Royce Freeman was drafted with the seventh pick in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He stands 6’ tall and weighs 230 pounds, the ideal build of an NFL between the tackles runner. Freeman looks a formula for fantasy success.
Freeman cannot be analyzed without mentioning his production at the University of Oregon. His best season, his sophomore year, Freeman had 1,836 rushing yards on 6.5 YPC with 17 touchdowns on the ground. Also worth mentioning, Freeman had 26 receptions for 348 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. His career numbers are just as impressive, totaling 5621 rushing yards, 5.9 YPC, and 60 rushing touchdowns. Operating as a full-blown workhorse, Freeman not only put up prolific numbers on the ground, but he was a solid receiver, and rewarded the massive usage with above-average efficiency.
The Royce Freeman scouting report typically has positive buzzwords like vision and patience, but negative ones such as average and grinder. The general idea is that he is an adequate player who is just solid. This is a surface level, not data-driven conclusion. The typical average grinder does not record top three times in all agility related drills,at the NFL Scouting Combine. The three cone and twenty-yard shuttle, which combine to make an agility score, are extremely helpful in understanding what makes Royce Freeman special. Via Playerprofiler.com, Freeman’s agility score is in the 83rd percentile among NFL running backs. All workout metrics should be size adjusted to provide context and an agility score this high for a 230 pound back is Le’Veon Bell-esque. Everyone knows Bell’s unique, choppy running style, how he waits and waits, almost stopping his feet while looking for a lane to run through. The excellent agility, which correlates to foot speed and ability to avoid tackles, is what enables Bell to play this way. He is not very fast, running a 4.6 40 yard dash coming out of Michigan State, but he simply leverages his quickness to play this way. Bell has slimmed down since his rookie year, but speed is still not his calling card.Both Freeman and Bell caught a good amount of passes in college, highlighting their ability to make a satellite back unnecessary - they can handle pass-catching duties on third downs. Freeman is not Bell,but he has the same traits that make Bell such a special back.
On paper, this is a good landing spot because the Broncos have no established starter on their roster. Devontae Booker has been woefully inefficient, ranking near the bottom of the league in Fantasy Points Per Opportunity, yards per carry, and Production Premium for his whole career. The starter from last season, C.J. Anderson, leaves behind 245 carries and 40 targets. Anderson has never been a good pass catcher, evidenced by his 10% drop rate, so Freeman will likely see a slight uptick from Anderson’s 40 targets.
In addition, the Broncos offense as a whole is a prime bounce back candidate. In 2017, they had the 29th overall game script in the league. Their quarterback play was terrible, so they added free agent Case Keenum. Part of game script is of course defense, but turnovers also play a major role. Last season the Broncos threw 22 interceptions, Case Keenum only threw 7. The Broncos had a team interception rate of 3.4%, whereas keenum’s career rate is only 2.1%.With a quarterback who takes better care of the ball, their game script is bound to be at least average, a vast improvement from last year. Assuming Freeman takes everything Anderson left available, Freeman should also garner even more opportunity.I think he is a supreme talent to Anderson for a few reasons. For one, Anderson accounted for less than 19% of his teams yardage and touchdowns in college, which is 25th percentile, and this lack of dominance led him to be undrafted. Also, Anderson’s career efficiency has been rather abysmal in the NFL. It would not be surprising at all to see to see Freeman eclipse 260 rushes, 35 receptions, and record double-digit touchdowns.With the Broncos at least average run blocking offensive line and Freemans excellent athleticism,4.3 yards per carry, the NFL average, is likely for Royce. A 1,000 yard rookie season is imminent.
There is no downside to be found in Royce Freeman’s year one outlook, the Devontae Booker beat reports are just that, beat reports. We have seen enough ghastly inefficiency to not be concerned with booker as a threat. Bountiful opportunity, an improved offense, and Le’Veon Bell-like athleticism provide a high floor, high ceiling rookie season. In dynasty rookie drafts, Freeman is an easy autopick in the mid to late first. Do not miss out on Royce Freeman’s special rookie season, draft him in all formats with confidence.