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Player Showdown: Devonta Freeman or Joe Mixon?

(All offseason, Michael Moore will be looking at some specific draft conundrums facing drafters in an effort to determine which player should be the preference.)

This upcoming week will represent the last fantasy drafts before the NFL draft turns rosters on their heads. And with an exceptional running back class of rookies, most teams will be in the market to upgrade their backfield. But two backs who should enter 2018 atop the depth chart are Joe Mixon and Devonta Freeman. Both are billed as (potential) three-down backs and are currently being drafted in the top 25 in MFL drafts, but which one should go first?

The players

Let’s start with the larger sample size. Freeman has been a legitimate RB1 for three seasons now, including last year when he finished with 1,182 total yards and eight touchdowns. He’s done it by scoring on the ground, tying with Todd Gurley for most rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons with 29, and ranking sixth among all running backs over that same span with 163 receptions. But a big reason Freeman was able to turn in those kinds of seasons was an injury to fellow running back, and carry vulture, Tevin Coleman. Coleman was the starter to open the 2015 season, totaling 20 carries to Freeman’s 10 in the season opener before a chest injury in Week 2 knocked him out for a few weeks. The rest is history, as Freeman took the starting job and never looked back, finishing as fantasy’s top running back. But Coleman hasn’t gone away and has consistently challenged Freeman for more playing time. In fact, Coleman has gained ground every year when it comes to carries:

Carries 2015 2016 2017
Devonta Freeman 265 227 196
Tevin Coleman 87 118 156

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