Royce Freeman, Oregon
Weight: 229 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds
Vertical: 34 inches
Broad Jump: 9’10”
While many are focusing on the top names in the draft at running back, there’s plenty of talent to be had on day three of the NFL Draft. One of those running backs who is expected to last is Freeman. He’s not the fast-twitch, laterally-explosive, most-exciting running back to watch, but he does what he’s asked to do. Hit the hole, don’t waste time, score touchdowns.
During his time at Oregon, he set records rushing for 5,621 yards and 60 touchdowns, while also racking up 79 receptions for 814 yards and four touchdowns. Stats can definitely be misleading from college, but stacking up those type of numbers shows how consistent he actually was. In fact, there were just three games in all of 2017 where he failed to record at least 122 yards on the ground.
Vision/Patience: 4.0 out of 5 stars
This is arguably Freeman’s best trait, as his speed isn’t going to get him to the edge and he isn’t going to juke someone out of their shoes, but he will let his blocks develop and hit the hole rather quickly. He’s a downhill, one-cut runner, but keeps his head up and has excellent vision. Some backs struggle to know what their identity is, but that’s not an issue with Freeman. He knows what he does well and what he doesn’t, meaning he doesn’t waste time dancing behind the line of scrimmage looking for a big play. His consistency on the field is extremely noteworthy and should move him up draft boards.
Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle breaking): 3.5 out of 5 stars
As mentioned above, Freeman isn’t going to give you many highlight-reel plays due to his shiftiness, but he’s able to break tackles better than your average running back. He’ll often take the guaranteed yards instead of trying to bounce the run outside, which is kind of a knock on his elusiveness, but also something that many NFL teams covet. He’s built extremely well and has a seemingly low center of gravity, making his tackle-box relatively small for a guy who is almost 230 pounds. He will bounce off tacklers if they don’t come with the correct form.
Speed: 3.0 out of 5 stars
He’s fast enough. That’s really the best answer I can give on him now that you know the type of running back he is. He actually ran faster than expected in the 40-yard dash (4.54 seconds), but his game-speed isn’t anything that’ll stand out to the naked eye. His acceleration out of the hole is pretty average for a back of his size, though his long speed is slightly better than average. If he gets through the second-level of the defense, it’s not likely he’ll be caught from behind.
Pass-catching/Pass-protection: 3.0 out of 5 stars
Another area where Freeman is competent, though not particularly special. His blocking can use some work, as he looks lost at times. It may be a tad overrated for running backs to be great blockers, but it helps them get on the field early in their careers. I believe that Freeman will need to strengthen this part of his game to earn trust on the next level. He’s a very competent pass-catcher out of the backfield, though, which is hard to come by for a back as big as he is. He adjusts well to balls that are off-target and possesses solid hands. As is the case when running the ball, Freeman gets upfield quickly, wasting no time dancing.
Balance: 3.5 out of 5 stars
While watching Freeman bounce off tacklers, it’s easy to want to give him a higher grade in this category. He keeps his hips low to the ground and has balance when it comes to evading weak tacklers. The knock is that he’ll often need to decelerate in order to make a cut up the field. This happens because his body would roll if he attempted to move the way Adrian Peterson did for so many years. It’s also what made Peterson so special. Still, Freeman won’t be caught going up the sideline very often, so he still grades above average because of his balance inside the box, where it matters most to him.
Potential Landing Spot
As you can sense throughout this profile, Freeman is someone who can make a difference in this league. He may not be elite at many things, but he’s above average in almost everything. A team who could use a running back like that is the Washington Redskins. They’ve been trying to work with Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine, though they both lack the vision and hands that Freeman has. More importantly, they have Chris Thompson for third-down work, so Freeman wouldn’t be asked to pass-block from the get-go. Another team to keep an eye on is the Dolphins, who run a zone-heavy scheme that would match Freeman’s game very well.
While watching Freeman the first time, he reminded me of Mark Ingram, though maybe not as good of a receiver. While sitting down with a friend to watch film to see if there was anything I missed, he brought up Jordan Howard, which is a great comparison for Freeman. Both are no-nonsense runners who fit well in a zone-blocking scheme, though Freeman is a much better receiver. In the end, Freeman seems to be a mix of the two running backs, and similar to Howard, he’s projected to go on day three of the NFL Draft. He’s going to play a role in fantasy leagues, with the only question being when. It may take an injury to get him on the field in his rookie year, but make sure you roster him in that case.