Royce Freeman


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By: Mark Leipold


Position: RB


The Pros:

  • Vision
  • Outside Runs
  • Breaking Tackles
  • Dancing Through Tight Windows
  • Patience

Vision – Freeman has great vision and often gets to the right hole. He rarely had negative plays in the film I watched, mostly due to him finding a crease. There were many plays where he appeared to run through a lane that was not the intended direction of the play, including bouncing outside and cutback lanes. 

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Outside Runs – Freeman is a prolific outside runner and has good vision, awareness, and speed to get outside and turn the corner. He’s not Chris Johnson fast, but his game speed is more than enough to break some big plays outside the hashes. 

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Breaking Tackles – Freeman is a nice combination of slippery and powerful. He can run straight through arm tackles, as seen in the first clip, and also has an amazing ability to slip out of tackles in a crowd, as seen in the second clip. Freeman escapes tackles in a variety of ways, whether power, agility, or quickness. 

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Dancing Through Tight Windows – Adding to the previous point, Freeman has an ability unlike most RBs I’ve seen, where he can pull a Houdini and escape from a crowd or slide through tight spaces to burst into the second level. This is a rather basic example, but this was an incredibly common theme in his game tape. 

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Patience – Freeman isn’t a “slow” runner in the way the Le’Veon Bell is. Whereas Bell really waits for the play to develop, Freeman will hit holes quickly and has the vision to do so, but he has great selective patience when the blocks aren’t in place. Freeman doesn’t do it nearly as often as Bell does, but watch him wait for the blocks to set up in this play. 

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The Cons:

  • Lead Blocking
  • Wear and Tear
  • Breakaway Speed

Lead Blocking – I’m reaching a bit here because I found very few downsides to Freeman’s tape. When he was lead blocking for another player (e.g., end-around), he didn’t show the same ability as he did when pass blocking. Watch his weak effort here where the defender hardly notices Freeman’s block. 

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Wear and Tear – Hits and usage start to add up for running backs, and their lifespan in the NFL is notoriously short. Freeman already has 947 carries and 79 receptions under his belt in four seasons at Oregon. For perspective, Leonard Fournette has 884 carries and 77 receptions in three seasons at LSU plus one season in the NFL.

The ultimate “workhorse” Leonard Fournette has 65 fewer touches in the last four years than does Royce Freeman. Fortunately, Freeman has a clean bill of health thus far, so we can hope it’s not a problem.

Breakaway Speed – Metrics can cover this one adequately. Freeman ran a 4.54 40-yard dash, which is going to hinder his ability to break the big splash plays at the NFL level. That caps his weekly upside to an extent, so he’ll need volume, receptions, or touchdown production to deliver value, and if he doesn’t get extensive goal-line work, he’s not likely to carry your team a-la 2017 Todd Gurley.

 

Summary:

Freeman is an above-average athlete for the position and a very solid running back without any huge holes in his game. He’s a capable receiver, but I would have preferred to see him used a bit more in the passing game at the college level. Freeman runs well both inside and outside the tackles, escapes tackles well, and uses his good vision to find holes effectively.

He’s not getting as much buzz as some of the top guys in the class, but I think he’s one of the best bets to be 2018’s version of Kareem Hunt or Aaron Jones from 2017. Freeman will likely go on Day 2 of the NFL draft, and his value will be tied a lot to his landing spot but expect him to challenge for a starting job right away.

 

Fantasy Impact:

Freeman has workhorse potential at the NFL level, but I think he’s less likely to land on a team that wants him to be an every-down back. He’ll certainly go after the top names on the board, so it’s more likely that he’ll start out in a committee.

I think his talent can win him a majority of the opportunities in most backfields, so as of now, I’m willing to take him in the late first round of rookie drafts. He could rise or fall quite a bit depending on his situation after the NFL Draft, though.