— Ryan O’Halloran (@ryanohalloran) September 3, 2018
This news shouldn’t come as a surprise as Freeman clearly outproduced Devontae Booker throughout the preseason:
- Royce Freeman – 15 carries for 84 yards (5.6 yards/carry) and 3 TD
- Devontae Booker – 9 carries for 33 yards (3.7 yards/carry)
Booker’s longest run was 6 yards and he has failed to make much of an impact over his first two years in the NFL (3.6 yards per carry on 253 carries). He seems better suited as a pass catching third down running back, with 61 career receptions, and that could be where he’s pigeon holed.
Freeman, on the other hand, has shown a nose for the end zone in the preseason and at 238 lbs. profiles as a goal line thumper. He rushed for at least 16 TD in three of his four seasons with Oregon, falling short in 2016 when he was limited by a leg injury (he had 7 TD over his first four games that season). It’s easy to chalk that up as a “lost” year of sorts, as an AFC Personnel Director was quoted by ESPN as saying:
“I think he might be better than people are going to give him credit for. He was hurt all of last year and they (Oregon) changed up the run scheme which kept him between the tackles. With better blocking in front of him, I’m not so sure that he’s not still that same kid we saw as a sophomore.”
That sophomore year he rushed for 1,836 yards (6.5 yards/carry) and 17 TD.
The biggest fear for many is likely how the heavy college workload will impact him, but that’s a long-term issue and not something that should hinder him in his rookie season. He should open the year as a solid RB2, and could emerge as a RB1 by year’s end (and could be a Top 12-15 option in any given week due to the matchup).
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com, Walter Football
Make sure to check out all of our Week 1 rankings: