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Royce Freeman goes to the Broncos, and he might be the best RB value in the whole draft

Advanced stats suggest the Oregon product is special.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The value of Royce Freeman lies in what you think about a running back, and the perilous future inevitable to one of the most dispensable positions on a football team. Freeman’s biggest calling card is also his biggest detriment, but the Denver Broncos felt comfortable enough with him to take him in the third round anyway.

Based on an advanced statistical system meant to show a player’s pro ceiling based on his college numbers, Freeman has a good chance to be this draft class’ best NFL back.

Derrius Guice and Royce Freeman are probably the safest bets.

Despite battling injury in 2017, Guice’s career marginal efficiency was third among these prospects, and one of the guys above him was NC State’s Jaylen Samuels, whom we’ll discuss in a moment. Guice was on the higher end of the explosiveness scale, though his vertical jump blurs that picture.

It’s the same story with Freeman, who wasn’t as explosive and didn’t wow with his explosiveness exercises at the combine.

Explosiveness is secondary to efficiency, though, and of this year’s prospects, Guice and Freeman are perhaps the most likely to approach a marginal efficiency of zero.

He was incredibly productive at Oregon in a career in which he broke the Pac-12’s touchdown record. In fact, from the second he stepped on the field in Eugene he was toting the rock often and was delivering consistent returns as a rusher and has shown he can also get the job done catching the ball out of the backfield. But that’s the problem, he’s been logging tough miles on his tires since his freshman year. Take a look at his total touches number and how it stayed high throughout his career.

There’s also the conversation about the types of miles that Freeman has on his tires. Despite the connotation of Oregon’s offense, Freeman isn’t the guy that runs around you. His most effective running style is north/south. He is driving type of runner with a really good lower body. His thighs move like pistons to propel him up the field in a hurry, and there’s little in the way of probing in his running style. He knows where he’s gonna go, and he’s gonna get there whether you’re in his way or not. That means he’s more apt to draw harder contact from bigger bodies.

You’ve heard about the ‘ol magic number for a running back, right? When any back turns 30 those returns start diminishing quickly. The miles catch up to you and many careers go south. It’s one of the reasons that running backs have seen their value in the draft diminish, and many argued that the Giants shouldn’t have taken Saquon Barkley No. 2 despite how breathtaking of an athlete he is.

This is the wager of the NFL Draft at running back in the most distilled sense. Can a team get the maximum value out of a player before father time catches up. Freeman should be productive in the NFL, but for how long?