Tevin Coleman took the fantasy world by surprise in the divisional round. The 49ers running back 22 carries were more than he had in any game all season. His 105 rushing yards matched his season high. It was just his second multi-touchdown game of the season.
Why was this such a surprise? It was the first time Coleman had reached double digits since Week 12. In the time since, Raheem Mostert had taken over primary rushing duties, getting at least 10 carries in the final five games — averaging a robust 5.92 yards per carry with seven total touchdowns. That is as many TDs in five games as Coleman scored in 14.
The 49ers had pivoted to a new runner, who was more explosive and had posted more steady fantasy numbers. And then came last week — and Coleman’s return to prominence.
For those playing in daily fantasy contests, it was a costly surprise. Many played Mostert, more than 25 percent of DFS owners, expecting him to be the primary focus of the ground game. Instead, he scored just 5.8 fantasy points. Fewer than 5 percent used Coleman, who scored 22.5 (FanDuel) or 25.5 (DraftKings).
Such a shift in workload by the 49ers creates a large degree of uncertainty for fantasy players this week. Will the 49ers continue to lean on Coleman, who looked fresh after little use late in the regular season? Will they go back to Mostert, who has been more productive when given the lead role? Will Matt Breida, virtually ignored since a week 10 ankle injury, reenter the picture?
This isn’t a new development. The Niners kept fantasy owners asking similar questions for much of the regular season, before settling on Mostert near the end. Now we’re guessing again.
NFL teams aren’t going to make game plans public, so guesswork is required. For most of the season, Breida has remained a secondary option to whichever back was getting the bulk of the workload, so we’re not going to use him.
Since there is no dependable data set that points in a specific direction regarding Coleman and Mostert, we’re left to look for other factors. One element we pay special attention to is ownership forecasts. If we have no confidence in who will have the best day, we want the one with lower ownership — so if the guy we choose has a big day, we gain on a larger percentage of the field.
Coleman is projected to be owned in the 55-60 percent range. Mostert’s forecast is closer to 25 percent. On a two-game slate, a 25 percent rate is acceptable. Plus, Mostert is cheaper at both sites.
So we’re going to go with the guy who went bust last week. He will be less-owned, and it sticks with the theme of the 49ers continuing to throw curveballs regarding their running back usage.