The Fantasy Conundrum In The 49ers Running Back Room Is Getting Clearer.  

Tevin Coleman Is an Incredibly Versatile Running Back

Coleman is no stranger to Kyle Shanahan’s offence, as the pair spent two seasons together with the Falcons in 2015 and 2016 and now re-unite at the 49ers. 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 number one back for extended stretches while filling in for Devonta Freeman competently.

  • 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. 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. Utilising Coleman more in the slot and out-wide could help the 49ers get several of their talented backs on the field at any one time allowing for defensive mismatches and creative formations.


Is there a more Tevin Coleman like running back than Tevin Coleman himself? If there is I would like to know who. Last year, in his contract year with an injured Devonta Freeman, Coleman didn’t have a good showing. he totalled 167 carries (23rd in the league), 800 yards(22nd) and only 4 TDs (T-31st) on the ground. So whilst Coleman was better without Freeman going on his 2018 stats certainly isn’t the bell cow people once thought he could be.

The most interesting stats that Tevin Colemans career show up are his splits when playing under Kyle Shanahan and when not. Under Shanahan Colemans carries are down by an average of around 50 a season. As well as the carries the yardage is also down on a season long average by 187 yards when also playing under Shanahan. what is higher under Shanahan is the touchdowns. They are up season long by 3.5. Showing that Coleman is used more around the goal line to punch it in than the last 2 years when Shanahan was gone. His receptions have stayed roughly the same but what is interesting is that his average yards per reception goes up 4.5 yards when playing under Shanahan. The largest swing in the reception stats is his Yards Per Game under Shanahan. this increases on average by 16.4 Yards Per Game. Now this could be because Shanahan is a master at opening up defences with clever scheming but it also shows how he uses Coleman.

What Coleman is, is an ancillary pass catcher, change of pace kind of back. He can step in and produce but to a limited productivity. The fantasy community is excited about Coleman becoming Freeman. This won’t happen, he will be the Coleman of old for Fantasy players I think. Coleman is more productive in the NFL for teams as a second back and less productive as a RB2 in fantasy unfortunately. However that doesn’t mean all is lost. He will still have stand alone value, still be a decent flex play in 12/14 team leagues, he just needs another Freeman to compliment in the Shanahan System. That man is Matt Breida.

Matt Breida Is The 49ers Battering Ram

Now Matt Breida’s stats aren’t great reading, on the 14 games Breida started he tallied up 153 carries (28th), 814 rushing yards (21st) and just 3 rushing TDs (T-37th). In the games Breida didn’t have an injury or was to be found hobbling around the side line, Breida looked explosive. He profiles as a Devonta Freeman. Breida is 5′ 10″ and weighs 190 lbs. Freeman is 5′ 8″ and weighs 206 lbs. Whilst Freeman is heavier, Breida has slightly more range which he can use in other ways to increase explosiveness.

He averages over the magic 5 yards a carry at 5.3 yards per carry. along with a pretty decent yards after contact of 2.85 yards but his most exciting stat is his explosive plays stat. Carries that are over 10 yards a carry are classed as explosive plays. Breida had 27 of these. When drafting a player in the later rounds of a fantasy draft you want to shoot for upside. guys that can go off points wise for cheap draft cost. Breida is one of these guys. His likeliness to gain big plays is huge and along with how Shanahan can exploit defences, Breida has a chance for huge yardage plays possibly capped by a touchdown.

If he breaks off a 35 yard run with a touch down included thats 9.5 fantasy points if in a 6 point per touchdown league. As a flex play this is nice as he will have other yards in the game too. He could even break into RB2 numbers if he is fit and the 49ers running backs regress to the normal Shanahan mean in touch downs for running backs.

Shanahan’s running backs as a unit normally average 12.5 TD’s a season and last year they managed a mere 7. if they regress to the mean and Breida gets 4 of the spare rushing TD’s thats an increase of 24 fantasy points without any yardage points on top of that.

The current ADP of both these players is where I feel the battle of the back field can be won, and the strategy is along the lines of the friendship strategy. Draft them both. Yep you heard me, draft them both. Take Coleman at his ADP of 5.05 as your RB2 and then grab the bargain that is Breida at his ADP of 10.12. That way you have both pieces of the 49ers backfield and at a cheap cost on both. Even taking Breida in the 9th round to ensure you have him isn’t a bad move. Kyle Shanahan always has fantasy relevant running backs and at their costs it’s a no brainer.

The Odd Man Out

Wait I hear you cry! Jerrick Mckinnon is a 49er. he is, this is true, but for how much longer. I feel he is to be traded or cut. He can’t seem to stay healthy after his knee injury and surgery last season. McKinnon had a setback on his injured knee, and the 49ers now have limited options since the team prematurely took him off the active/PUP list last week.

The Niners can make McKinnon inactive until he’s ready to play, or they can place him on injured reserve, which would keep him sidelined for eight games but does free up a roster spot. It’s a decision the 49ers will make in a couple of weeks once they see how McKinnon is progressing, though it’s been a slow rehab thus far.

This is why I see them cutting/trading him and using Coleman in the same way they planned to use McKinnon last season before his injury. That way they get to see what they have in the guys behind the three aforementioned backs in Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. Mostert is currently struggling with a calf injury so its up to Wilson to shine whilst the other backs are injured. If Jeff Wilson can show his worth in the up coming pre-season games he may even replace McKinnon on the active roster heading into the season.

The closer we edge to the season the less murky the backfield is looking in San Fransisco. By snaffling both the active lead backs in your draft as your RB2 and RB 4/5 at their respective values you are saving at other spots in your draft. one or both of them will shine as Shanahan backs tend to more often than not and by having these guys could be the difference between nearly there and championship winning roster.

Until next time Rush Nation, Keep Rushing

– Stocks @5yardrush

Stats are per