For two consecutive seasons, I’ve been raving about University of Oregon running back Royce Freeman in my Future Broncos series. Last year I was hoping he would declare himself eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft, but a below-average year (by his standards) due to injury made him stay in Eugene one more season to demonstrate his value to NFL teams and scouts. Now a senior draft eligible prospect, I still can’t help but hope that he the Denver Broncos will call his name in just several weeks. Running back might not be the biggest need for the Broncos heading into the draft, but I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see one of the better prospects added to the team to bolster their stable for 2018 and beyond.
If productivity is a big measuring stick in your analysis of a prospect, there’s no doubt that Freeman should be high on your list. In fact, if that’s your calling card of evaluation, very few can hold a candle to what he did at Oregon. In four years as a starter with the Ducks, Freeman was one of the most prolific rushers in college football history. He amassed 5,621 yards on 947 carries — good enough for a 5.9 yard per carry average and also added 79 receptions for 814 yards. Overall, he had 60 rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns. You can’t ask for much better production than that.
If you want the job to get done on the gridiron, whether it’s a key third down conversion or making sure you got six in the red zone instead of settling for a field goal, you could always count on Freeman. Count me in as one of many who would be elated if the Broncos opted to roll with Royce in this year’s draft.
Royce Freeman's path to the 2018 NFL Draft pic.twitter.com/b4xGfEBwHO— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 30, 2018
Royce Freeman, Senior, RB — University of Oregon
Height: 5’11” Weight: 234 lbs
Arm Length: 32” Hands: 9 1/2”
40-Yard Dash: 4.54 seconds Bench Press: 17 reps Vertical Jump: 34 inches
Hart’s Scouting Report on Royce Freeman
As mentioned earlier, Freeman is one of the most productive rushers in collegiate history and is a well-respected teammate and known for being a leader. He is a phenomenal north / south runner with the ability to succeed in any scheme, but is a tremendous fit for any zone-oriented rushing attack. His knack for getting the tough yards and red zone touchdowns on runs on the inside is among the best in this year’s class. (Feel free to revisit his 2017 tape against Arizona to get a feel for what I’m stating here.)
He also possesses very good athleticism for his size and uses his size and strength to his advantage, accruing a lot of his yards after initial contact. Additionally, Freeman displays good vision for a running back and shows patience in allowing his blocks to develop in front of him. Has above-average ball protection skills, fumbling on average only once every 100+ caries. Moreover, Freeman has three-down back potential and offers value not only as a rusher, but as a receiver as well.
Royce Freeman racked up the yards after contact in 2017 pic.twitter.com/uL6Bv7vPzE— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 4, 2018
While he put up good numbers at the combine in most categories, Freeman doesn’t have the elusiveness and wiggle that several other highly-touted backs in this class do. Given that, he may have trouble on outside runs in the pros. On top of questions regarding elusiveness, Freeman doesn’t have breakaway speed many evaluators covet at the position. An incredibly high touch count with the Ducks (over 1,000 total touches) will be a large concern for many teams and likely hinder his draft stock.
Does Oregon running back Royce Freeman make sense for the Broncos?
With C.J. Anderson’s spot on the team still in limbo, it’s more than likely that the Broncos are looking to add one of the talented rushers in this year’s draft class to their team. Freeman and Anderson share a lot of similarities and are terrific north south runners who are tough to bring down and accumulate a lot of yardage after contact. I think he’s a good fit for what the Broncos do on offense and would address a big long-term need at the position.
Overall, Freeman has been one of the most productive rushers in college football history, but the mileage he accrued at Oregon, as well as being a jack-of-all-trades back without any elite trait will likely cause him to slip a bit on draft day. I feel that Freeman presents excellent value late on Day 2 or early on Day three in this year’s draft — and would be a steal for the Broncos at the end of the third or at the beginning of the fourth round.