I think most observers knew the Falcons would be seeking a RB in this draft, and their pick came when most of us expected it to – in the middle rounds, selecting Florida State RB Devonta Freeman.
Freeman picked up 2731 yards and 31 TD during his FSU career, with 1294/15 coming during last season’s run to the national championship. Productivity was there, and his career culminated with a very good national championship game, where he was arguably FSU’s best offensive player for a large chunk of the evening.
I like to cut the tape into gifs for posts like this, but in Freeman’s case, the entire gametape of his from the BCS title game is worth watching. When you do, you’ll see a downhill runner with some explosiveness, great vision, ability to change direction, soft hands for receiving, and a willingness to block:
He wasn’t a workhorse in college, never touching the ball even 200 times in a season, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. Either he doesn’t possess the capability to do so (bad thing), or he simply wasn’t utilized in a manner which took tread off the tires, so to speak (good thing).
Bottom Line: Watching the tape on Freeman, it’s easy to fall in love with this pick. There’s a passion when he plays that’s contagious. He tends to fall forward when tackled, can cut without sacrificing speed, catch passes, etc, etc. And with him, it really is the et ceteras that stand out more than any defining trait. He doesn’t have gamebreaking speed. He doesn’t have a 240 lb frame that will run linebackers over. He just does a ton of little things that help a team, and it’s easy to see why the Falcons got him. The NFL was famously cool on running backs in this draft, and combined with a remarkably deep pool of talent in this draft, most RBs went well after their talent suggested they should. Freeman was no exception. Five years ago, I think he could have been a 2nd round pick. To get him in the 4th means the Falcons got great value with this pick.
Projected 2014 role: Rotational RB, likely #3
Projected long term role: Low-end starter / high-end #2
What it means for the 2014 Falcons: If everyone stays healthy and rostered, probably not a whole lot. At this point Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers likely remain 1 and 2 on the depth chart. This pick was more about future upside than immediate returns. However, considering Jackson’s age, staying healthy is a dangerous assumption, so the addition of talent to the depth chart is a welcome one.