Penn State Senior
Physical runner that runs low with good pad level. Fights for extra yards and will run over the safety. Has nice vision and does a good job picking his way through traffic. Is patient, waits for his blocks and creases. Has nice burst when he can get north and south, but also shows some lateral quickness and ability to bounce plays outside. Effective receiver that usually comes down with the grab.
Lacks speed and burst. Can be slow to the hole at times, and is not a guy that is going to run away from most NFL defenders. Dances a bit too much when you consider his lack of burst, and can be too patient. Chops his feet when trying to change direction. Not a natural pass catcher, letting the ball get into his body. Gives very little in pass protection.
Royster is more of a three yards and a cloud of dust runner. He was a productive player at Penn State, their all-time leading rusher, but his production has steadily declined each year. A year or two ago, he looked like he could have been a potential first round pick, but now he is considered a late round prospect at best. His best season was as a sophomore, where he had 1236 yards (6.5 avg) and 12 touchdowns. That total dipped to 1169-5.7-6 as a junior and 1014-4.9-6 this past year. Caught 25 passes as a senior, with 61 for his career. I would like him more if he was a workhorse, but he averaged less than 16 carries per game his three years as the starter.
Royster is probably underrated. He's a good runner, just not very sexy because he lacks that explosive speed and burst. But he makes up for it with good power and vision. He's the type of guy that is a productive college player, gets overlooked at the next level because of his lack of explosiveness, and then a few years down the line gets an opportunity, exploits it, and comes out of nowhere to give a team 1000 yards. In that mold of players like Dominic Rhodes and Ryan Grant. A good comparison would be BenJarvus Green-Ellis, since like Green-Ellis he isn't super explosive, but is quicker than you expect because of good vision and also has the power to finish runs. He's not going to break many big gains, but he's a guy that if the holes are there, he can consistently get you 3-5 yards a career. The thing that is going to hurt Royster as he transitions to the next level is he's fairly mediocre on third downs. He did very little blocking at Penn State, and he's not a natural pass catcher. He usually makes the grab, but he doesn't have the skillset to be an asset there. So he may have trouble sticking early on in the pros, because he's not going to get much reps on third downs, and unless he goes to a team that is going to use him as a short-yardage rusher or he shows an aptitude for special teams coverage, there is nothing special about him. But eventually, I suspect he'll bounce around enough and find an opportunity. He'll fit best in a zone blocking scheme, but has the vision to also be productive behind a man blocking line. He's not a starter, but he can be a nice option for a pass-first team like the Patriots that is looking for a physical back that can finish the game in the fourth quarter. He's a guy that you give the ball 10-15 carries per game, and he splits time with a more explosive, Chris Johnson-esque back. Until he improves as a pass protector, he'll have minimal value. And that's why I think it's going to take him some time before he manages to stick in the pros because he needs to develop there. So if a team drafts him, they may come to discover that his second team gets better bang for their buck.
Royster could work in Atlanta because he has the physical power that a Mularkey offense likes, and he does have the vision to run behind the Falcons blocking scheme between the tackles like the team wants. HIs limited value in the passing game wouldn't be an issue if he was the starter, since he would be about as capable as Turner is eventually. But the problem is that his limited ability in pass protection will severely limit his reps early on. He's talented enough to make the Falcons roster purely as a rusher, but because the team would probably want a more versatile option at the No. 3 spot, he'd probably be a practice squad player early on. In time, he could get an opportunity to fill a depth role as the No. 2 if/when Turner gets the axe. But he's not going to contribute enough overall his first two or so years to really think he sticks right off the bat in Atlanta.
Based purely off his rushing ability, he is comparable to fourth round talent. But due to limited versatility and limited production in the passing game, it drops him to more of the sixth or seventh round territory.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Scouting reports of the running backs and fullbacks in the 2011 Draft.
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