Set the scene – you haven’t eaten all day and you’re really hungry. You’re going out to dinner with friends, and they decide to go to a Thai restaurant. You don’t usually choose Thai in your normal dinner rotation, but you’ve had it before and don’t hate it. You open the menu and see dishes with names that aren’t exactly familiar to you. Some of them don’t even look too appetizing. You have to choose between Som Tum, Tom Yum Goong, Gaeng Daeng, and Pad Thai. Ah, Pad Thai! You’ve seen that name before. You think you may have had that once and you don’t remember if you liked it or not, but you think it was ok. Naturally, you order the Pad Thai and hope it works out for you. Well, the Thai menu is the New York Jets backfield, and the Pad Thai is Tevin Coleman.
Let’s be honest, nobody really knows what the New York Jets backfield is going to look like this season. Last year, the Jets were one of the worst offenses in the NFL and the rushing attack was led by a veteran dinosaur, Frank Gore. Coming into the 2021 season, the Jets return La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams. They drafted Michael Carter out of North Carolina with their 4th round pick in this year’s draft and brought in a veteran presence in Tevin Coleman from San Francisco. Needless to say, the running back room is crowded, and nobody truly jumps out as a “feature back” that can run away from their competition on the team. This will likely be a true running back by committee, but which of the backs will be the ones you can count on for your fantasy team? I look at a few key factors, and I will be ordering the Pad Thai: Tevin Coleman.
The first thing I am looking at is draft capital. Tevin Coleman was a 3rd round draft pick on day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft. The other backs he is competing within the Jets backfield are players selected later in drafts, on day 3 or later, and were selected mainly as “flyers”. I mentioned earlier that Carter was selected in the 4th round of the 2021 draft and Perine was also a 4th round pick in his 2020 draft. Ty Johnson was a 6th round pick in the 2019 draft and Josh Adams was undrafted in 2018. While draft capital certainly is not a “be all, end all” when determining who leads a backfield, in my opinion, it does tell you who was regarded as a better player coming into the league. Historically, running backs who were drafted in the 4th round or later don’t usually end up being lead backs in the NFL. When I think of 4th round backs who have had success, I think of guys like Lamar Miller and Devonta Freeman. As talented as Michael Carter may be, history tells us he is unlikely to come in as a 4th round selection and run wild all over the NFL.
The next thing I’m looking at, and the biggest factor for me, is the new coaching staff. There are connections and correlations to Tevin Coleman going back to his rookie season. When Coleman was drafted by the Falcons in 2015, the Offensive Coordinator was Kyle Shanahan and one of the Offensive Assistants was Mike LaFleur. In 2019, when Coleman was signed by San Francisco, the head coach there was Shanahan and Mike LaFleur was also on that coaching staff, along with Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh. Saleh was named the New York Jets head coach this season and he brought Mike LaFleur along with him to be his Offensive Coordinator. Let’s put this together logically here. The Shanahan and LaFleur families are very highly regarded as some of the brightest minds in NFL coaching and these guys have continued to bring Tevin Coleman along with them on every stop of their coaching careers. I’d venture to guess that the Shanahan’s and LaFleur’s know Coleman’s talent better than all the people on fantasy twitter that are just screaming “he sucks, bro!”.
There is a reason that Tevin Coleman was brought over to NY with Mike LaFleur. First and foremost, he knows LaFleur’s system and will help to implement it in NY and help to teach the younger backs how to run it as well. Coleman has also shown success in the Shanahan rushing system (which will likely be similar to what LaFleur runs in NY) when he was healthy enough to be featured in it. In 2016 in Atlanta, Coleman produced 941 yards and 11 TDs on only 149 touches. He was also productive in the same system in 2019 in San Francisco, scoring 7 TDs on 158 touches while adding 724 yards. The key thing to note is that even in those successful seasons he did still miss some time with injuries, so it could have been even better had he not missed time. This is the story of Tevin Coleman’s career though, we can not ignore the injuries.
Tevin Coleman is one of those guys where the “injury prone” moniker is certainly justified. In his 6 years as a pro, Coleman has missed time due to hamstring, rib, ankle, shoulder and knee issues as well as grade 1 concussions twice. In most people’s recent memory is a 2020 season where Coleman was placed on IR and only appeared in only 8 games for the 49ers due to knee and shoulder issues. Prior to that, in the previous 3 years, Coleman played in 14,16, and 15 games, respectively. He missed only 1 game in 2017 with the concussion and only missed 2 games in 2019 with an ankle sprain. Maybe he’s not actually as “injury prone” as we label him. When interviewed by the Associated Press last month, Coleman said he felt that he has “a lot left in my tank” and also said, “I’m back to 100%”.
If, and it’s a big IF, Coleman is able to stay healthy this year, there is nothing that would lead me to believe that he couldn’t lead the Jets backfield in 2021. He carries the highest draft capital which symbolizes him being the best natural talent and he is familiar with the coaching staff and their rushing scheme. He has always proven to be a dual-threat RB who can carry the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. He is also on a 1 year, incentive-laden contract, so you better believe if he is on the field, he will be trying to get paid. Drafting Coleman does come with some injury risks and concerns, but at the price you are paying to get him, it’s well worth the pick.
The current ADP for Jets RBs according to NFFC has Carter at 94.27, Coleman at 206.99, Perine at 289.45, and Johnson at 301.95. In a 12-team league, that would make Coleman a 17th round pick compared to Carter being a 7th rounder. I’m not sure if this is “rookie fever” or people being hyped by clips of Carter during workouts, but nothing tells me that he is far and away better than Coleman like these ADPs suggest. I can’t see Carter coming into the league, as a 4th round pick, in a complicated rushing system, and becoming the bell cow week 1. Tevin Coleman is an extremely good value in the late rounds of your draft and maybe the only time you can pick a team’s starting running back after round 15 in a fantasy draft. I would take Coleman every single time there, and I have in 8 of my 9 drafts so far on MFL. Michael Carter may be hot and spicy like Tom Yum Goong, but I’m going to stick with the dish I know and order me some Tevin Coleman Pad Thai with that “10 rounds off” coupon!