Are you wondering whether to start Devonta Freeman and/or Latavius Murray today in your fantasy football lineups? If so, you came to the right place. We at PFN have been researching and writing about these Baltimore Ravens RBs for months. Can you trust them to deliver in Week 12 against the hit-or-miss Browns defense?
Should you start Devonta Freeman in Week 12?
Freeman is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an entirely different enigma. He’s a player no one expected to be fantasy-relevant in August. Admittedly, heading into his final season in Atlanta in 2019, I was very high on him as an undervalued bell cow.
Despite coming off an injury-plagued 2018 campaign, his impressive yards per carry and dynamism in the passing game gave him an impressive ceiling. But he was vastly outplayed that year by Brian Hill and Ito Smith. His career appeared to be on a steep decline.
He fell further last year for the Giants in relief of an injured Saquon Barkley, averaging only 3.2 ypc and scoring only once on 61 touches. This time, he was outplayed by Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris. Yes, Alfred Morris. Are you noticing a trend?
In two consecutive seasons, four running backs outperformed Freeman. One of them (Gallman) has only 25 touches this year. The other three haven’t played a single offensive snap.
Devonta Freeman finding success in Baltimore
And yet, Freeman has defied expectations in a crowded backfield, rising to the lead-back role in a touchdown-friendly Baltimore offense. He’s playing his best football in three years, averaging 4.6 ypc and nabbing 17 catches for 117 yards. Freeman’s also found the end zone in four of five contests. In fact, he’s been an RB1 in two of his last three games. So what’s the problem? He’s an automatic start, right?
If you believe he’s a good bet to score again, then absolutely. But if he doesn’t, RB3/4 production is likely. Freeman earned a season-high 22 touches last week against Chicago, in part because the team was missing Marquise Brown.
Today’s opponent, Cleveland, is a little better against the run than the Bears (4.1 opposing ypc versus 4.3). Furthermore, the Browns are averaging two more minutes on offense than the Bears, while Chicago is bottom three in offensive players per game.
So Freeman thrived last week, in part, because the Ravens were on offense for an astounding 38 minutes and 50 seconds. That likely won’t happen against the Browns, who should find success mounting long drives with Nick Chubb and the returning Kareem Hunt. That’s why I’m not betting on Freeman as a top-18 RB this week. Fewer touches and less TD potential make him a high-risk RB2.
Should you start Latavius Murray in Week 12?
Murray’s value is tied most closely to Freeman’s. The nearly 32-year-old Murray is winding down his career, and it shows. He’s averaging a career-low 3.5 ypc and has caught only 6 receptions in seven games. Any momentum he carried before his Week 6 injury was lost upon his Week 11 return.
If he doesn’t score today, Murray probably won’t give managers more than 5-7 fantasy points. You can do better today. And candidly, if Murray struggles once again, don’t be surprised if we see a little more Ty’Son Williams.