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All right, draftniks. you know that Pewter Report is the undisputed king of Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft coverage. We've listed players, such as defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), linebacker Quincy Black (2007), wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2006), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (2006), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (2005), cornerback Torrie Cox (2003) – among others, at their respective positions in the Bucs' Best Bets sections of Pewter Report's annual Bucs Draft Preview.
As the 2008 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report's staff has done countless hours of research and has watched the prospects thoroughly, Virginia Tech's Eddie Royal included. Using league sources Pewter Report is armed with the inside scoop needed to put together these scouting reports on players who might fit Tampa Bay's schemes on offense and defense.
The casual football fan already has a good deal of knowledge on likely first-round draft prospects, such as LSU defensive tackle Glen Dorsey, Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm and Virginia defensive end Chris Long. The goal of these regular Pewter Insider features on PewterReport.com is to inform you about players that will likely go in rounds 2-7 that might help the Buccaneers.
Will one of these players wind up being the next Ruud, Stovall or Gradkowski? We'll all find out this weekend when Tampa Bay is on the clock.
VIRGINIA TECH WIDE RECEIVER EDDIE ROYAL
VITAL STATS: At 5-foot-9, 184-pounds Eddie Royal is undersized for a typical pro wide receiver. Royal is fast and electric when he has the ball in his hands. He is an excellent return man and showed good receiver skills at the Senior Bowl. The negatives on Royal are his size, and lack of big receiving numbers.
Royal started 44 games and played in 51 contests in his college career. He hauled in 119 receptions for 1,778 yards, an average of 14.9 yards per reception, and 12 touchdowns. As a rusher the Herndon, Virginia product ran the ball 24 times for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
For punt and kick returning, Royal had excellent career numbers. Royal returned 111 punts for 1,296 yards, 11.6 yards per return, and three touchdowns. On 59 kickoffs Royal amassed 1,386 yards for an average of 23.5 yards a return.
As a freshman Royal made an immediate impact starting 11 games. He hauled in 28 catches for 470 yards, and three touchdowns. On punt returns he averaged 10.9 yards per return, and on kickoffs he averaged 28.8 yards per return. In his sophomore season Royal caught 27 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns. On punt returns he averaged 8.2 yards per return and on kickoffs he averaged 20.9 yards.
In his junior year, Royal was consistent with his production for Virginia Tech. He made 31 receptions for 497 yards averaging 16 yards per catch. Again he was Virginia Tech's primary returner. Royal increased his average on punt and kick returns in his junior year. On punts he averaged 13.22 yards per return, a full five-yard improvement, and on kicks he averaged 22.7 yards.
Royal had his best season as a senior. He had a career high of 33 receptions for 496 yards and four touchdowns. Another career high was a punt return average of 14.6 yards per return. He virtually matched his junior average on kick returns as a senior, returning 14 kicks for 316 yards, an average of 22.5 yards per return.
His speed was on display at the combine where he ran the 40-yard dash at 4.40 and 4.39. Also at the combine Royal led all wide receivers on the bench press with 24 reps of 225 pounds. That was one more than his collegiate left tackle Duane Brown.
RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES
Royal is Virginia Tech's all-time leader in punt returns and punt return yards. He passed Tech's DeAngelo Hall and Andre Davis for that record. For the Atlantic Coast Conference Royal is the all-time leader in punt return yards with 1,296. He is fourth on the ACC all-time list of punt returns. Despite being under-utilized at Virginia Tech, Royal ranks fourth all-time in receptions and sixth all-time for receiving yards.
HIS BIGGEST GAMES
11/24/07 vs. Virginia six catches for 147 yards, one TD 10/13/07 vs. Duke six catches for 90 yards, one TD, three punt returns for 38 yards 10/6/07 vs. Clemson three punt returns for 117 yards, one TD 9/30/07 vs. Georgia Tech seven catches for 102 yards, one TD 9/16/06 vs. Duke two catches for 55 yards, six punt returns for 138 yards, 1 TD
WHY HE COULD BE A RED AND PEWTER PLAYER
At the Senior Bowl, Royal showed the ability to catch the ball cleanly. He also displayed his big-play potential that was not often taken advantage of at Virginia Tech. An effective future as a slot receiver seems very possible for Royal. With his receiving potential, learning under Buccaneer Joey Galloway could lead to Royal developing into a better pro than his draft slot may indicate.
Royal is a smooth receiver that relies on his quickness in and out of breaks to gain separation on defenders. He is adept on vertical routes and will eat up a cushion from a defensive back. Early on in his career Royal could contribute as a slot receiver and be a big-play threat on offense. With Royal on the field at the same time as Galloway it would be hard for the opposition to play eight defenders in the box, because either receiver could beat the defense downfield.
The Virginia Tech staff was very high on Royal as a teammate. He displayed a strong mind for the game and a love for football. They felt he could be a coach after his playing days. He is a very hard worker. His hard work in the weight room was evident on the bench press at the combine.
Perhaps the most valid reason why Royal could be a Buccaneer is his return ability. The only open starting positions on the team are the kick and punt returner. Royal is arguably the best return specialist in the draft. For big returns long speed is needed to go the distance and Royal has got it. Even with his explosive speed, Royal is patient in letting blocks develop for him to spring bigger returns. He has a nice set of gears to set up his routes and returns for big plays.
Overall Royal is a dynamic playmaker that could put up better numbers as a pro. Due to his electric big-play ability Royal could contribute immediately as a returner and in the near future as a slot receiver.
TOUGHEST TRANISITION IN TAMPA BAY
Across the board in the NFL scouting community the view is that Royal was underutilized at Virginia Tech as a receiver. In moments at Virginia Tech, and at the Senior Bowl, he has shown potential as receiver. However, there is still the unknown as to whether Royal can be viable every-down receiver at the pro level.
Royal also is not a strong blocker. He makes a good effort, and has had some success as a cut blocker, but will never be a big blocking contributor. Buccaneers' head coach Jon Gruden wants his receivers to be able to block for running backs and other receivers.
While Royal's smaller stature may not hurt him as a deep threat slot receiver, his frame is maxed out in terms of size and weight. With the direct contact on kickoff returns, his size could hurt him in withstanding the punishment over the long-term. That is the only negative for Royal as a returner.
SPECIAL TEAMS FACTOR
Whichever team drafts Royal will have his special teams ability in mind for their roster. It is very likely that Royal will be the punt and kick returner for his pro team as early as his rookie season. If Royal were to become a Buccaneer he could end up being one of the best returners in team history along the lines of Karl Williams.
The play of special teams standouts like Chicago's Devin Hester and Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs have helped to make players like Royal more of a priority for teams to draft. If Royal did not have his return ability he would probably be selected in rounds 5-7. Many teams may not have as high a value for a speedy slot receiver like Tampa Bay does, due to the production from Galloway.
There is potential for a team to reach and select Royal towards the end of the second round. Last year Kansas State's Yamon Figurs was expected to be drafted on the second day, but his big-play return ability was too tempting for Baltimore to pass up in the third round.
Royal is expected to be selected in the third round. It is not too often that a third-round pick can come into a playoff team and see significant ball handling responsibilities, but that would be the case if the Buccaneers select Royal. If he is on the board when Tampa Bay selects with the 83rd overall pick, it would not be surprising to see Royal's name come up as the newest Buccaneer.
"[Eddie Royal is] a guy that is accountable," said Royal when asked to describe himself. "He would come in and play early for you. He would give you everything that he has. I am a team player. I am going to do everything that a team needs me to do."
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