Leading up to the 2017 college football season, the CFB Film Room Scouting Dept. is putting together a summer scouting series. We’re focusing on the top draft-eligible prospects entering the 2017 season and will be reviewing their strengths and weaknesses from an NFL scouting perspective. Our latest report features Oregon running back Royce Freeman.
Royce Freeman, a senior for the Oregon Ducks, enters his fourth year as the starter, and as the main back in a high-powered offense. After a strong 2015 campaign Freeman had high expectations for 2016 and was poised to be one of the top running back prospects for the 2017 draft.
However, Freeman failed to live up to his lofty expectations during a less-than-spectacular 2016 season, albeit still averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Now Freeman looks to bounce back in a big way in the upcoming 2017 season and reclaim that status as a top back.
Here we have highlighted a few of the characteristics that make Freeman a strong prospect, and some of the weaknesses he will need to improve upon if he is to get back to being one of the best.
Making Defenders Miss
Freeman has elite quickness, and is excellent at making defenders miss in the open field. His quick feet allow him to make sharp cuts to not only shake the defenders but to weave in and out of muddy holes in the line.
Freeman’s quickness is especially impressive considering his size—listed at 230 going into his senior season. This girth and elusiveness are a deadly combination.
This play is what Freeman is capable of doing when he puts it all together:
Lack of Burst
Although he has quick feet, as mentioned above, Freeman has very little burst for such a special athlete. He will struggle to get the edge, and lacks the explosiveness elite backs possess when accelerating through the offensive line.
Here Freeman has an easy path to the outside yet gets tripped up from behind, by a defensive lineman:
Obviously, as a running back, you should not be getting caught from behind be a defensive lineman. Royce Freeman will need to showcase that burst from 2015 if he is going to be considered a top running back prospect again.
Freeman is a well-rounded back, and excels not only in the running game, but also as both a pass catcher out of the backfield and is very capable in pass protection.
With an average target air yard depth of -0.9 Freeman was strictly used as a relief or quick throw out in the flat. Although his average target depth is behind the line of scrimmage, Freeman is a savvy route runner and has the quickness needed to create separation against linebackers in the open field.
Freeman is excellent after the catch averaging 6.5 yards. This play is a perfect example of how Freeman can turn a little throw into a big gain:
Freeman is also a very willing and capable blocker when he is not used as a receiver. He does a good job at using is size and is aggressive at the point of contact. Freeman, like almost all running back prospects, will need to develop more effective hand use and engage the oncoming rush more often. Here are two plays were Freeman steps up and makes a critical block against the blitz to protect the quarterback:
Final Thoughts on Royce Freeman
There was a lot of hype to Freeman and his game coming into the 2016 season, and he did not live up to those expectations. For this upcoming season Freeman will look to regain the step he lost if he wants to be among the top prospects in this loaded running back draft class. Freeman is a well-rounded back and should have a place in the NFL, the question is where will he get drafted. The answer to that question is up to him.