When grading a player’s season, one of the main criteria regards the idea of expectations versus results. Meaning, if a player has high expectations going into a season and ultimately struggles, the resulting feelings of disappointment create the foundation of a negative final grade. Unfortunately, this phenomena affected Case Keenum and Royce Freeman. Here is why.
2018 Season Grades: Case Keenum And Royce Freeman
When Keenum was signed in 2018, there was an expectation of dependability. There was the expectation that Keenum could produce around the same level that he did in 2017. Keenum was cautiously expected by many to be the unchallenged starting quarterback of the next five to ten years. Above all else, he was expected to win. However, he finished 2018 without meeting any of these expectations.
He completed only 62.3 percent of his passes in 2018, ranking him 27th in the NFL. Additionally, the only quarterback to throw more interceptions this year was Ben Roethlisberger. Finally, Keenum’s team finished with a 6-10 record and the tenth pick in the NFL Draft. None of these results met expectations.
Keenum never came close to the playing as well as he did in 2017. He failed to take control of a game and seemed to pre-determine where he was going to throw the football pre-snap, often leading to interceptions. This became very obvious both early and late in the season, the only times when he was playing with a gunslinger mentality in an effort to dictate the game. Additionally, his lack of awareness in the pocket was a constant issue throughout the season, repeatedly leading to sacks and fumbles.
However, Keenum showed some potential for developing a formula that could lead to a winning record. During the middle of the season, he played more conservatively as a game manager. While playing conservatively, Keenum was able to go five games in a row without throwing an interception. If he were to play as a game manager for all 16 games and the Broncos were to return their defense to a top-10 unit, the Broncos could make a run at the division.
Freeman was drafted in 2018 by the Broncos in the third round. He was the expected replacement to C.J. Anderson, who the Broncos had cut ties with earlier in the year (much to the dismay of Broncos fans). As a third-rounder who was expected to fill the shoes of C.J. Anderson, (the same running back that had been a big force behind Denver’s Super Bowl run in 2015 and is now expected to play in this year’s Super Bowl), Freeman had his work cut out for him as a rookie.
He ended up finishing the season with five rushing touchdowns, ranking him with the 6th-most among rookies. Additionally, he finished 2018 with 4.0 yards per rush, 37.5 yards per game (11th-highest average among rookies), and 571 yards (9th-most among rookies). When looking at his rookie statistics, it seems that he had a decent season if a little underwhelming.
However, when compared to the entire NFL, Freeman ranks 37th in yards, 137th in yards per carry and 43rd in yards per game. Based on these statistics, Freeman looks like a backup running back. Considering the fact that he was actually drafted to be the replacement to C.J. Anderson, it is pretty clear that Freeman fell short of expectations.
Of course, there were some factors that help explain why his numbers are so low. Namely, Freeman missed two games due to injury and undrafted free agent Phillip Lindsay stole his starting job mid-season. Had neither of these events occurred, Freeman would have likely posted better numbers.
Freeman’s biggest issue of 2018 was that he lacked explosiveness. When one only averages four yards per carry, it means that they are not regularly getting chunk plays. Whether it’s through improving his speed or his power, Freeman must find a way to get chunk plays on a regular basis if he wants to have any shot of regaining his starting role.
In the end, as a rookie, Freeman posted numbers that suggest he isn’t a bust. That being said, losing his starting job and his inability to get chunk plays relatively consistently created a disappointing first season for a player that was expected to replace C.J. Anderson.