Heading into 2017, Devonta Freeman was a consensus pick to be one of the top running backs in the NFL. He had just capped off two straight tremendous seasons, and few backs in the league were as well-rounded as him, given his propensity for running hard, catching plenty of balls, and being relied upon in pass protection.
Fast forward a year and the picture is a little different. Free’s talent is still evident and he is still quite young, but he’s coming off a year marred by two concussions in six months and an MCL/PCL sprain that hobbled him in the post-season. The result was a disappointing year by his lofty standards, and one that has fans asking seriously whether he’ll finish his contract in Atlanta.
I can’t tell you whether he will or not—no soothsayer, I—but I do know that Freeman’s talent is still intact and if the Falcons are careful with him, his legs should be in working order by the time the season rolls around. The concussions are a bigger concern, though one I’m hopeful both Freeman and Falcon fans will be able to ignore safely once the 2018 season rolls around.
But you can understand, perhaps, why Freeman went all the way from #41 on the NFL Top 100 players list a year ago to #70 this year. The combination of injury and a quieter season means it’s a little easier to downgrade him, even if a healthy Freeman remains an easy top ten running back in this league.
With any luck, we’ll have occasion to celebrate a top 50 finish in 2018. Not because it means anything for Freeman or for us, really, but because it would mean that he had one heck of a bounceback year.