The Royce Freeman hype in last year’s off season skyrocketed him all the way up to a fifth-round pick in seasonal leagues. As a prolific producer in college at the University of Oregon, Freeman’s career 5,600 total rushing yards, 60 rushing touchdowns and 79 receptions in the eyes of the Denver Broncos was a workhorse in the making. Of course, then the most unpredictable thing in human history happened — UDFA Phillip Lindsay came out of nowhere to dominate the Denver backfield and put Royce’s feature back dreams on hold.
Lindsay put together one of the biggest outlier seasons in the history of fantasy football. Not just because of his UDFA pedigree, but because he did it all while not even being 200 pounds. Astoundingly despite these two things, Lindsay had the second-highest yards per carry average in the entire NFL as a rookie. Whether he can repeat that or not is yet to be determined. Historically, running backs under 200 pounds have a higher risk of injury playing every snap because they aren’t built for the physical nature of the sport. Lindsay was not a prolific strength tester at the NFL combine and his smaller frame may not hold up to a workhorse role in the NFL. Yes, he went over 1,000 yards as an undrafted rookie, and thus far we’ve seen one injury to Lindsay — one that cost him nearly an entire off season.
With a new coaching staff in Denver, Lindsay and Freeman have no prior ties to the new head coach and offensive coordinator. Therefore, this backfield could be up for grabs once again. In front of a new coaching staff, Freeman has taken every first-team rep in the offseason while Lindsay has yet to take one snap due to his injury.
Despite Lindsay having the better season in 2018, it feels like that’s out the window entering 2019. With the new coaching staff, Lindsay still recovering, and Freeman taking all the snaps — things are looking up for Royce. After a mostly-split backfield in 2018, Freeman (who is now entering his second season) is poised to take a big step forward. Denver is likely to lean on the run more than last year and, on a team loaded with young talent, someone has to emerge from this backfield. Our guess? The running back with feature size, requisite athleticism, a prolific college background and third round draft capital… Royce Freeman.