Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Royal Shock

Let me preface this by saying that I am ecstatic about Denver's 12th overall pick. I have been an opponent of the "Denver must draft an offensive lineman in the first round" theory from day one. This is primarily because I don't want Denver to go the route of Jacksonville or Baltimore and reach for a player at a needed position. Clady is so athletic and such a distinctive fit for our system that this pick almost seems predestined. Broncos fans should be excited about Clady's potential and regardless of his Wonderlic score and his strange personality get behind him as the future at left tackle.

Eddie Royal at #42, however, was a total shock and largely disappointing. There is a lot about this kid to find intriguing. He's small, but bulky. He's got world class speed. He's a tough kid that's not afraid to run across the middle of the field. He's a good blocker--something Shanahan undoubtedly liked. He fills an immediate need on special teams in the return game. He has the speed to stretch the field and the hands to make the big catch. He's seemingly everything that Denver needs in a receiver to overcome the inadequacies of last year's 7-9 team.

So what's not to like? Well, you've come to the right place. I've grown up in a Hokie family my whole life and don't miss too many Hokie's games. Consequently, I've seen the veritable library of Eddie Royal footage. I know precisely what Denver's getting. Here are my two big concerns:

  • Durability. I know this has been parroted in the media and I'm not at all concerned about his toe injury or his concussion. Its these two words that terrify me: compartment syndrome. This is a vascular condition that causes your ankles to swell abnormally when your heart rate increases. Its very painful and often chronic. Correcting this condition is extremely difficult and complete correction is virtually impossible. This is based on an explanation offered by a close friend who was discharged from the military because of the same condition. I sure hope Denver has done their homework on this one.

  • Beamer Ball. VA Tech is the best in the business at special teams execution. They consistently have an explosive kick return game and punt blocking unit. Some of you may remember DeAngelo Hall was among the nations best kick returners for the Hokies before he entered the league. Understand, a lot of this has to do with the scheme and the coach. Royal has some good experience in a return specialist role, but being a serviceable kick returner for the Hokies doesn't insinuate that you're the next Devin Hester.

  • Playing Speed. Eddie Royal showed us world class speed at the combine. If you watch him on film, however, he doesn't play as fast as that time would indicate. In fact, Eddie Royal is not a very 'quick' player on the field. Royal's straight-line speed is every bit as fast as his 4.39 40-time indicates, but he doesn't play with elite quickness when making plays.

For all these reasons, I am little weary about this pick. I sure hope Royal proves me wrong! For #42 value, I think I'd be more comfortable with Dexter or DeSean Jackson. Both players are probably purely kick return specialists, but at least you are getting a distinctive talent in a needed role. With Royal, I think Denver was trying to get a first round talent, when really there was a reason many thought he'd still be waiting to hear his number called on Sunday.

I'll be back with more draft coverage tomorrow.


effay said...

I find it hard to get excited about the Royal pick. The Broncos already have 3 smallish receivers in Stokely, Jackson, and Colbert. We need a No. 2 guy to go across from Marshall (or be the No. 1 if Marshall keeps messing up) and Royal is just not going to fill that role. I just don't understand why they use an early 2nd round pick on a slot receiver/return guy when we don't really need that and Malcolm Kelly and Limas Sweed, both solid No. 1 or 2 receivers, are still on the board. I really feel like we just drafted Ashley Lelie all over again minus 6 inches. We could have also used this pick to fill holes at LB and safety, but what else can you expect from the worst drafting team (statistically) in the whole NFL.

Baylor said...

who said anything about Royal becoming the next Devin Hester? most players excel because of the scheme and their coaches which is why top talent is drafted from the same schools year after year. it's about the Broncos finding the players that they think will fit into their system. the Royal selection is probably another coin flip for shanahan and his never-ending search for a returner. speaking of special teams, the highly touted o'brien didn't do a whole lot to fix the problems last year. i hope for better this year. and there is a lot more to the equation than just royal.

Michael said...

The top talent is drafted from the same schools year after year for autoregressive reasons. True, those schools have the best coaching, but by extension they also recruit the best players. The best coaches are able to secure the best athletes.

Virginia Tech is a special teams school. When people hear the word "Beamer ball" they think of punt return TD's, blocked kicks/punts, etc. Virginia Tech is the best in the business at this. Next year, they will reload and have a multi-TD kick returner once again (just like when Eddie replaced DeAngelo).

I largely agree with your sentiment but in this case I think Eddie has been overvalued. He's a guy with great straight line speed but doesn't play as quick as his 40-time would indicate. I guarantee you Denver has not just drafted the next Allen Rossum, Terrence McGee, Dante Hall, Justin Briggs, or Devin Hester. Instead, they got a serviceable player who's had great coaching.

So why the Devin Hester comment? Well, if Denver wanted a game-breaking kick returner they had arguably the best guy in the whole draft available in Dexter Jackson or DeSean Jackson. One of the two is arguably the elite kick returner in this year's draft but neither figures to be more than a 4th receiver on offense (flame away, DeSean Jackson lovers).

My point is that Denver had a menu of options available at KRS/WR. They could have taken a big, physical receiver; they could have taken a field stretcher; or they could have taken a great returner. Unfortunately, this draft just doesn't allow teams to have their cake and eat it too. There are a lot of one dimensional talents.

In Royal, Denver got one of the more complete receivers available. The problem is that Royal doesn't do any one thing "great." I'd rather have a guy that is great in some phase of the game rather than capable in many phases of the game. Royal will provide Denver with depth in multiple roles, but he's not--in my opinion--someone to get overly excited about.

Thank you both for commenting. Like I said, nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong about Royal!

the1one said...

I will be the first to admit that I wasn't initially excited about using our 2nd pick on Royal. I will say that after watching more of him on film I am extremely excited about the boost he will provide to our return game.

Take a look for yourself:


There are very few people that have ever strapped on a pair of pads that can reach top speed in one or two steps and that is what Royal brings to the table. We picked up a reciever who runs a 4.3 40yd dash and can develop into a slot roll learning under Stokely who is at the tail end of his career. He has all of the tools to become a Steve Smith, Laveranues Coles, Santa Moss type player while providing instant impact on special teams. My biggest red flag is the injury concerns.

I am ready to give this guy the ball right now on all returns and I am even more excited to see how Shannahan works him in to the offense. With the defensive flow that takes place trying to stop the zone run scheme, Royal will have some wide open lanes to run through when we use him on reverses. At the very least his presence will keep defenses honest when used in that roll.

I think we reached a little for Royal but not having a pick till the fourth round probably played a roll in this selection.