CFB Player Bracket: Eddie Vanderdoes vs. Royce Freeman
This bracket features a cross-positional battle between a run-stuffing defensive tackle and a highly productive power-running back. UCLA defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes is coming back from a knee injury and hoping to return to form, while Oregon’s Royce Freeman is coming off a huge season for the Ducks and looking to continue that success in 2016.
To view the entire bracket and every Round 1 matchup, click here.
The Case for Eddie Vanderdoes
Eddie Vanderdoes tore his ACL in the first game of the 2015 season against Virginia but in the 32 snaps he played he had a +7.7 grade, posting three hurries and six run stops. Vanderdoes appeared to be building on his stellar 2014 play in which he had two sacks, three hits and 14 QB hurries in addition to his 26 run stops. His +13.4 run defense grade ranked No. 38 among all FBS defensive interior players in 2014.
Vanderdoes is a very nimble-footed big man who can quickly work his way up and down the line of scrimmage making plays. He also has the strength and flexibility to hold up well against double teams. He played both defensive tackle and defensive end for the Bruins and is so athletic he has been used on offense as a lead blocker in the red zone. While Vanderdoes is an accomplished run stuffer, he has yet to provide a consistent pass rush from the inside. He has the strength to bull rush or to club a blocker aside but needs more moves and production in 2016. If Vanderdoes returns from his injury as the player he was in 2014, then expect him to be one of the more powerful and disruptive defensive interior players in the Pac-12 — and that certainly makes him deserving of a win in this matchup.
The Case for Royce Freeman
Freeman is the No. 3-ranked returning running back in all of FBS (+34.5). He is a power back at 230 pounds that can lower his shoulder and absorb contact while keeping his feet under him. He has a very effective stiff arm, tremendous balance and runs through arm tackles. Freeman is one of the tougher runners to bring down in the country and his eye-popping 1,067 yards after contact ranks him No.2 among returning FBS running backs behind only Leonard Fournette.
In addition to running over people Freeman also has the lateral cutting ability to make people miss. He forced 95 missed tackles in 2015 and his 108.6 elusive rating ties him at No. 3 among all returning FBS running backs with the aforementioned Leonard Fournette. In addition to his prowess running the ball, Freeman is effective as a pass catcher and his +5.8 passing grade ranks No.9 among returning FBS running backs. Freeman isn’t as effective as a pass protector yet, and his 91.5 pass-blocking efficiency in 2015 (yielding one sack and eight hurries) rates No. 84 among returning FBS running backs and is clearly an area that Freeman needs to improve on this season. Freeman’s high level of production and ability to create yards beyond what is blocked for him make him the player that should advance in this bracket.
The Verdict: Royce Freeman advances
While the value of a dominant run-stuffing defensive tackle is arguably higher than the value of a good running back, each player’s recent history is too much to overlook. Vanderdoes only played 32 snaps in 2015 and Freeman had 11 games with 100+ rushing yards. While Vanderdoes could return to form as one of the more dominant interior defenders in the Pac-12 in 2016, Freeman’s two-year production gives him the edge over Vanderdoes in this matchup and pushes him on to the 2nd round.
Here’s what you had to say on Twitter: