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2018 NFL Draft prospect profile: Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

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Is Freeman the big back the Giants need?

NCAA Football: Arizona at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last three seasons, the New York Giants have scored a grand total of 17 rushing touchdowns.

Great attention is given to the state of their offensive line, particularly the need to rebuild it and find continuity. However, it has also been a long time since the Giants have had a running back with a consistent nose for the endzone. Andre Williams scored seven touchdowns in 2014 (once every 31 carries), which was the team’s best mark since Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined to score once every 12.4 carries.

Enter Royce Freeman of Oregon.

Since he has eclipsed the Giants’ three-year total of 17 rushing touchdowns twice in the last four years, and fell just short (16 touchdowns) this past season. If a team wants to run the ball into the end zone, it might pay to take a look at Freeman.

Measurables

Pros

  • Incredibly productive. Freeman’s production leaps off the page with 5,621 yards (seventh most in FBS history), 31 100+ yard games, and 60 rushing touchdowns in four years.
  • Powerful runner. Low center of gravity and powerful build lets him break arm tackles, and he often pushes piles to pick up extra yards.
  • Good vision to find and set up blocks.
  • Impressive footwork for a big running back. Can make defenders miss or throw off timing before accelerating down-hill.
  • Good long speed. Turns missed or broken tackles into chunk gains.
  • Capable receiver. Didn’t catch many balls (averaged just under 20 receptions per year), but looks to be a natural “hands” catcher.
  • Willing blocker in pass protection or wide receiver screens.
  • Durable. Has missed just one game in four seasons.

Cons

  • Not as punishing as you would expect. Doesn’t often “truck” defenders despite his size.
  • High-mileage running back. Has had 947 carries in four years (51 games), averaging 236 per year.
  • Struggles to create behind the line of scrimmage.
  • Doesn’t have great speed. Freeman can break off chunk runs, but he isn’t out-running many defenders.
  • Isn’t explosive out of cuts.

Prospect video

What they’re saying

“Oregon’s former running back coach, Gary Campbell, often compared Freeman to another former Ducks star - current Carolina Panthers standout Jonathan Stewart. Campbell cited the players’ similar low-key personalities, builds and running styles. One area in which Freeman and Stewart are different is durability. While Stewart struggled with durability at Oregon and since in the NFL after earning a first round pick back in 2008, Freeman missed just one game over his collegiate career.

Some will quibble with the fact that - as a four-year starter - Freeman has logged plenty of carries over his career. Backs with his combination of durability, size, power and agility are rare and generally do not last long on draft day, however. With the work ethic to take full advantage of his raw talent, Freeman projects as a bell-cow runner in the NFL, with a top 50 draft selection likely if he can answer questions about his straight-line speed during workouts”.

- NFLDraftScout

Final thoughts

The fact that a running back as productive as Freeman is being talked about as a potential Day 3 pick is a commentary on the depth of the position in this year’s draft.

Freeman doesn’t have the explosive play-making ability that the NFL covets in higher rounds. However he is a dependable running back who can do enough to rarely have to be taken off the field based on down and distance. Teams might be apprehensive about his mileage and workload, as well as his long speed, and that might cause him to drop down draft boards. However, there have been plenty of “Bell Cow” running backs who have been plenty productive based on strength, footwork and balance -- and Freeman has been compared to the patron saint of that type of back, Jerome Bettis.

For the Giants, the biggest questions regarding Freeman are whether he falls to them at value, and whether he fits their intended running scheme. He is capable of running in both man and zone schemes, but the quicker he is able to turn upfield, the better.