Chances are if you had one of the first two picks in your fantasy football draft you came away with either Christian McCaffrey or Saquon Barkley as your selection. Chances are if that’s the case, you’ve since scavenged through the waiver wire to replace your superstar running back, as both Pro Bowlers landed on injured reserve earlier this week.
A favorite target for said fantasy owners has been Barkley’s perceived replacement, Devonta Freeman, who was signed by the Giants this week and since added in 52.6% of ESPN leagues.
Will the former Atlanta Falcons star return to his previous must-start form against an injury-riddled San Francisco 49ers defense? Let’s discuss.
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Devonta Freeman’s Fantasy Outlook vs. San Francisco 49ers
When Devonta Freeman takes the field on Sunday it will mark his first game appearance in nine months. With likely rust and a brand new offensive scheme weighing against him, a player in Freeman’s situation would typically be written off as a no-go in lineups. However, with New York desperate to get their running game going and a matchup against a Niners defense who will be without the likes of Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Richard Sherman, Freeman offers some intrigue to fantasy owners.
Despite their slew of injuries, the 49ers defense remain one of the better units in football, ranking as the sixth-total defense in football. With that said, their 142.0 rushing yards per game surrendered, the sixth-most through the first two weeks of the season, sounds inviting for Freeman owners right? Not quite.
In reality, opposing running back groups have averaged just 85.5 ypg against the 49ers this season (11th-fewest), as a major chunk of their rushing yards surrendered came at the hands of Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray back in Week 1 (91 yards). San Francisco has also allowed just one rushing touchdown to RBs this season.
Those numbers don’t bode well for a Giants team who currently averages 26 rushing ypg fewer than the next worst team in football, and that was with Saquon Barkley leading the charge for five of their eight quarters played this year.
Freeman does offer high-upside in the passing game, evident by his 59 receptions last season, which ranked eighth-most amongst RBs. However, his fellow Giants running mates, Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman, also have proven themselves reliable pass-catchers out of the backfield. Furthermore, running backs have totaled just 47 receiving yards on seven receptions against the 49ers in 2020, the latter of which is tied for the third-fewest total in football.
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Should You Start or Sit Devonta Freeman in Week 3?
The lead-back role in New York is for the taking, and chances are Freeman will have every chance to do so. Yet, much like Leonard Fournette’s first game with the Buccaneers, it may take Freeman a game or two to get settled in and for the staff to trust the running back with a full workload.
If you added Freeman this week, you added him for the long-haul. He was the only waiver-wire addition at the position with the potential to emerge as a season-long starter. For that reason, I would personally take a wait and see approach with Freeman this week. If he goes off on my bench so be it, at least I know I have a viable option moving forward.
If you’re pressed into playing Freeman on Sunday or are just simply too giddy to leave your new toy on the shelf, he’s best viewed as a low-end RB3/Flex with a near-ground level floor.
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