Royce Freeman could end up a league winner in 2019. He is criminally undervalued based upon a misguided view of poor performance. You might say to yourself, isn’t this the same running back that got beat out by an undrafted free agent in Philip Lindsay? You would be absolutely correct in assuming so. However, when you look into the data you can see a different picture. Let’s breakdown how Royce Freeman could be your 2019 fantasy football league winner.
Perceived “Poor Performance”
My first argument against the “poor performance” notion of Freeman was how he was deployed. Royce Freeman faced 8+ defenders in the box on 36.15% of his rushing attempts (good for 2nd in the NFL with a minimum of 85 attempts). On the other hand, Lindsay only saw 8+ defenders on 14.06% of his carries (42nd in the NFL). Yes, defenses knew what the Broncos were doing with Freeman on the field. But the common misconception is that Philip Lindsay was the better running back of the two. Diving deeper into the efficiency of the two rushers, Freeman graded out at an efficiency of 4.27 per NFL Next Gen Stats. Lindsay checks in at 3.39 in the same category, which was third worst among qualified NFL backs.
My second argument lies in the explosiveness category. It’s a well known fact that Lindsay exceeds Freeman in top end speed. However, how often do running backs get the opportunity to hit the homerun? Truth is, Lindsay was the beneficiary of soft boxes and open lanes, evidenced by his 30 rushes of 10+ yards. However, Freeman checked in with a respectable 13 rushes of 10+ yards despite the high percentage of stacked boxes and loaded fronts.
If we take a deeper look, we see that Freeman generated 3.22 yards after contact per attempt or 419 yards total on 130 attempts. Lindsay only generated 2.35 yards after contact per attempt or 451 yards total on 192 attempts. All that said, Freeman is more explosive and elusive in the backfield than Lindsay. In fact, Pro Football Focus had Freeman grade out significantly higher in their elusive rating metric.
After diving through dove some data, hopefully you see my argument AGAINST Freeman being seen as a poor performer. Next, I’ll jump into my case for how he can help you win your fantasy football league in 2019.
First and foremost, the upside value at his ADP. People get into this mindset where they have to be slaves to the average draft position. Actually, this strategy will simply get you a roster that looks exactly as it sounds- average. In redraft, the best teams are drafted by fantasy owners that bake in upside as they move throughout. They build with a purpose and see the potential upside of a player. They target players that can give them a higher return on investment. Royce Freeman is exactly that in 2019.
There are always two things that I look for in players who present an upside value at ADP. First, they have a beaten down stock or perception of their value relative to the community outlook. Today everyone has access to social media and platforms like Twitter become an echo chamber of opinion on specific players. My advice would be to listen closely and then to consider the opposite outcome of what could happen.
No one is talking about Royce Freeman. While that may be bad for his community outlook, people who see through the popular opinion welcome this advantage. Why? The answer is simple-it drives down his price. The further he falls, the better potential upside on draft capital. Call me crazy but I will side with the running back who has the draft capital after one “down” year (eyes on you too Rashaad Penny). Especially over one of the biggest historical outliers we have seen in recent memory (Lindsay).
Second, the high upside value player must have the requisite talent to overcome what could seem like a cloudy situation. As we already saw, Freeman has the skill. Last year, I was beating the table for Chubb and Conner in re-draft (before Bell declared out). Well, I got lucky on Conner as no one foresaw a hold-out, but I BELIEVED in Chubb’s skill and talent level to overcome the “major” signing of Hyde to that backfield.
Now, I don’t say this because no one else knew that Chubb was more talented and would take over that backfield in time. However, people assumed that Chubb would have to wait and therefore he was commonly falling to the 10th or 11th round. I saw the upside in the proposition that he could win the lead role earlier than later, and at worst I had the player who was one snap away behind a back that I didn’t like with an injury history….. which leads me to my final case for Freeman.
The Lindsay Situation
My final point has more to do with Lindsay than Freeman. Philip Lindsay is THIN. In my opinion, and this is strictly opinion, it was incredible that Philip Lindsay held up as long as he did. For that I want to tip my hat to him. However, the injury bug finally hit and when it did, it hit late. Lindsay’s recovery, although nothing major in the life of a running back, still leaves a relative unknown as to his health upon return.
Despite that, under the assumption he comes back 100%, he is still an injury risk due to size and workload. Listen closely- I’m NOT slapping the injury prone tag on a player as I am no doctor. However I will go as far to say as he is a major injury risk. Which means that at worst, Freeman will be one injury away from leading a backfield that proved highly productive just one year ago.
So now I pose you with this question- why wouldn’t you take a shot on this kind of upside, pedigree, talent, proven performance AND the cheaper option in the Denver Broncos backfield? You know I will.
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