Large-Scale Trends and the 2018 NFL Draft (part 3)

It’s time to continue our look at the 2018 Denver Broncos draft class. The next part in this series will look at the Broncos apparent overall draft strategy, and take a quick look around the league.


Anterior Dominant Draft Picks (cont.)

Royce Freeman–  initially flummoxed this biomechanical researcher with his unique combination of lateral posterior lumbar efficiency and medial anterior lumbar efficiency.  This, combined with an upper-thoracic anterior injury suffered during his senior season (which kept him under-utilizing his anterior muscle groups to protect his injured area), had me originally pegging Freeman as a posterior-dominant player (though unusually balanced towards the lateral areas).  In truth, he is anterior-dominant, with a very well-developed/ efficient lateral posterior lumbar area.

Freeman’s combination of lateral posterior lumbar efficiency with medial anterior lumbar efficiency as a balance of forces forms a sort of triangle or pyramid from his base upwards.  This means that he is excellently balanced on his feet. Although he is neither especially fast nor particularly strong (due to an imbalance between medial and lateral posterior lumbar areas), Freeman shows excellent ability to keep his feet churning forward, combining excellent balance with good vision.  His lateral posterior efficiency also gives him good cutting ability, and in college he regularly found/ exploited holes and creases in the defense.

Although Freeman shows neither game-breaking speed nor defense-crushing power, he is the sort of back that will consistently take what the defenses gives.  If he is protected by good blocking, he will consistently find holes and gain positive yardage. And given his highly-stable pyramid-like base, Freeman seems likely to be very durable and able to handle many carries per game.  A solid if unspectacular workhorse-type back, he will neither make nor break an offense, but will likely find consistent positive yardage if protected by good blocking.


Posterior-Dominant Draft Picks

Isaac Yiadom– shows excellent posterior thoracic/ lumbar efficiency, good medial anterior thoracic efficiency, and reasonably good lateral anterior lumbar efficiency.  Which means that he is sort of an inverse of the previous three picks by the Broncos in this draft- instead of showing excellent anterior efficiency combined with good lateral posterior efficiency, Yiadom shows excellent posterior efficiency combined with good lateral anterior efficiency.  Yiadom also shows good medial thoracic efficiency in all areas, which means that he shows excellent hands and strong blocking/ tackling ability.

Although Yiadom’s subpar medial anterior lumbar efficiency means that he can be slow to change directions and mirror shifty WRs at a distance (in zone or off-man coverage), Yiadom’s strength and grappling ability make him an excellent press-man type corner.  In addition, he showed excellent recognition and play-making skills in college, with good awareness of the play situation and ability to exploit jump-ball situations with his excellent hands and a strong core (Yiadom also appears difficult to tackle with the ball in his hands, especially for a corner).  While Yiadom is best suited to press-man coverage, when he is tasked with this type of coverage he excels at re-routing WRs and making plays on the ball. A physical defender with playmaking skills, specializing in press-man coverage.


David Williams– looks likely to become an important part of the Denver Broncos offense.  As the only posterior-dominant back currently on the roster, Williams’ run-power and ability to break tackles are unique among Broncos backs.  His medial posterior lumbar efficiency is noteworthy, and it gives him excellent core strength, with the ability to break arm tackles and make subtle yet powerful changes in direction.  The biggest hurdle to Williams earning a big role quickly is that his anterior lumbar areas appear unbalanced- he is more efficient on the medial right, vs the lateral left. This means that he will sometimes lose his balance when his entire system is engaged- unlike Freeman, he will sometimes fall to the ground unprompted.  Likewise, Williams’ compromised anterior system means that his reaction time can be a bit slow- he may take time to become an adept pass-blocker, and he may not pick up an NFL offense terribly quickly. However, given time to refine his technique and learn the subtleties of NFL playcalling/ pass-blocking, Williams seems likely to become a very important part of the Broncos offense.  His ceiling is likely the highest among Broncos backs- if he can fully sort out his anterior issues, he shows the raw posterior-lumbar talent to become a high-quality feature back.


Jeff Holland– shows very high levels of lateral-posterior efficiency.   As a posterior-dominant player, he is more strong than quick, but he shows good speed on rushes to the outside of the offensive line (via excellent lateral efficiency).  His immediate get-off and his closing speed are not particularly noteworthy, but his consistent speed and strength to the outside of the offensive line may wear down many OTs that he faces.  Although he is very strong and often is able to push his OT back from the line of scrimmage (serving as a good edge-setter on run plays), his somewhat lacking medial posterior efficiency means that he can also be rerouted and put off-balance by lineman who favor medial efficiency (core strength).  Overall, Holland looks likely to become an important all-downs contributor on defense, although he may be out-matched against some of the top OTs he faces (those who favor medial posterior efficiency).

  • Drewredux

    Freeman seems to have whatever-I-need-right-now speed, which is a little reminiscent of TD and Mike Anderson.

    As you point out, however, he doesn’t seem to manufacture much yardage on his own. That is mildly disconcerting with the state of our oline.

    Yiadom, in general, has me pretty excited. He looks full on baller, which is how I like my DBs.

    • MarsLineman

      Definitely agree about Yiadom. He looks like a keeper

      And I’m glad the Broncos have a back like Freeman- durability/ endurance is an underrated skill IMO. Even if he’s not a game-breaker, every team needs an RB they can count on to churn out the carries

  • G Mik

    As always Mars, thanks so much for your contributions!!

    • MarsLineman

      Thanks for reading/ commenting!

  • cjfarls

    Good stuff. Though not looking at the biomechanical groups, etc. like you do, I would concur that Freeman has really nice feet for a big back… I posted on his Thin-air draft page that he didn’t seem to break huge numbers of tackles, but also had nifty feet to sneak through small creases untouched into the 2nd level. Hopefully he can continue that for us.

    Also agree about Yiadom… his coverage highlights video showed him to be quite good in man coverage, but perhaps a bit slow reacting to the throw from zone coverage. Your analysis matched my observation there too.

    • MarsLineman

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts/ observations

  • The Color Orange

    Good stuff as always. Less depressing this time. Have you ever thought about taking an unheralded college player that became an NFL All Pro, someone like Terrell Davis, Chris Harris, or Tom Brady, and looking at their college film to see if there was something there that would have predicted their NFL success? It seems like that’s where the model could have an enormous impact.

    • MarsLineman

      Good question- I’ll be making the point in a later entry in this series that, historically-speaking, posterior-dominant players have generally been under-drafted relative to their eventual career impact. Chris Harris Jr is a perfect example- he is posterior-dominant to an unusual degree, and he was obviously hugely under-drafted (as in not at all). Holland, from this year’s group, is another example (although I don’t think he will become as good of a player as CHJ, he should still should far exceed his UDFA status). Nick also pointed out the example of Harold Landry- a posterior-dominant player drafted in the 2nd round who I’m guessing will have a better career (eventually) than Chubb (although obviously I hope I’m wrong). Posterior-dominant Future HoF QBs such as Brett Favre and Drew Brees are additional examples

      This is where NFL history and current trends diverge substantially- most past HoF players (particularly on offense) were anterior-dominant. But with anterior-dominant players showing less and less posterior efficiency these days, posterior-dominant players are increasingly dominating the NFL. Some teams are adjusting better than others to this changing landscape. I’ll continue exploring this trend later in this series

  • Tim

    I have really enjoyed this series, thank you Mars! I know you have said previously that a lot of this has to do with genetic makeup but is there a way for a person to improve their posterior efficiency? I find myself in the anterior category

    • MarsLineman

      Thanks for the kind words! As for your question, I’m afraid there isn’t really an easy answer. But IMO the best single activity for developing/ increasing posterior efficiency is swimming

      • Tim

        Oh that is really interesting, not the answer I was expecting! Thank you for getting back to me