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In my weekly column, we take a long look at impact fantasy football rookies.  I compare their performance to date against my original expectations of them.  Let’s continue this 2014 version of dfreethe series by looking at one of my highest rated running backs, Devonta Freeman.  I will look at some of his college production against his performance versus Carolina to discern his dynasty value.

Here are my thoughts after watching him in college: Despite his limited touches (under 200 each season of college), Freeman is a decisive back who appears to be able to carry an NFL workload as a feature back.  He played at fullback, half back, and receiver.  As a lead blocker, Freeman squared his shoulders, got good leverage, knocked his defender back, and opened up a seam to run thru.  The back ran routes well enough to need corners to cover him. When acting as a pass blocker, he attacks the blitzers, squaring his shoulders, keeping contact throughout the block usually forcing them backwards.  Freeman sees the pressure pre-snap and adjusts his stance to account for it.  The back is good at selling fakes that freeze the defenders, giving his teammates an opportunity to get an extra step.  When acting as a receiver, the runner adjusts to poorly thrown passes, runs crisp routes, fully extends to make the catch, and does his best to make the reception in stride for the biggest gain.  Freeman is dangerous in the open field with his quickness and wiggle that makes defenders miss.  He also comes back to assist the quarterback whether he needs an outlet receiver, or a block down the field to free up a running lane.

Freeman has quick, light dancing feet, slices through small gaps while not giving the defense a big target.   His jump cut and north south running that set him apart from any other backs in his class. . He runs through arm tackles, the only way to bring him down is by controlling his hips.  When he gets hit high, Freeman likes to bounce off and then re-establishes his feet with his outstanding cat-like balance.  His vision helps him set up blocks, so Freeman can run behind them until he sees daylight.  This young runner likes to make the first guy miss while keeping his feet churning, fighting for extra yardage.  He uses several combinations of moves: a shoulder shake, head slap, spin move, and stiff-arm to gain extra yardage.

Freeman’s drawback is that he is not the biggest back and that although he has quick feet, he doesn’t have the power or leg drive of others in his draft class.  His suddenness and vision worked well with a big, powerful college offensive line in front of him, but he might not have that in the NFL.

Against the Panthers, I saw a back who: wasn’t trusted enough to start the game after the injury to Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers opened the game instead.  The young back has a nice stutter step, keeps his legs churning, and uses an effective jump cut.  Freeman couldn’t find many creases along the line of scrimmage, while Rodgers did.  He got open quite a few times in space as a receiver, but didn’t try to take any of his routes close to the sticks.  The runner stepped up in pass protection and was serviceable when squaring his shoulders.  On the other hand, when Freeman tried to attack a blitzer low, he got jumped over.  He split out a few times in five wide receiver sets.  This rookie back is a dynasty hold for me, because I want to see what the new Atlanta offensive coaching staff brings.

Do you like what you are reading?  Do you want extra insight at the Senior Bowl?  Please donate using my PayPal button to make sure I attend this year’s Senior Bowl Game and the week of practice before the game.  You can follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley or the site @Dynasty_Blitz.

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