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Rookie Royce Freeman named Broncos' starting RB

Rookies have led the NFL rushing in each of the last two seasons, with Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott taking the crown in 2016 and Kansas City's Kareem Hunt coming out on top in 2017.

Denver's Royce Freeman will have a chance to follow suit this year.

Coach Vance Joseph announced Monday that the No. 71 overall pick in the 2018 draft will enter the season as the Broncos' starter, with Devontae Booker playing in obvious passing situations and undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay operating as a change-of-pace option.

Freeman found the end zone three times on just 15 preseason carries, averaging 5.6 yards per tote in an impressive August performance.

"He can carry the load from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint," Joseph explained, via the team's official website. "He was really good in pass [protection]. That's your biggest worry about having a young halfback playing with a veteran quarterback -- the pass issues."

Freeman will become the first rookie tailback to start for the Broncos since 1995, when Hall of Famer Terrell Davis ran for 70 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut.

"It's an honor to be mentioned with a man of that caliber and a player with that type of legacy around here," Freeman said, per the Denver Post. "It just makes you want to work harder."

Now an analyst for NFL Network, Davis has been touting Freeman throughout the summer as the Broncos' likely starter.

"I've talked to people in Denver," Davis explained in early August, "and they're just thrilled by what they see in camp and what they saw in minicamp from Royce Freeman. They think he's going to be the starting running back."

Freeman isn't the only rookie expected to make an immediate impact in Denver. First-round pick Bradley Chubb will start opposite All-Pro edge rusher Von Miller at outside linebacker, while preseason sensation Courtland Sutton is poised to enter the season as the No. 3 receiver alongside veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

The pressure is on that trio to live up to lofty expectations after general manager John Elway was forced to throw in the towel on former first-round pick Paxton Lynch and four members of last year's draft class during last weekend's final cuts.

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