This is the time of year where people who cover the draft become enamored with these athletic freaks who are bigger, faster, and more explosive than anyone else at the position. That’s why the Zac Stacy’s of the world get pushed down draft. This is the same boat Devonta Freeman has fell into. You don’t have to look far to see why.
Freeman shares a backfield with a running back that is 6’2, 230 lbs, that breaks tackles routinely. As well as with a running back who is 6’1, 223 lbs that can outrun anyone on the field. Sharing a backfield with a pair of ridiculous athletes, it’s easy to see why Freeman is often overlooked.
All Freeman, who at 5’9, 203 lbs has done is produce. Based on his 2013 tape, don’t be surprised to see Freeman named as one of the top 5 backs in this class.
Freeman has very quick, active feet. Freeman takes short, choppy steps as he approaches the line. This allows him to get to and through the hole quickly. Runs with his feet underneath him, allowing very good balance. He also has very good footwork in pass protection.
Freeman has somewhat surprising elusiveness. He’s not going to make hit you with a “make you fall” type move in the open field. But he’s very slippery to tackle. Not to switch sports, but he has this hesitation move, like a crossover in basketball, that really helps him elude tacklers.
Yes. He has both. About as durable as they come. If he was on about 97% of other teams, he wouldn’t come off the field. He can be counted on for all three downs.
For a guy his size, you can’t help but appreciate how tough he runs. He doesn’t leave any yards on the field. As cliche as it sounds, he really runs like every carry is his last. He runs with such desire that even at his size, he can be an every down back at the next level.
As we saw on his 48 yard touchdown run after he caught a screen pass, he can run a little bit. Freeman likely won’t run sub 4.47, but he is faster than I anticipated after getting a chance to re-watch him.
The common misconception is you have to be fast to break off long runs in the NFL. False. 7 of the longest 13 runs in the NFL this year have come from guys who ran slower than 4.5
Unlike most running backs, Freeman is asked to do a lot when it comes to protecting the quarterback. He’s not just good, he’s great at it. I haven’t seen a back in sometime understand where blitzers are coming from, and completely stoning them.
This is one of the main reasons rookie running backs don’t get on the field early on in their career, but this won’t be a problem for Freeman. It might be his greatest asset.
Freeman has no problem cutting without losing speed.
Here he makes anywhere between 4-6 cuts and doesn’t lose any speed. This is the difference between a 4 yard gain, and an 11 yard touchdown. Freeman is a shifty back, like I said not a scat type back, but still very shifty.
Much like his pass protection ability, this should help Freeman stay on the field on 3rd downs. He catches the ball with his hands and very naturally. He catches everything. He also has good vision once he gets in the open field. Freeman does a good job of settling down on check down routes in zone coverage.
The most important trait for a back, period. With NFL teams going with more and more zone blocking schemes, patience and vision are a must in today’s game.
Freeman is excellent in pressing the hole, and finding the proper cutback lane, or bouncing it outside. He presses the hole quickly, but is patient enough to let the hole develop.
Another strong trait of Freeman’s that will only help him excel at the next level.
This is where I can see people who look at his size and just think, “Okay, he’s a scat back.” He’s not. At all. In my opinion he resembles more of a power back, who just happens to have solid speed.
Freeman runs very low to the ground, and does a very nice job of keeping his pad level down. I was impressed with Freeman’s ability to get those 2-3 yards after contact. Which he usually does, save an unblocked lineman.
This run kind of puts Freeman’s season in a nutshell. Runs so hard, and determined, with a nose for the end zone.
This is what really matters. You can have the 40 times. Does the back have a good burst through the hole? Does he have short area quickness? Some of the previous GIFs have already illustrated Freeman’s short area quickness.
Freeman certainly has a great burst, as evidenced by this clip. He explodes through the hole. As impressive as his pass pro, and vision may be, his burst is excellent. Time and time again he’s leaving lineman, and linebackers in the dust with his burst through the line of scrimmage. This is why he’s having so much success this year.
My methodology can be best explained here.
|Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10
|| 8.5 – 9.0
|Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round
|| 8.0 – 8.4
|Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round
|| 7.8 – 7.9
|Reliable Starter, 2nd Round
|| 7.5 – 7.7
|Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round
|| 7.0 – 7.4
|Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round
|| 6.5 – 6.9
|Productive Backup, 5th Round
|| 6.0 – 6.4
|Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round
|| 5.5 – 5.9
|Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round
|| 5.0 – 5.4
|Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round
|| 4.5 – 4.9
|Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations
|| 4.0 – 4.4
|| < 4.0
The final grade I have for Devonta Freeman is a 7.7. So right around the middle of the 2nd round. This doesn’t mean he’ll go there. Like I said the NFL values these explosive players earlier on in the draft. This just means any team who selects Freeman later in the draft is getting great value for a back who can offer a lot to a team.