Tevin Coleman’s Fantasy Football Ceiling (And Floor) in a Crowded 49ers Backfield

Tevin Coleman’s Fantasy Football Ceiling (And Floor) in a Crowded 49ers Backfield article feature image

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Tevin Coleman

  • Ian Hartitz analyzes how the Tevin Coleman signing will impact the running back's fantasy football outlook, the 49ers and the Falcons.

The San Francisco 49ers’ running back room just got a bit more talented, as former-Falcons stud Tevin Coleman has signed a two-year deal worth $10 million.

Of course, the 49ers already have multiple competent backs in Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and even Raheem Mostert for those keeping score at home. It remains to be seen if San Francisco will pick up McKinnon’s option for 2019 or eat $6 million in dead cap.

Let’s break down the on-field and fantasy football impacts of this signing for both teams under the assumption that the 49ers decide to keep McKinnon.

What This Signing Means for the 49ers

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 only received 89 total touches as a rookie in 2015, he managed to finish 2016 as the overall PPR RB19 in the Falcons’ high-flying offense 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 over the years:

  • 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.

Even more impressive has been Coleman’s ability to function as a true wide receiver.

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 just eight running backs with double-digit receiving scores since entering the league in 2015. Utilizing Coleman more in the slot and out-wide would go a long ways toward helping clear up the 49ers cluttered backfield.

Shanahan runs one of the league’s few systems that’s capable of elevating multiple fantasy-relevant backs, so it’s been a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to his primary back’s fantasy performance.

Kyle Shanahan top-performing RB by PPR as OC or HC

2008: Slaton (RB7)
2009: Slaton (RB27)
2010: Torain (RB34)
2011: Helu (RB25)
2012: Morris (RB8)
2013: Morris (RB21)
2014: Crowell (RB34)
2015: Freeman (RB1)
2016: Freeman (RB6)
2017: Carlos Hyde (RB8)
2018: Breida (RB26)

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 13, 2019

It remains to be seen if the 49ers view Coleman, McKinnon or even Breida as their lead back. The ceiling for whoever wins the job is a potential top-five back, while the floor still isn’t too bad and exists somewhere in the mid-20s.

What This Signing Means for the Falcons

Devonta Freeman is locked in as the Falcons’ lead back, while Ito Smith appears to be set as the No. 2 option.

Freeman’s physical running style hasn’t done him many favors over the last two seasons, as he’s played just 16-of-32 regular-season games. Still, he deserves first three round consideration in season-long fantasy drafts as the undisputed top dog in one of the league’s better offenses.

Smith is a bit more difficult to figure out. He seems positioned to receive double-digit touches in 2019, but his pedestrian averages of 3.5 yards per rush and 5.6 yards per reception aren’t exactly what fantasy superstars are made of considering he’ll have to get the job done on a limited number of touches.

Smith figures to take a larger role than any third-string back would have over the past four seasons, but Freeman did average an impressive 24.7 PPR in eight games with Coleman sidelined from 2015 to 2018.

Freeman’s current status as the RB20 (!!!) in average draft position is egregious and should be ruthlessly exploited in both season-long and best-ball formats.

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