NFL Draft 2011: Evan Royster of Penn State May Be on Outside Looking in
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Penn State running back Evan Royster lacks the star power that some of the other high-profile running backs in this year's class of running backs possess.
Playing in the shadows of guys like Mark Ingram (Alabama), Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Noel Devine (West Virginia) and many more, Royster is easy to overlook when evaluating running backs.
This is why Royster will likely be either a late-round draft pick or signed by some franchise as an undrafted free agent.
Royster fails to crack the top 20 in a number of running back lists published by multiple scouting sites and services taking a look at the prospective draft picks, which means it could be tough for Royster to be selected in the NFL draft.
Evan Royster Profile
Position: Running back
Weight: 228 lbs.
What round will Royster be drafted in, if at all?
Rushing Yards: 3,932 yards
Receiving Yards: 562 yards (three TDs)
Rushing Touchdowns: 29 touchdowns
Royster has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons, although his rushing production was trending downward in each of the three years. Royster played behind a questionable offensive line in each of the past two seasons, though, so if he were behind a dependable line, perhaps things would have been different.
The biggest flaw in Royster's game may be his lack of speed. He is not the most elusive running back, and he lacks a burst of speed to get away from defenders. Royster is not a back you would expect to shed many tackles either. Getting through the line is a concern for scouts looking at Royster, and if he struggled to get through the line in college, getting through a pro line may be more difficult.
What scouts may like in Royster's game, though, is his pass-blocking ability. His ability to read defenses has been an advantage at Penn State and an attribute that could help him find a spot on a roster during the training camp season, if and when it comes.
Former Nittany Lion Tony Hunt struggled in this aspect of the game with the Philadelphia Eagles, so if Royster can excel in pass blocking, then his chances of sticking with a team somewhere would increase.
His size has been a concern to many scouts, and his physical stature lacks what scouts are looking for in pro running backs. During weigh-ins and measurements for the East-West Shrine Game in January, reports on Royster were far from glamorous, so between that all-star game and the combine, it is expected that Royster has worked on that part of his game or profile.
One asset that nobody is overlooking, it seems, is Royster's work ethic. Some may have questioned it a bit leading up to the 2010 season, but scouts seem to comment often enough on his work ethic to seem like it is a positive for the running back.
He was recruited by Penn State as a good football player and worked hard to get a starting job on offense and eventually became the school's all-time leading rusher, which is no small feat regardless of the era.
When Will He Be Drafted?
This is tough to accurately forecast, as there are at least 20 running backs that are ranked higher in a number of position rankings heading into the NFL draft. With seven rounds, though, the chances are pretty good that some team will take a flyer on Royster late on day two or on day three.
His overall athleticism is seen by many as worth a risk to use Royster as a project, because he will need to work on speed and instinct at the pro level. His flexibility as a blocker, though, is one of the more under-appreciated aspects of running backs, and Royster can prosper in that area.
Don't expect Royster to be a franchise-type running back, but look for him to play a backup role for a long time.
Penn State NFL Draft History: Running Backs
Unfortunately for Royster, the history of Penn State running backs in the NFL is not glorious. In fact, it can be downright agonizing. Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell aside, images of Ki-Jana Carter blowing out a knee in preseason and Curtis Ennis and Tony Hunt fizzling out are almost too tough to handle for most Penn State fans.
The most successful Penn State running back in recent history is Larry Johnson.
Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Examiner.com. Follow his college football discussion on Twitter @CFBExaminer.
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