Wide Receiver - Virginia Tech
Combine Height: 5-10
Combine Weight: 184
Combine 40 Time: 4.39
Caught 33 balls for 496 yards and four scores playing in the Hokies’ talented receiver rotation.
Royal has blazing speed, which he puts to good use creating separation and making plays in the open field. His college productivity took a hit because of Virginia Tech’s talented receiving corps, but his smallish stature makes it difficult to project him as an every-down NFL receiver. The popular comparison for speedy, undersized pass catchers—especially if they have return skills like Royal does—is Wes Welker, and Royal does have other similar characteristics as well. He’s not afraid to go across the middle, his cuts are sharp, he works to get open… about the only knock is that he’s been plagued with nagging injuries and smallish receivers often have a short lifespan in the NFL. Still, the upside of a player with Royal’s skills is enticing enough for a team to roll the dice… and find ways to keep him healthy and productive.
The success of return men like Devin Hester and slot receivers like Welker can only help Royal’s draft day stock. The Eagles have a need for both a pass-catcher and a return man and would love to see him still on the board 49th overall—but the Rams (33rd overall), 49ers (39th), and Bengals (46th) might have something to say about his availability. It’s unlikely Royal makes it out of the first day of the draft, with the Buccaneers, Titans, and Colts potential safety nets in the bottom third of the round.
It’s one thing to project a player to produce like a Wes Welker; it’s another thing entirely for said player to come into the league and actually do so. Royal’s primary impact will come in the return game, but he could also crack the lineup as a third receiver out of the slot and make a modest contribution in year one. While Royal isn’t drawing the ink of other rookie receivers, he could be every bit as productive in his inaugural campaign as more heralded contemporaries such as DeSean Jackson and Mario Manningham. It’s difficult to project the long-term value of a player with durability concerns based on his size, since a growth spurt is unlikely. However, if the upside is Welker-esque production he’s worthy of a roster spot in dynasty leagues as well as at the tail end of a redraft league bench.