Tuesday, 05 August 2014 20:00

Prospect: Devonta Freeman

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Over the last few years, the Atlanta Falcons have featured one of the most pass happy offenses in the NFL. It’s easy to see why offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter would abandon the run, with quarterback Matt Ryan, and wide receiver duo Roddy White and Julio Jones. The hope is that Devonta Freeman, a 4th round selection from Florida State, can be the perfect complement to incumbent starter Steven Jackson.

Below is a list of Freeman's strengths:

Toughness

Freeman may not be the biggest running back, but he doesn’t have a problem sticking his nose between the tackles. While at Florida State, Freeman averaged over 5 YPC on attempts between tackles. With Atlanta’s spread offensive attack, there should be room between the tackles for Freeman to gain yards.

It’s no secret that Steven Jackson is closer to the end of his career. Not only has his YPA dropped the last three seasons (4.4-3.5), he also accumulated over 2,500 carries in his career. With the heavy work Jackson endured over his career, it’s reasonable to think he’ll decline in his performance. With Jackson battling a hamstring injury already, there’s an opportunity for Freeman to show the ability to carry a heavy workload early in his career.

Pass catcher

During his time at Florida State, Freeman showed much more versatility than just a typical runner. During his senior season, Freeman tallied 250 receiving yards, and averaged 12.6 YPC. With defenses focused on stopping the high-powered passing attack of Atlanta, Freeman could serve major value in the screen and check-down game.

Fast

Even though Freeman has maxed out his frame (208 lbs), he’s a very quick football player. Freeman gets up field and reaches his top speed within a couple of steps. Freeman does not have “elite” speed (4.53 40-yd dash), but he makes up for it with the good vision required to read blocks and make the right decision regarding which hole to hit.

Here are his weaknesses: 

Compact Frame

Even though Freeman averaged 5+ yards per carry while at Florida State, much of that success could be credited to the Seminoles’ offensive line. There are concerns that Freeman will not be able to keep up the production he had while at Florida State. With Atlanta’s sub-par offensive line, it is fair to question whether Freeman will have the success now that the running lanes will be smaller

Lack of Broken Tackles

Of the top 10 running backs in the 2014 draft class, Freeman was the worst at making defenders miss. Freeman broke a mere 4.14% of the attempted tackles on him. So, even though Freeman was very productive, he wasn’t very elusive.

Durability Questions

Freeman proved durable at Florida State, never missing a game in his three seasons. There is question whether or not Freeman has the frame to be the bell cow of an NFL offense. With a slight frame (5’8”), it’s fair to wonder whether or not Freeman can take the every week pounding of an NFL schedule. The Falcons would be wise to find a complementary piece for Freeman, using his speed as a change up rather than a primary weapon.

Comparison: Poor man’s Ray Rice

Overview

Freeman has a very well-rounded game for a rookie. He showed the ability to not only get the tough yards, but explosiveness as well. Freeman uses his hands very well out of the backfield, and showed potential as a good weapon in the screen game. If Steven Jackson’s hamstring injury continues to linger through the preseason, Freeman should establish himself as the Falcons starting running back. Freeman currently has an ADP around the start of round 9. As of now, Freeman is great value as an RB3/4 right now, and with Jackson’s health in question, he could easily rise to a solid RB2.

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