Player Name: Royce Freeman
H/W: 5’11 229
Position: Running Back
School / Class: Oregon / Senior
Measureables: 4.55 40, 17 bench press reps, 34” Vertical, 9’10” broad jump, 6.90 3 Cone Drill
- Athleticism - Freeman can accelerate in rapid bursts instead of going 100 mph on every carry. Even though the injury plagued 2016 season has sapped his once virtually limitless athleticism, he’s still got the fastball on reserve. Now he can bring in the curveball and slider to throw off defenders trying to get a bead on him. He’s a bigger back that tested out very well at the Combine, running a much faster than anticipated 4.54 40. I had him projected at 4.6 initially (which isn’t a career killer in the pros if you know how to play ball).
- Instincts / IQ - In nearly every piece of game footage that I watched live and on other resources, he’s a crafty inside the tackles runner. He knows when and how to set up defenders for feints, jukes, etc. Freeman’s vision is one of the better ones that I’ve witnessed in the past couple of years. Perhaps the injury issues were a blessing in disguise for him as he developed an uncanny knack for finding the hole where there are none to be found. He knows how to get “skinny” to avoid the big hits and run away to the second level. He understands the offensive line run scheme better than the offensive linemen it seems. This is the biggest positive that I could ever grant a running back. In the NFL, you can be faster than Usain Bolt but if you can’t see the run developing, it doesn’t matter.
- Production - In a word, immense. He’s broken and set multiple school and conference rushing records. Not much left to say here but he’s in the conversation for best running back in program history.
- Workload - It’s massive. Freeman is in the top 25 all time in career rushing attempts with 947. Of the 24 above him, seven running backs had any semblance of a decent NFL career. Only two are in the Hall of Fame, Thurman Thomas and Tony Dorsett. Simply put, the signs aren’t good for a long pro career. The question is, how much tread is left on the tires after such a huge workload? Did Oregon have another running back on the roster seemed like a legit question for outsiders at times. It feels like he really needs a redshirt year to rest and recover from the pounding he took. Alas, he won’t get it in Denver due to their precarious RB situation.
- Pass Blocking - Well, at least he tries. He’s not good at it. Frankly, it’s a glaring liability. He needs a lot of work in this department. From what I’ve watched, he’s frequently content to merely try to touch the pass rusher and that’s it. This will limit him at the next level, especially on third down passing situations.
The Oregon offensive schemes under the man who left for that school in Florida didn’t exactly appeal to Freeman it seems like. It was a majority of inside runs where Freeman had to make something out of nothing due to a poor offensive line frequently. It will be interesting to see how he fares in a more pro style system with a semi decent OL in front of him.
Freeman is a steal for the Denver Broncos even with all the limitations that come with him. He will compete with two other backs on the current roster for playing time. The fact that he tested better than expected bodes well for him. I expect him to be RB1 when training camp concludes in the fall. Historically, the Broncos have been an one cut and go offense, which fits Freeman’s style. The Broncos are not completely barren of offensive weapons so the load on Freeman will be eased right off the bat. In fact, if Case Keenum lives up to his 2017 season standards, the Broncos offense should be very potent. I like his chances to make an impact at the pro level more than the running backs drafted higher than him after a year of “running back by committee”. Funny note: Freeman joins fellow Ducks legend and lifelong ATQ Platinum member Bill Musgrave in Denver.