In recent days a lot of talk has delved into trades and what players will stick around, but one trend that seems to be growing, for unknown reasons, is that Eddie Royal isn't a very good player. Now I've never been a big Royal fan, but having done some research on the topic, I disagreed with that opinion, so to look more deeply at this debate, I wanted to do some additional research.
Kaptain Kirk wrote an interesting article on Royal already about his worth in terms of contract negotiations, but I want to look at his contributions to the team, his development, and clear up some very common misconceptions. Let's get to work.
Royal's History as a Bronco:
Royal's time in Denver has been short, he was drafted in 2008 in the 2nd round and his rookie year he lite up the league on a team that passed a lot, I mean the 2008 Broncos had so many running back injuries we started using fullbacks. Royal, like the rest of the Broncos receivers, saw a huge amount of targets. This abnormality set a huge expectation on Royal for his 2nd season, which was slow because for most of 2009 Royal was starting at the #2 spot opposite Marshall or as the #3 outside receiver. Royal finished 3rd on the team in yards in 2009, but his special teams play easily compensated for it, ranking among the best returners in the NFL in 2009.
The change though from 2010 was large, and though many people purely look at yards and will see he didn't return to his 2008 form, but from almost every angle. The reason for this was McD decided to put Royal in the slot, and Royal shined. Royal saw his yards per reception rise to his 2008 form, his ball security was good and overall, he was better. Now many people won't believe me, but with just a tiny bit of research we will see that this is correct.
Let's Dive Deep:
First off, let's take a look at a few different statistics.
This is the total yards from the slot. Eddie Royal was the 9th ranked slot wide receiver just in terms of yards in 2010.
This is the total receptions from the slot. Eddie Royal was the 7th ranked slot wide receiver just in terms of receptions in 2010.
This is the total receptions from the slot. Eddie Royal is the 3rd ranked slot wide receiver just in terms of targets in 2010.
Slot Yards After the Catch:
This is the average yards after the catch from the slot. Eddie Royal is 3rd in the league for all slot wide receivers.
This is the reception percentage out of total targets. Eddie Royal was 2nd on the Broncos, and 16th in the league for all slot wide receivers.
This is the percentage of drops when the ball hits their hands or was catchable. Eddie Royal ranks 3rd in the league for all slot receivers, but is also 5th in the NFL for all receivers.
Royal is a top 10 slot wide receiver in every way imaginable. He is a top 5 slot wide receiver in some of the most important areas (YAC, YPR, yards) and mistakes don't happen around him, he had the fewest interceptions when the quarterback threw his way compared to the other Broncos wide receivers. Eddie Royal has all the tools, and the proven track record, to be a slot receiver. Now he's no Wes Welker, and won't lead our team in receptions or yards, but our offense isn't the same as New England. Put Royal into the perspective of his position, you see he isn't some underperforming guy, rather when used correctly, in the slot, he is among the best in the league.
Now will he have a great 2011, I don't know, will he ever make a Pro Bowl, not likely, slot guys usually don't, but I can say, just judging Royal on 2010, he is not a disappointment, he did not under perform, and he did not play poorly.
Royal's Worth and Should He Be Traded:
Now this all boils down to what Royal is worth to this team. If you look at the Broncos roster, Quan Crosby is the only slot receiver on our roster, and he's hardly proven and in his limited playing time, I'd say not ready or talented enough to start in the slot. Now in the Fox/McCoy offense, the slot receiver isn't incredible prominent, but it has an important role, one McD loved to use and that Steve Smith in Carolina loved to abuse. Eddie Royal fits this teams offensive game plan perfectly. He's role, and production would be similar to what it was in 2010.
Now with the recent trade of Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal's importance to this team goes up for a number of reasons. The first is just we need wide receivers. We've already seen this season what injuries can do to a wide receiver group. These next few weeks are going to see Decker getting most of the opposing teams attention since he will likely take the #1 spot due to DT's inexperience with the offense. Decker is having a good season, but isn't quite ready for taking on top tier corners. DT is coming off an injury and will garner some attention, but isn't nearly the threat Decker is at this point. That leaves Royal in the slot to be able to make plays. Decker and DT are mid to long range receivers, and that will mean defenses will rely on a cover 2 defense to try and cover them, leaving Royal likely on a linebacker or the nickle corner, which he has the speed to beat most of them. With the Broncos use of tight ends as well, it would be wise to try and create mismatches to exploit Royal's speed and maximize his yards after the catch.
Royal at this point is worth too much to this offense for him to be traded or cut. With only untested Quan Crosby and the under performing Matthew Willis remaining, I'd be scared, both short term and long term, for this offense if we traded Eddie Royal. So I don't see us trading Royal, and if we don't draft another wide receiver early next draft, I do see us resigning him.