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 Post subject: Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman
PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 11:26 am 
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http://falcfans.com/scouting-report-dev ... eman-15214

Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman
May 21st, 2014
Aaron Freeman

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Devonta Freeman
A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 fourth-round selection, former Florida State running back Devonta Freeman.

BIO

Height: 5’8″
Weight: 206
College: Florida State
40 Time: 4.58 (Combine)
Three-Cone: 7.11 (Combine)

He was born on March 15, 1992 in Miami, Florida where he attended Miami Central High. Comes from a rough background, surrounded by crime and violence as a youth and was able to use drive to excel at football to help rise above it. Coached in Pop Warner football by Luther Campbell a.k.a. “Uncle Luke,” lead rapper in group 2 Live Crew.

As a true freshman at Florida State, he started the final seven games of the season and led the team in rushing with 579 yards on 120 carries (4.8 avg) and eight touchdowns. He had twice as many carries as the next tailback that season. Also caught 15 passes for 111 yards (7.4 avg). Began sophomore year again as a reserve player but would eventually start the final four games. Would once again lead team in rushing with 660 yards on 111 carries (5.9 avg) and eight scores. Only had one more carry and 20 more yards as the next tailback on roster (James Wilder, Jr.). Also had 10 receptions for 86 yards (8.6 avg) that season. As a junior, took over lead tailback duties full-time and started all 14 games. His 1,016 rushing yards led the team and also became first Florida State tailback since Warrick Dunn in 1996 to rush for over 1,000 yards. His 173 carries as a junior was also more than the next two backs combined. Averaged 5.9 yards per carry and had 14 touchdowns, along with 22 receptions for 278 yards (12.6 avg) and another touchdown. Earned first team All-ACC honors as a junior.

Noted for his work ethic, which allowed him to receive the majority of reps during his career despite not being considered the most talented running back on the roster.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
Att.
Yds
YAC
TD
Out SR
In SR
Fum
Oct-19 Clemson 21 88 30 1 80% 31% 0
Oct-26 N.C. State 12 92 25 2 63% 75% 0
Dec-07 Duke 18 91 19 1 38% 44% 1
Jan-06 Auburn 11 73 18 1 33% 40% 0
Edit
YAC - Yards After First Contact; Out SR - Outside Runs Success Rate; In SR - Inside Runs Success Rate
Date
Opponent
Tgt
Rec
Yds
YAC
TD
UC
Oct-19 Clemson 1 1 11 9 0 0
Oct-26 N.C. State 1 1 30 29 0 0
Dec-07 Duke 1 1 22 27 0 0
Jan-06 Auburn 3 3 21 17 0 0
Edit
YAC - Yards After Catch; UC - Uncatchable Passes
SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (6.0) – Possesses good speed but is not going to run away from many NFL-level starters at linebacker and in the defensive backfield. Not a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball, but when he can get space is able to cover ground quickly and generate big plays from time to time.


Power (5.5) - Has a small, compact frame for his size which gives him some power to run over defenders, but not going to be a threat to consistently break tackles against NFL-caliber starters, particularly at linebacker. Runs hard, breaking arm tackles and getting under defenders due to his lower center of gravity, but will hardly run over anybody besides a cornerback or undersized safety. Does a nice job keeping his feet moving after contact, which can allow him to get an extra yard or two via effort.

Agility (7.0) - Shows nice burst and quickness in making his cuts, although he needs to run with better balance because he has a tendency to stumble when making his cuts. But can side-step defenders and does a pretty good job making the first defender in the hole or in space. Shows a nice jump cut and his smaller stature allows him to sneak through creases that other backs cannot.

Vision (7.0) - Shows the ability to find daylight in traffic. Is patient when hitting the hole and able to wait for holes to open, and does a nice job hitting them when they do. Does a nice job when running outside to get to the edge and hits hole, accelerating to top speed quickly. Has some difficulty finding daylight when running between the tackles and is much more effective on outside runs.

Hands (8.0) - Has strong hands that is able to adjust to poorly thrown passes, whether high or low. Does a nice job catching the ball away from his body, quickly securing it and turning upfield. A very reliable outlet and checkdown receiver in the flat or over the middle. Has the potential to be a dangerous option on screens.

Blocking (7.0) - Shows willingness as a blocker and generally does a good job hitting his assignments, better than most collegiate backs. Will square up a defender, but due to his lack of size he often will get knocked back or steam-rolled by defender. Needs to do a better job attacking defender and needs to add some muscle to more effectively block his man. Has a tendency to get in the way more than really neutralize a defender, although that is often more than sufficient for the quarterback’s purposes of buying an extra second to get rid of the ball.

GRADE
Based off my own grading system on a 9-point scale.

Potential Starting Prospect (5.0) - Player that possesses starting potential, but are ideally targeted as key role players. If a backups on your roster, it’s an area of strength. More than capable of getting the job done if pressed into starting role. Expectations are typically that he will eventually become starters, albeit may need at least a year or two before to do so. A good value taken in the Top 100 or so picks.

NFL FORECAST

Freeman projects easily as a third-down back at the next level. While his blocking can improve somewhat, he’ll get better at that once he gets more comfortable taking on NFL defenders. But he’s the type of player that can come in right away and steal snaps on third-down on a lot of teams and offer a bit of a change of pace as a runner.

The biggest knock on Freeman however is his lack of ideal explosiveness. He’s got some shake to him and accelerates quickly to and through the hole, which makes him look faster than what he really is. But his 40-yard dash time is likely reflective of his running speed, given I didn’t see him running away from that many defenders on tape, particularly when facing faster SEC defenders versus Auburn.

In that way, he reminds me a lot of current Falcon running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Freeman is probably a step faster than Quizz in terms of long-speed, but the two are similar in terms of their shorter stature, compact builds, and being more quick than fast. Rodgers also suffered from a lack of ideal size when it came to pass protection, but has been one of the team’s more consistent players in that regard over the past three seasons and now could be considered one of the league’s better third-down backs.

Freeman does possess upside to become more than Quizz, particularly as a lead tailback. But there may be a limit to how effective he can be on his own. While Freeman possesses the vision and quickness to create on his own, like Rodgers he will be heavily reliant on his offensive line to create space for him at the next level. He simply doesn’t possess the speed to really generate the big plays if he finds a crease like a Jamaal Charles or Ray Rice, nor the power to consistently get yards after contact like a Michael Turner or Marshawn Lynch. Thus a lot of Freeman’s success will be reliant on an offensive line that can consistently create space for him.

Because of his smaller nature and his more quick-than-fast running style, Freeman probably would benefit playing behind a zone-blocking line where he can attack the edges of the defense on zone runs like the stretch play. He’s best running to the outside, although he’s somewhat effective running between the tackles, but similar to Rodgers it’s not going to be his bread and butter. His quickness is much more effective when he’s in space, which he’s more likely to find running outside than inside. He seemed to be at his most effective when playing in single-back sets rather than I-formation.

Freeman can develop into a lead tailback at the next level, but he’s not going to be a true feature back. He’s more in line with a runner that splits carries as opposed to taking the lion’s share at the next level. The one thing that would make him the lead back is the fact that he’ll get more reps on passing downs than the other.

The comparison would be Giovani Bernard’s role in Cincinnati last year, splitting reps with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. While Green-Ellis received 50 more carries over the course of the season, Bernard made up for it in the passing game with 52 more receptions meaning he touched the ball slightly more times per game. Also Bernard doubled the amount of snaps Green-Ellis had in the passing game, putting him on the field for about 155 more plays over the course of the year.

But I want to reiterate that doesn’t mean I think Freeman is like Bernard, who I felt was a much more explosive runner that could do a better job creating on his own due to superior burst and quickness. But ultimately that is probably the ideal role for Freeman, as a part-time player.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Devonta Freeman
FALCONS FORECAST

Freeman’s addition gives the Falcons another reliable third-down option where they already have a good one in Rodgers. So it begs the question whether or not Freeman is here to challenge/replace Steven Jackson or Rodgers. Both Jackson and Rodgers are probably entering the final years in Atlanta, and thus Freeman will be in a prime position come 2015 to replace one or both of them.

Ultimately Freeman projects a little better to the NFL than Rodgers, but still likely will suffer from the same limitations: lack of size, lack of home run speed and playing behind the wrong offensive line.

The first two issues aren’t going to ever change, but the latter can. Like Rodgers, Freeman would likely benefit from the Falcons utilizing a lot more zone-blocking in their blocking scheme, which can often eliminate the need for great power and/or speed to be effective. There’s a reason why many of the later-round surprises like Alfred Morris or Arian Foster find success playing in that blocking scheme.

It’s hard for me to see Freeman as a true replacement for Jackson unless the Falcons make a significant revamp to their blocking scheme in 2014 or 2015. Otherwise, Freeman is likely only going to be a situational player that will need to split carries with a more powerful runner that can get the tough inside yards that he’s just not capable of getting on a consistent basis.

While Freeman could potentially add a little more muscle to help him in that capacity, making him into that sort of runner will likely wear him down and shorten his career.

Instead Freeman’s presence potentially makes Rodgers expendable next season if he should get a significant pay raise to play elsewhere in 2015. While Freeman is not going to be as valuable a third-down back this year as Rodgers is, by his second season he should be comfortable enough as the team’s top option in passing situations to slide in nicely.

Freeman should see some reps as a rookie, but the fact that he’ll still learning the offense and won’t be quite comfortable when the team goes to no-huddle will put a limit on how many snaps he gets. Unless there’s an injury, then all bets are off.

The best-case scenario for both Freeman and Rodgers to stick in Atlanta may be that the team intends to continue to be a pass-heavy offense and will use a committee system with three backs going forward. The easy comparison would be how the New Orleans Saints have gotten by with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram as a triumvirate of running backs the past few years. In that scenario, Freeman and Rodgers would split 80 percent or more of the passing reps as Thomas and Sproles have, with a running back to be named later filling the Ingram role as an inside runner/short-yardage back.

I just can’t see Freeman being that guy unless the team switches to a very zone-heavy blocking scheme, similar to how they were during the Jim Mora days when they were headed by Warrick Dunn.

Ultimately I think Freeman will become a valuable role player that will give the team good depth and provide the valuable splash play every now and then, but he’s not the heir apparent to Michael Turner as the guy that is going to make the Falcons offense go. Jackson isn’t that player at this point in his career, and I doubt Freeman will ever be it either.

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 Post subject: Re: Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman
PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 1:43 pm 
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I just can't shake the idea that this is Rodgers 2.0. I know that his measurables are better, but he seems to fit the same mold. I guess we'll see.


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 Post subject: Re: Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman
PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 7:34 pm 
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I think he was drafted partially as a replacement for Quizz as he leaves next year, but I hope Freeman can get some more positive yardage when he's confronted.

If he puts on 10 lbs, being 5'8 to 5'9 and 215 is actually pretty normal size for a RB...it's very different than 5'5. I'd prefer a guy that small to be faster and quicker, but I do think there's a good chance he becomes a good one cut and go back.

Would have preferred WR there, but I think he'll help. That's the time to take backs anway...some become busts, some Quizz, and some Gore/Morris. If you're going to draft guys later, you have to take them in large enough numbers to cover the higher bust rate.


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 Post subject: Re: Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2014 11:41 am 
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It would seem that this spells the end of Quizz in Atlanta. Probably the biggest advantage Freeman has over Quizz would be blocking I'd imagine. Outside of that he seems like a little bigger version of Quizz.

Certainly not a future replacement for S-Jax. Though, considering how much they needed to add linebacker depth and D/O-Line value it isn't a huge surprise they passed on a replacement for S-Jax.

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 Post subject: Re: Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2014 9:52 pm 
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Meh.

When we drafted Akeem Dent, it seemed like Stephen Nicholas was done in Atlanta. But then once the lockout ended, he was the first to re-sign to a 5 yr. deal.

So the Falcons could very well give Quizz a fat contract next season and then think that Freeman can become that lead tailback. It could happen, but I doubt it. Just like it could happen that Dent could become an adequate to good replacement for Curtis Lofton, but it didn't.

Right now, the only good move the Falcons made at the RB position occurred in 2008 when they signed Michael Turner. Every move since then has been meh or poor. We'll see whether Freeman is a break in that trend or a continuance...

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 Post subject: Re: Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2014 11:35 am 
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At least Dent & Nicholas played two different positions on the LB unit. Dent being the ILB and Nicholas the OLB. Not that there was any reason to give Nicholas the contract they did.

Though, all the talk out of camp is that Freeman is going to get a lot of reps and it seems they are grooming him to take over next year. If the plan is to move Freeman to starter next year then I suppose I wouldn't be surprised to see Quizz get extended.

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 Post subject: Re: Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2014 1:21 pm 
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Well given that the Falcons were a 4-3 at the time, and not a 3-4 team, Dent projected best as a SAM linebacker for us than a MIKE. And thus it was odd to see the team overpay Stephen Nicholas on a 5-yr deal that averaged like $3.5M/yr. for a guy that was just a decent role player.

Don't get me wrong, I've always liked Stevie Nicks, but he was very expendable at the time.

And it's similar in the sense that at the time (2011), the Falcons needed more 3-down athletes at LB rather than another 2-down thumper type that Dent was.

And the same could be said about the Falcons RB position. They don't need another 3rd down RB because they already have 2 good ones in Quizz & Antone Smith, and instead they need a between the tackles thumper rather than another quicker than fast guy that can't carry the full load. But because the team wound up reaching on Southward in Round 3, they basically missed their chance to draft Tre Mason or Terrance West or Andre Williams. Mason is not a great inside runner, but IMO he's a lot closer to that Gio Bernard/Ahmad Bradshaw type of RB than Freeman is.

It's about self evaluation. The Falcons needed another between the tackles runner, and thus should have been targeting a player that his outstanding trait is his ability to run between the tackles (i.e. Williams) or a guy with upside to be a very effective between the tackles runner (i.e. West).

And in Freeman his outstanding traits are his pass protection/receiving ability, and you add him to a team that already has a RB with outstanding pass protection/receiving ability. So I understand your logic in thinking that Freeman is going to replace Quizz, since you really don't have room for both players on the roster unless you're going to be throwing the ball 75% of the time.

But again, the Falcons have done this before, where they stockpiled multiples of the same version of player (with Dent, Lofton & Nicholas) and at WR (Dogulas/Hester/Johnson, etc.) and then tried to square peg one of them into the wrong hole. So it would not surprise me one bit if they do this again.

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 Post subject: Re: Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2014 3:26 pm 
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Touche.

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