Royce Freeman Is Not A Tough Runner
This is where Freeman struggles. His size would indicate that he is a strong and powerful back that fights for extra yards through contact. This simply is not the case. Freeman is much more of a finesse runner than a power runner. Further compounding the issue is the fact that Freeman is simply not a very elusive runner in an open field. In order to develop into a good player in the NFL, Freeman is going to have to show that he is willing to take hits, run through contact, ad fight for yards. Thus far, he has not shown that this is something he is particularly interested in doing.
On the play below, Freeman has plenty of space to the outside. He has the defender squared up and could dole out some punishment to the defender and pick up a few extra yards. Instead, Freeman stops, hoping to avoid the defender, but he can’t make him miss and ends up with no gain on the play. This is the type of play that you want to see Freeman hammer into space for six yards. That is just not something that you see Royce Freeman do very often. If he made defenders miss more regularly, it wouldn’t be nearly the issue that it is.
Freeman doesn’t regularly show the power or leg drive to work through contact or move the pile. Mostly, his yards after contact come from minimizing contact with his body control and falling forward. This is certainly useful, but it isn’t something that can save him on every play, especially against a higher level of competition and more proficient tacklers. He needs to show the ability to work through contact that will be much more abundant at the NFL level.
On the play below, watch Freeman continue to work to the sideline, even as it becomes clear that he is running out of field, and that no running lane is going to present itself. At some point during this run, Royce Freeman should have put his foot in the ground and decided to get upfield, taking whatever yards he can get on a bad run play. Instead, Freeman stretches the ball to the sideline and ends up taking a big hit rather than attacking the defense and gaining extra yards.
For someone of Royce Freeman’s size, his power, contact balance, and willingness to fight for yards is both disappointing and concerning. In order to be more than an average committee back in the NFL, he is going to probably have to change his running style to a certain extent. You need more to be successful than just getting through the line of scrimmage. He needs to be able to move or elude defenders and he has to be a lot more willing to fight to pick up the extra yards.