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Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
5’8”, 206 lbs, Florida State
Round 4, Pick 3 (103 Overall)
Just four years ago Devonta Freeman was a backup RB at Miami Edison High School. A transfer to Miami Central High helped catapult him into the national spotlight as a top collegiate recruit. He played as a true freshman at Florida State and because of injuries actually started seven games rushing 120-579 yards (4.8 YPC) and 8 TD’s. After a down season in 2012, Freeman rushed for 173-1016 (5.9 YPC) yards & 14 TD’s in 2013 while helping the Seminoles win the National Championship.
Despite his slight frame many scouts rave about how tough a runner Freeman is. In watching his Florida State film he does seem to over power some linebackers when reaching the second level but I don’t see anything that suggests he can do this at the NFL level. Folks have to remember that defensive linemen and linebackers in the NFL are enormous physical specimens that can run and tackle anything in their paths. Freeman’s size is a considerable concern and is the major reason he lasted until the fourth round in this year’s draft.
I was very disappointed with Freeman’s speed times at the combine this winter. This is how he performed in the following drills:
40 Yard Dash: 4.6
3 Cone Drill: 7.11
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.26
These are very unimpressive times especially for a player with as small a frame as Freeman has. In watching his film I will admit that he plays at a much quicker pace then these times show. But I didn’t see any big breakaway runs on the roll either which is concerning.
What Freeman does real well is make cuts. He reminds me of Matt Forte in this way. He’s go exceptional footwork and balance which makes him seem elusive even though his actual speed doesn’t make that so. He runs real low which helps him maintain his balance upon impact.
Another concerning thing for me is that Freeman didn’t catch many passes at Florida State or in his only year of starting in High School. He had just 47 catches in three seasons in college for 475 yards and only one TD. He displayed great hands in individual workouts leading up to the draft though but I am not ready to anoint him as the next Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead based on the small sample size.
Freeman enters his rookie campaign as the third RB on the Falcons depth chart. Even though Steven Jackson is insanely injury prone and old as hell, Freeman is going to have to battle Jacquizz Rogers for touches in the Falcons offense. Rogers and Freeman are similar in size but are actually quite different runners. Rogers has more speed and big play ability while Freeman initiates more contact and makes better cuts.
The problem for Freeman is that Jacquizz Rogers is actually a very accomplished pass catcher who racked up 52 catches and 341 yards and 2 TD’s last year. Thus, it is likely that Rogers remains as the Falcons third down and passing down RB. Freeman therefore will be used more as a pure backup to Steven Jackson and thus is the required handcuff here in Atlanta.
There is just no way that Steven Jackson can remain healthy at age 31. He has logged way too many carries and hasn’t been in ideal shape since 2011. That puts Freeman in the conversation for a potential late round draft pick or handcuff for those that get stuck with S-Jax.
This situation in Atlanta is really good for Devonta Freeman’s fantasy value in 2014. He is going to get on the field a bunch and will wind up likely starting four or more games this year. But how well can this slow, undersized runner actually do at the NFL level? That is a really good question that only time will tell. But the opportunity is there and with the incredible lack of overall talent at RB this year, Freeman is worth a later middle to late round selection in your fantasy drafts.
Fantasy Football Players Championship – 125.11
National Fantasy Football Championship - 147.79
Rushing – 111 carries, 502 yards, 3 TD’s
Receiving – 23 catches, 221 yards, 0 TD’s