The 2014 NFL Draft has a lot of sneaky good running backs. Florida State's Devonta Freeman is one of them.
Freeman may not be the first running back selected in May, but he could be among the first to contribute at the NFL level. He doesn't have to be taken off the field on pass plays because his blocking is sound. He has good vision and burst to generate easy yards. In other words, he should consistently churn out four yards per carry in the NFL.
Freeman just may not do it because of power runs. He's at his best when he can follow blockers to the outside. More so, he's a patient runner who will let blocks develop up the middle.
Acceleration/burst: Freeman's acceleration and burst are why it's easy to compare him to Ray Rice. Freeman is able to accelerate through a hole in a hurry and has active feet to take advantage of it.
Elusiveness: In the open field, Freeman can be dangerous. He can effortlessly put a move on a defender without losing any speed on his run. Freeman's elusiveness helps him turn short gains into moderate ones. Everyone likes a home-run running back. Freeman is the steady type who rarely gets negative yards because he can make opponents miss.
Pass blocking/catching: Is accomplished as a blocker. Knows how to pick up a blitz late and moves around effortlessly to get after a defender. As a receiver, Freeman can be a reliable asset. He can work on screens and will make opponents miss after the catch.
Power: While he's not a weakling by any stretch, Freeman isn't going to break a lot of tackles running between his offensive tackles. He can break a single tackle in the open field, but won't overpower a defender. What pop Freeman does generate is thanks to a low running style. Not only does he give defenders a small area to target, but he generates natural leverage getting under those who try to tackle high. Isn't going to be the type of back who pushes the pile, but he shouldn't be expected to. Of course, there are some plays where he shows off power, namely against Clemson.
Speed: Freeman gets up to his top speed in a hurry. That is perhaps his greatest asset. He doesn't need much space to get there, either. His deep speed, though, leaves something to be desired. Running a 4.58 40-yard dash at the combine, Freeman can be caught from behind. Still, his burst and acceleration make up for the speed.
Vision: Doesn't mess around behind the line of scrimmage. Freeman will see a hole and has the speed to hit it in a hurry. Sets up blocks nicely. Won't overrun his fullback. Maintains great balance at all times. Whether it's through contact on when he's making a defender miss, Freeman doesn't lose balance and often manages to stay upright to gain extra yards.
Final word: There may not be a single area of Devonta Freeman's game where you're blown away. He's not a big-time speed player, nor is he a powerhouse. But his combination of acceleration, competitiveness, vision and elusiveness make him a very good player. Because of that, don't be surprised if Freeman becomes one of the running backs in the draft to produce early as a rookie, if he's drafted into the right situation.