Thanks to a season-ending injury to starting RB Saquon Barkley, free agent Devonta Freeman has finally found his new home with the New York Giants. His new contract is likely designed to see what he’s got left in the tank, which may not be much based on his history. Freeman waited a while to find a team but now that he has one, what exactly should you expect from Devonta Freeman in fantasy football for the remainder of the season? And more importantly, should you add him on the Week 3 waiver wire?
Devonta Freeman’s fantasy football history
Freeman played for a total of six years for the Atlanta Falcons, starting in 2014. As a rookie, Freeman didn’t contribute much, only putting up 473 combined yards and 2 touchdowns. He was basically a backup playing behind fantasy stud RB Steven Jackson. Freeman’s true breakout year came that next year, in 2015, when he played in 15 games, ran for 1,056 yards, a season-high 11 touchdowns, and added 578 yards and 3 more touchdowns through the air. This is the year that put Freeman on the map for fantasy players and would solidify his RB1 status for at least the near future.
While he was a draft steal for 2015 due to his unknown status the year before, his 2016 ADP was significantly higher. Even with his new higher cost, he was still worth the price. He finished 2016 playing all 16 games and rushing for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with 462 yards and two touchdowns in the passing game. This was definitely another solid outing for the up and comer, and fantasy managers were happy with it.
The 2017 season is when the shine on Freeman started to fade. He played in 14 games that season, rushing for 865 yards and seven touchdowns to go along with 317 yards and another TD through the air, but something was off and you could start to tell. The following season, things went from bad to worse. He was only able to play in two games in 2018 before being sent to IR due to groin and foot injuries, thus ending his season with only 68 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards.
When he came back in 2019, Freeman was far from what he used to be. He played in a total of 14 games that season, but the offense had basically passed him by for other talents who were younger and better able to handle the workload. Freeman finished 2019 with 656 yards and two rushing touchdowns along with 410 yards and four receiving touchdowns. A far cry from the RB1 level he used to be and the Falcons decided not to bring him back after the season ended. In fantasy, Devonta Freeman was toast as well.
A wild offseason for Devonta Freeman
In the offseason, Freeman was looked at as a free agent that would struggle to get a new deal based on his injury history alone. Freeman has repeatedly made clear that he wants a large contract in line with what he thinks he’s worth, yet the Falcons disagreed. They obviously don’t mind paying for talent, giving RB Todd Gurley a one-year $5.5 million deal, but they just didn’t see Freeman as in the same range.
After Freeman was released, it was reported that he turned down offers from various teams, one of which was the Seattle Seahawks who were looking for depth with the injury to RB Rashaad Penny still bothering him. Freeman was offered a $4 million deal which he declined, claiming that he was worth more than that. Freeman has also mentioned multiple times that he’s willing to sit and wait until he gets the number he wants, which could mean he misses the entire 2020 season. This is something fantasy managers have been nervous about as well.
Most dynasty players have either had Freeman on their bench or sent offers for him for pennies throughout this offseason. As rumors swirled that he would be signed by Seattle and then Washington, his value has been up and down for weeks. Now that he has a home, it’s very likely that his value will rise but it’s hard to say how high. Let’s look at his new surroundings to see what to make of Freeman for 2020
Devonta Freeman’s fantasy outlook for 2020
It was mentioned a few places that Freeman was waiting to sign with a team that would use him as a starting running back. Apparently he feels that the Giants give him the best opportunity to shine, likely because there’s no threat of Barkley returning.
I recently profiled the two backs on the Giants roster, Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman, and even with the addition of Freeman to that backfield, I’m not sold on exactly who gets the starting job in Week 3, let alone for the rest of the year.
Freeman had clearly lost a step with his time in Atlanta, hence the reason they let him walk in free agency, and current Giants RBs Lewis and Gallman aren’t exactly scrubs themselves. For fantasy, Freeman could prove to be very hit or miss, causing frustration for every manager that plays him or benches him every week.
Even then, he is going to take a week or two to adjust and knock off the rust, so at least temper your expectations early. If you can acquire him for cheap enough he’s definitely worth a stash, but I wouldn’t go out of my way spending FAAB or a high waiver claim on him just yet.
If you held onto Freeman in dynasty formats, now might be a great time to try to sell him to the scrambling Barkley owner. Odds are good that they’re looking for any kind of hope they can find after losing their stud RB, and maybe they’ll be willing to overpay for the aging Freeman.
Sure, Devonta Freeman’s fantasy value might be higher in a week or two, but it’s also very likely that he flames out in New York and this is the highest peak his value will see for the entire season. Make sure you choose wisely if you have him on rosters yourself.
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Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering the NFL and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.