Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Devonta Freeman (8) carries the ball during the first half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game against the Auburn Tigers at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft Scouting Report – Davonta Freeman, RB Florida State


Devonta Freeman was part of a three-headed monster at running back that helped power Florida State to a National Championship this past season.  With an impressive combination of speed, explosiveness and strength, Freeman was a big play threat with the ball in his hands, but also functioned as a security blanket for Jameis Winston as a blocker in the backfield.  While Freeman shared the load, he was productive and opted to declare for the NFL Draft, going out after a championship season.

For the NFL, Freeman has an impressive physical skillset that could make extremely attractive.  He shows an immediate role and get better with time, ultimately possessing the potential to be a feature back and play maker in the NFL.  Freeman has ability as a runner, though he needs to continue to work on his instincts and vision, but his ability to block and his upside as a receiver could make him special.  As a result, he warrants a fringe top 100 pick but his upside could see him go much earlier, potentially in the top 75.

Vitals & Build

Freeman is listed at 5’9” 203lbs with a strong but compact build for the position.  His speed and burst are both impressive and he certainly has the long speed to make the big runs.  He displays an impressive amount of quickness and agility as well.  Freeman also has good feet, body control and a consistently low center of gravity.  He still has the frame to continue adding strength without losing any athleticism, so his physical potential is still pretty high.  Freeman is an incredibly impressive physical specimen and a team could fall in love with his tools.

Running Style

Freeman’s speed and explosive ability stand out immediately when he carries the football.  He runs hard the second he gets the ball and looks to adjust to try to get on top of the defense immediately.  His feet are impressive and he is able to plant his foot in the ground and accelerate with little drop off in speed.

Freeman plays low to the ground and has a natural power base, so he is naturally able to take on and absorb contact while continuing to move forward.  He drives his legs to finish runs and his natural lean will allow him to maximize carries.

Freeman has some rawness with his vision and instincts and how press plays.  When he is not sure where he should go, he tends to hesitate and get himself in trouble.  In some respects, the holes in college have been rather large and easy to find, so there are some questions as to how well he can see and attack holes that are smaller or plays he needs to create on his own.  There are times where he can attack a small crease and make a big run, but there are situations where he gets caught unsure, will dance and try to improvise in the backfield.

The offense he ran in also liked to use him to attack outside running lanes on natural sweeps and plays where he could run laterally and pick a place to plant his foot and attack.  He certainly has experience going between the tackles, but it is not quite as much as one might hope for in his evaluation and some will need to be projected, hoping it can improve.

Freeman has shown he can get tough yardage but is a big play threat as well.  When he sees the play, he is incredibly dangerous, having the speed to outrun opponents, the quickness to set himself up and the natural lean and leg drive to run through contact.  He is also not afraid to use his off arm to help him press outside and make plays.  In the right hands, Freeman could be a terrific runner and game breaking player, but he needs to continue to refine his instincts and judgment as a runner.

Route Running & Technique

Freeman has been used in a number of different route concepts that he could see again in the NFL.  From selling block and releasing into routes as an early read to being a designated blocker and then releasing into routes to attacking like a receiver, Freeman has experience doing a little of everything.

He does a good job of selling blocks and getting into routes, but has shown some ability as a route runner as well.  Usually, he has been used to get out wide and try to get his speed and athleticism on the edge, setting himself up to make plays and put the opponent at a disadvantage.  There is a good amount of potential in this area of his game and could be a nice receiving threat with more time and development.

Hands

Freeman is a natural receiving threat with good hands and great body control.  He has demonstrated the ability to catch the ball with his hands away from his body and is able to contort himself effectively to have a pretty nice catch radius.  There is a good amount of potential in this part of his game and it could become a bigger part of what he is as a player in the NFL.

Blocking

Freeman has a ton of experience as a blocker and has displayed a lot of ability and instincts for it.  In many situations, the quarterback was in the shotgun with Freeman to one side, so he came up and filled up in front of him.  Freeman does a good job of gaining ground and giving himself space to absorb and give ground without getting shoved into the passer.

Freeman has a great sense of working inside out in reading and diagnosing threats.  He is athletic enough where he can come up and catch a quick rusher as well as slide to the outside to help pressure from out wide.

For the most part, Freeman gets a good base and can deliver a solid punch in his hit.  He usually keeps his eyes up on the opponent, but will occasionally drop his head when anticipating contact.  Occasionally, he will get caught by surprise with some power and push and be able to give up pressure, but he is able to recover or have enough space to give the quarterback a chance to adjust and move.  Usually, Freeman does a good job of eliminating the number of paths that a rusher has at his disposal, so he can predict where he will need to go when blocking.

Freeman has experience as a cut blocker and generally does a good job of knowing when he needs to attack to avoid missing.  The fact that he can block straight up as well as cut makes it so both are more effective.  He keeps opponents guessing and in so doing, makes it easier on himself.

Lastly, Freeman has experience being a lead blocker and not surprisingly, he is least comfortable here.  He can do it, but will get lost in space at times, attack the wrong shoulder or miss the target completely.  When he connects, he can clear a player out of the play, but is usually just functioning to get in the way of an opponent and allowing the back behind him to make the decision to run off of him.

System Fit

Based on where Freeman is right now, he is probably best suited to have a more designed, gap scheme offense that has a designed hole for him to attack and let him get as much speed as possible.

He could certainly play in an offense that uses more of a zone blocking scheme as that is what he did in Tallahassee but he has to show more confidence in his judgment with where to attack and press the hole.

Freeman’s ability to block should allow him to contribute early, but he also has a lot of ability and potential as a receiver.  He has a small chance of starting in his rookie year,  but he should be a nice option as a weapon and role player early with all he can do.

NFL Comparison

In many ways, Freeman is similar to Andre Ellington of the Arizona Cardinals.  Both are extremely fast and explosive with a good build for the position.  Ellington had some of the same questions with vision and instincts but his big play ability made an intriguing player.  Freeman appears to have more physical potential and talent, but could be looked in a similar light as Ellington, who went in the sixth round but showed more potential than that as a rookie.

Draft Projection

Devonta Freeman is an exciting player because of all he possesses from a physical standpoint, but he may have been smart to stay another year to continue refining his skillset.  Freeman will impress in workouts and stands out on the field because of his speed and explosive ability, but there are questions about how well he sees the play.  His ability as a blocker is solid and he has upside as a receiver.  Freeman could go as early as the second round because of his athleticism, but should probably go right around the top 100 mark in the draft.

Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com

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