2018 Stampede Blue NFL Draft Guide Player Profile
Royce Freeman could be a mid-round steal
When experts discuss the depth of the 2018 NFL Draft’s running back class, players like Royce Freeman are likely part of the reason why. There are players who are entering the draft with more hype and who may go in the first two or three rounds. You think of the usual suspects that have been discussed at length: Barkley, Guice, Jones, Michel, Penny, and Chubb all come to mind. Then you think of players who are in the next tier of prospects who may be even more productive in the NFL than some of the names who may be selected earlier.
The running back who caught my eye the most as a potential mid-round steal is Oregon’s Royce Freeman.
One of the most impressive aspects of Freeman is that he has been forced to play in multiple offensive systems in Oregon during his career and has remained entirely capable of big-time production. He didn’t have the greatest offensive line for much of his tenure but still was able to finish as the Ducks all-time leading rusher — impressive given the backs who have recently launched their careers there.
At 5’11”, 229 lbs, Freeman ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and showed true big-play ability before he nursed a knee injury as a junior. He seemed to run with a bit more caution after his junior year and so that is something he would have to move past if he plans to produce on a professional level. With over 1,000 touches in college, some will be concerned that he has too many miles on him, but as a rotational back he could have his pitch count monitored to stay fresh.
When I broke down tape on Freeman, I saw a runner who can be relied upon inside the tackles and who has the athleticism and speed to break long runs. He was the first player I saw who seemed like a natural replacement for Frank Gore’s role in Indianapolis. Getting a running back who could produce even 70-80% of Gore’s production in more of a time-share with Marlon Mack would offer a great deal of value late Day 2 or early Day 3 — assuming he falls.