season pic.twitter.com/bJmaKL4nox
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 9, 2019
Coleman caught 31, 27 and 32 passes over the past three seasons, but he’s still one of only eight running backs with double-digit receiving scores since entering the league in 2015. Utilizing Coleman more in the slot and out-wide could help the 49ers get several of their talented backs on the field at the same time.
The 49ers’ Backfield Is Full of Competent Running Backs
Coleman — like every running back in the league — would hold significantly more fantasy football value if he was expected to inherit a three-down workload.
Unfortunately, that luxury almost certainly won’t be afforded to anyone in the 49ers’ crowded running backs room.
- Matt Breida: The former undrafted free agent finished last season as the 49ers’ leading rusher (814 yards) and averaged a robust 5.3 yards per carry. Only Alvin Kamara (5.13 yards per carry) and Saquon Barkley (5.01) have averaged more yards per rush than Breida (4.96) among 36 running backs with at least 250 carries over the past two seasons. He’s demonstrated the ability to contribute as a receiver with 48 receptions for 441 yards and three scores over the past two years and figures to compete for double-digit touches per game as long as he’s healthy enough to stay on the field.
- Jerick McKinnon: The SPARQ-plug back is yet to take a snap in a San Francisco uniform after suffering a season-ending torn ACL on Sept. 1, 2018. McKinnon is reportedly a PUP possibility and doesn’t have a firm timetable for return. If healthy, McKinnon provides some dynamic slashing ability as both a rusher and receiver. The 49ers thought highly enough of him prior to the 2018 season to hand the ex-Vikings back an absurd four-year contract worth $30 million.
- Raheem Mostert: The career journeyman back averaged a robust 7.7 yards per carry last season on 34 rush attempts, but has undergone two offseason procedures to fix his broken forearm. Mostert isn’t guaranteed to be ready for Week 1, although the 49ers apparently see him as part of their future after giving the former undrafted free agent a three-year deal worth $8.7 million last March.
- Jeff Wilson: The 2018 undrafted free agent earned some late-season streamer appeal, but now seems like a long shot to make the roster if his teammates are healthy. He’s probably the group’s worst back as a receiver and offers the least amount of upside from a pure athleticism stand point.
- Kyle Juszczyk: Shanahan has helped feed his trusty fullback a combined 83 targets over the past two seasons. Juszczyk managed to play 63% of the offense’s snaps last season, as the 49ers utilized two running back sets on a league-high 54% of their snaps last season (per Sharp Football Stats). No other offense managed to break even 40%. Juszczyk won’t ever be under consideration in any fantasy football format (unless you’re the Manz), but he’s again the league’s front runner for most touches among fullbacks.
Kyle Shanahan Runs a Fantasy-Friendly Offense
The Shanahan family is famous for getting the most out of late-round or undrafted running backs.
Seriously, they’ve thought of everything.
Mike Shanahan was so good at getting the most out of his RBs that he literally engineered a TD using a blind Terrell Davis (suffering migraines) during the 1997 Super Bowl lmao pic.twitter.com/MUphNpzoYS
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) January 27, 2019
Still, that hasn’t always led to elite fantasy football producers. This is particularly true with Kyle, who hasn’t had a problem embracing committee backfields throughout his coaching career.
Fantasy Ranks of Kyle Shanahan’s Lead Backs
- 2008: Steve Slaton (RB7)
- 2009: Slaton (RB27)
- 2010: Ryan Torain (RB34)
- 2011: Roy Helu (RB25)
- 2012: Alfred Morris (RB8)
- 2013: Morris (RB21)
- 2014: Isaiah Crowell (RB34)
- 2015: Devonta Freeman (RB1)
- 2016: Freeman (RB6)
- 2017: Carlos Hyde (RB8)
- 2018: Matt Breida (RB26)
Shanahan has engineered a top-12 offense in total yards in seven of his 11 years as head coach or offensive coordinator since 2008. He’s only reached that threshold when it comes to points in three of 11 seasons, but Shanny has still managed to get the most out of pretty much every offense he’s touched.
The 49ers have scored 15, 26, 25, 44, 34, 16, 30 and 27 points in eight games with Jimmy G under center. That average of 27.2 points per game would’ve been the fifth-highest mark in the league last season behind only the Patriots, Saints, Rams and Chiefs.
Any of the 49ers’ running backs are capable of achieving great things as the featured back in this offense. Unfortunately, it’s tough to see any single back receiving a consistent enough workload to be a locked-in fantasy option on a week-to-week basis.
Each of the backs are talented enough to beat their current average draft positions, and they accordingly hold the most value in best ball formats, where we don’t have to figure out what particular weeks to start them.
Still, I’ve mostly avoided the situation as a whole while the group remains banged up and without much rhyme or reason.