Draft Review: Dwight Freeney
What NFL talent evaluators were saying about Freeney before his draft
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Freeney was one of the great pass rushers in college football history, setting an NCAA single-season record with 17 ½ sacks in 2001. This after collecting 13 sacks in 2000 despite missing the final four games of the season with an injury. Freeney was a two-year starter for Syracuse and the Big East Defensive Player of the year as a senior. He built a streak of 14 consecutive games with a sack over 2000-01. He compiled another streak of seven consecutive games with at least two sacks inside that same stretch. His best game came against West Virginia when he collected seven tackles, four for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Freeney measured 6-0 ½, 266 pounds at the 2002 NFL combine. That’s squatty for an edge rusher, but Freeney opened eyes with a 4.39 40-yard dash and by bench pressing 225 pounds 28 times. Gosselin placed him No. 28 on his Top 100 draft board, the fourth edge rusher. The Indianapolis Colts selected him with the 11th overall pick of the 2002 draft.
Here are the pre-draft comments from 11 NFL talent evaluators on Freeney:
Scout: Special speed but he’ll get blocked at this level.
Scout II: He’s Corey Moore (another 6-0 college pass rusher from Virginia Tech who won the Nagurski Award as college football’s best defender in 1999 and became a third-round NFL draft pick — but whose NFL career lasted only 10 games). You need to build your defense around the things he can do. Bryant McKinnie (Miami OT who became the seventh overall pick of the 2002 NFL draft) shut him out. Long-armed offensive tackles will give him problems.
Scout III: Closest thing I’ve seen to Hugh Douglas (another short but three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher). There’s a place for a guy like Freeney but I’m just not sure where it is.
Scout IV: Hugh Douglas.
Defensive coordinator: Top 20.
Personnel director: Has to play right end. My concern is most of his big games came at home (Carrier Dome) when offenses couldn’t hear and the offensive tackles were late off the ball. He’s lightning fast. He can be like Leonard Little – a specialist, playing on passing downs.
Personnel director II: Somebody might Mike Mamula (a Boston College pass rusher who ran himself into the first round with his 40-time at the combine) him. Maybe he’s Hugh Douglas.
Head coach: Like him. A potential first-rounder. Put him on the edge and let him raise hell in the backfield. Use him the way Tennessee uses (Jevon) Kearse and you’ll like him. A number of offensive linemen (at the combine) said he was their toughest guy to block.
Head coach II: Love him.
Head coach III: Bottom of the first round or top 3-4 picks in the second round.
General manager: Scary. Has chances to make plays but runs alongside and doesn’t make them. Only makes plays when he’s not blocked.
HALL OF FAME RESUME: Freeney went on to play 16 NFL seasons and rang up double-figures in sacks in seven of them. He led the NFL with a career-high 16 sacks in 2004 and also led the league with nine forced fumbles in his rookie season. Freeney forced 47 fumbles in his career. He was voted to seven Pro Bowls and was a four-time first-team all-pro. Freeney ranks 26th on the all-time sack list with 125 ½ and added 11 more sacks in the playoffs. His only post-season fumble recovery came in the 2007 Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears. He was voted one of the 28 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 in his first year of eligibility.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft.