When scouting NFL Draft prospects, there are always players who "jump off the tape" to me more than others. Why? It's tough to say -- "draft scouting" is a subjective field and there are hundreds of variables to consider. Within, there are going to be different biases and different priorities in terms of which skills or tools to look for at the different positions among evaluators.
Jumps Off the Tape
This series of short scouting reports will aim to pick out a play, or a couple of plays, that jumped out to me as representations of why I am in a certain prospect's corner. It's incomplete evaluation, but meant to highlight what a player can do and why those skills might project to the NFL level.
Devonta Freeman, Florida State: 5'8, 206
Freeman's timed speed and agility is underwhelming (4.58 40) and he's average-sized, but there are several aspects to his game that stand out to me.
First, his balance (all videos via DraftBreakdown):
Balance is one of those things that sometimes gets placed behind speed and/or strength on the skills hierarchy, but might actually be more important than either at the running back position. Some backs possess an innate ability to take a hit and not only stay on their feet, but keep churning downfield. It also comes into play when sifting through traffic and making quick cuts to avoid defenders. I find it to be one of Freeman's most visible qualities.
They might not be completely comparable as players, but Freeman's low-to-the-ground center of gravity and jittery running style reminds me of Andre Ellington.
Freeman is compared favorably to Frank Gore by Nolan Nawrocki in his NFL.com draft profile, and this run below may show you why that comparison is made:
He displays patience following his lead blocking through the hole, and he takes on a big hit at the second level to power forward for a first down. One of the things I appreciate most about Gore's running style is his patience to let blocks develop before making his move, and Freeman displays flashes of that.
Three things to know
Finally, another reason I appreciate Freeman's game is that he shows consistency and dedication in pass protection. This is something that many college backs will have to learn once getting to the pros, so while it's the unsexy part of playing the position, it's extremely important and also very difficult to learn.
The Bottom Line:
Freeman might not have the elite breakaway, home run speed that teams look for at the running back position, but he makes up for it with short-area quickness, toughness and football savvy.
Final note: When building their NFL Draft boards, scouting departments watch every single snap of a particular draft prospect's season. Within those hundreds of snaps, there are likely some great plays and some bad plays, and a multitude of nondescript plays in between. Scouts must determine how consistently a player can display the good traits and figure out how easily coaches can mitigate or coach out the bad. This report is just a jump-off point.