2011 NFL Draft: 30 Best Picks

Matt CContributor IIIMay 4, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: 30 Best Picks

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at the podium during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Every draft class is filled with booms, busts and players that performed just as they were expected to.

    Here are my top 30 picks from the 2011 NFL draft, factoring in the player's talent and the pick's value. 

    The picks aren't listed in any particular order.

    At the end of the day, once you get to the next level, it doesn't matter where you were drafted if you're willing to work hard.

CB Patrick Peterson, Cardinals (5th Overall)

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    TEMPE, AZ - APRIL 29:  First round draft pick Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals poses with a team jersey during a press conference to introduce him at the team's training center auditorium on April 29, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    There's a reason Detroit offered their 1st, 2nd, and 4th round picks to move up and get this playmaker out of LSU. 

    Arizona grabbed the best player in the entire class with the 5th pick...sounds like a great pick to me.

DT Jurrell Casey, Titans (77th Overall)

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    SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 26: Dave Shinskie #15 of the Boston College Eagles is sacked by Jurrell Casey #91 of the USC Trojans during the 2009 Emerald Bowl at AT&T Park on December 26, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt stole a stud in the 3rd round last Friday.  Heading into the draft, I graded Casey to be a mid-1st Round talent.  Despite his size limitations, I feel that he would've gone much higher had he not declared early in a year filled with defensive line talent. 

    Three years from now when they do the "draft re-do," look for Casey to be one of the top ten guys in the class.

OT James Carpenter, Seahawks (25th Overall)

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 16:  Marcell Dareus #57 and James Carpenter #77 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Ole Miss Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    I love the guts Seahawks GM John Schneider showed in taking Carpenter at the bottom of the first round. 

    While many draft prognosticators had him as a 2nd-3rd round pick, I've been calling him a 1st-round talent since September.  While he doesn't have the upside of a Tyron Smith, he is NFL-ready and can start effectively Week One.

    As important as value is, that was as close to value as I would've been comfortable with if I were in Schneider's shoes.  What if he traded down and another team was thinking the same way he and I were?  He would've missed out on a player he's really excited about.  That doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

    I had him as the top tackle of the class.  Don't be surprised to see Carpenter at LT and Okung at right down the line, a la the Rams and Jason Smith.  Just saying.

OLB Justin Houston, Chiefs (70th Overall)

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 21:  Justin Houston #42 of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    What a steal for the Chiefs!

    Houston has a great burst off the snap and has the strength to run through an offensive tackle.  Some like to be negative and say the consistent effort isn't there, but I'm not buying it.  I feel he can be a double-digit sack guy.  He's still raw in coverage, but he'll be rushing 90% of the time anyways.  He should be starting opposite Tamba Hali Week One.

CB Brandon Harris, Texans (60th Overall)

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    DURHAM, NC - OCTOBER 18:  Eron Riley #15 of the Duke Blue Devils grips the ball as he is tackled by Brandon Harris #1 of the Miami Hurricanes at Wallace Wade Stadium on October 18, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    While Harris graded out for me as a high-two, few thought he would actually be there with this pick.  I believe Harris will have a better career than last year's 1st round pick, Kareem Jackson.  For the Texans paltry secondary, Harris was a gift in the 2nd.

RB Allen Bradford, Bucs (187th Overall)

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Portrait of Allen Bradford #21 of the USC Trojans during warm up before the game against the California Golden Bears at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 16, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty
    Harry How/Getty Images

    LeGarrette Blount, Part Two?

    Due to injury and circumstance, Bradford never really got his chance at Southern Cal.  When he was given limited opportunities, he was a productive back.  He has a good combination of burst and power and I feel he can be a starting back in the NFL, provided he can stay healthy.  He'd probably be best suited splitting carries with a shifty change-of-pace back.

    I don't factor stats in as a very important part of the evaluation, but on 110 carries he averaged 7.2 YPC. That's sick.

DT/DE Cameron Jordan, Saints (24th Overall)

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  Cameron Jordan, #24 overall pick by the New Orleans Saints, holds up a jersey on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    I can't believe Cam fell to 24th. 

    It was a need/value match made in heaven.  He's a great addition to that defensive front.  The Saints like employing heavier defensive ends in their 4-3 scheme and he'll fill the void left by Charles Grant this year.  He can also kick inside on passing downs and play defensive tackle.

RB Mark Ingram, Saints (28th Overall)

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) poses for a photo with Mark Ingram, #28 overall pick by the New Orleans Saints, holds up a jersey on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The Saints nabbed their second of my top six players in Mark Ingram.

    While there isn't much value in taking a RB in the 1st round anymore, taking a top talent like Ingram will pay dividends for the club.  In the 1st round, GM Micky Loomis and Sean Payton grabbed two of the most NFL-ready guys in the class.

DT Nick Fairley, Lions (13th Overall)

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Nick Fairley, #13 overall pick by the Detriot Lions, during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Imag
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    What a pick by Lions GM Marty Mayhew, getting my #2 overall player at 13th overall.

    While I personally view concerns about his work ethic and passion unfounded, a draft-day plummet like Nick's could be just what he needed if that was the case.  Much like another "character-concern" defensive tackle that fell in 1995, the already-physical Fairley will be taking this slight out on the league for years.  Unlike Warren Sapp, Fairley will be playing next to the already dominant Ndamukong Suh.  Watch out!

RB Mikel Leshoure, Lions (57th Overall)

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    CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 20: Mikel Leshoure #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs on his way to a 339 yard rushing performance against the Northwestern Wildcats during a game played at Wrigley Field on November 20, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Illinois defeated
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Great value for the Lions again, getting a 1st Round-caliber back at 57.

    With Kevin Smith no longer in the fold, the team needed to add a bigger back to share carries with the explosive, yet injury-prone Jahvid Best.  The Lions have the potential to have one of the best backfields in the NFL.  If only they had some offensive lineman...

CB/FS Ras-I Dowling, Patriots (33rd Overall)

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 09:  Ras-I Dowling #19 of the Virginia Cavaliers against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Being a Bills fan, I hate the fact that Belichick landed a talent like Dowling.

    He does have some injury concerns, but he is so physical and brings a gladiator mentality to the gridiron.  He should start at corner, though I feel he has an even higher ceiling at safety.  His ball skills and work ethic should make him a playmaker in the defensive backfield for New England.

DE Da'Quan Bowers, Bucs (51st Overall)

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28:  Defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson sits on the bench during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    I question Bowers' passion for the game, which is why I dropped him to being a 2nd round guy.

    I still can't believe that someone really didn't take a chance on him until the Bucs with this pick though.  I'm not convinced they'll get the most out of his ability, but talent alone should make him a solid starter at the next level.  If he takes his work ethic to another level, the Bucs could end up with one of the best in the league.

DT Drake Nevis, Colts (87th Overall)

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 28:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansa Razorbacks is sacked by Drake Nevis #92 of the Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty I
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    A value pick by the Polians.

    He's undersized and needs to prove he can be the same player he was in his final season at LSU, but Nevis is a good fit for the Colts' Cover Two system.  He's a penetrator and should be productive lining up next to emerging DT Fili Moala.

OT/OG Orlando Franklin, Broncos (46th Overall)

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    MIAMI - OCTOBER 25:  Offensive lineman Orlando Franklin #74 of the Miami Hurricanes drops back to block while taking on the Wake Forest Demon Decons at Dolphin Stadium on October 25, 2008 in Miami, Florida. Miami defeated Wake Forest 16-10.  (Photo by Dou
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Franklin was a good pick by Denver.  The value was right on and he can add a physical presence on the offensive front, opening up some more running lanes for Knowshon Moreno.  I feel he's a better fit inside, but we'll see if the Broncos want to move him to right tackle.

OLB Mason Foster, Bucs (84th Overall)

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 11:  Linebacker Mason Foster #40 of the Washington Huskies follows the play during the game against the Syracuse Orange on September 11, 2010 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Tampa Bay has another high impact rookie class on the way.

    Mason Foster lacks great timed speed, but he flows to the football.  He should become a starter on this team pretty early in his career.

TE Luke Stocker, Bucs (104th Overall)

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    LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 28:  Luke Stocker #88 of the Tennessee Volunteers catches a touchdown pass during the SEC game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Another great value pick by the Bucs. 

    Stocker can get after it in the running game and also provide sticky hands over the middle of the field.  He's deceptive as a receiving threat.  At this point, he's the best in-line blocker the team has at the tight end position and offers the team the ability to create more formations.

DE/OLB Sam Acho, Cardinals (103rd Overall)

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    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 04:  Quarterback Taylor McHargue #16 of the Rice Owls loses the ball after he is sacked by defensive end Sam Acho #81 of the Texas Longhorns at Reliant Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Houston, Texas. Texas recovered the fumble and scor
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    I was a little iffy about including this pick, but I decided to go for it anyways. 

    I feel that Acho was a steal, but I'm not convinced he's a great fit for the 3-4.  The Cardinals run a bit of a hybrid scheme, though, and Acho can be productive.  He's big, fast, and has the work ethic to get the most out of his ability.

ILB Casey Matthews, Eagles (116th Overall)

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    CORVALLIS, OR - DECEMBER 4: Quarterback Ryan Katz #12 of the Oregon State Beavers lays on the turf after being hit by Casey Matthews #55 of the Oregon Ducks in the first quarter of the game at Reser Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Corvallis, Oregon. The Du
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    The Eagles love to blitz and Casey will be more than accommodating. 

    He is a howitzer up the middle and has instincts that you just can't teach.  I would've liked him to go to a 3-4 team where he could hide his speed a bit, but he should become a starter.

S Quinton Carter, Broncos (108th Overall)

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    MIAMI - JANUARY 08:  Quinton Carter #20 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks on during warm ups against the Florida Gators during the FedEx BCS National Championship game at Dolphin Stadium on January 8, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Even though the Broncos took Rahim Moore much earlier, don't be surprised if Carter ends up having a better career when it's all said and done. 

    Carter can lay people out and has the ball skills, nabbing four INTs in each of the past two seasons.

    While both Moore and Carter have the work ethic, they are polar opposites off the field.  While Moore is a bit of a self-promoter, Carter works tirelessly for others.  Eventually, they both should be starting in the defensive backfield.

WR Austin Pettis, Rams (78th Overall)

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Wide Receiver Austin Pettis #87 of Boise State Broncos makes a diving catch against Cornerback Rafael Priest #10 of the TCU Horned Frogs during Frogs' 17-16 during Frogs' 17-16 win over the Broncos in the San Diego County Cre
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Pettis should become one of Sam Bradford's favorite targets.  While he lacks the speed to be a true #1, he should be a very productive #2 WR at the next level. 

    I feel his story is somewhat similar to Anquan Boldin's: productive in college, glue hands, but didn't run a great 40.

ILB Martez Wilson, Saints (72nd Overall)

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 03:  Linebacker Martez Wilson #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini on the bench against the Minnesota Golden at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 3, 2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Illinois defeated Minnesota 44-17.  (P
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The problem with Martez is that he has a "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" quality.  He's not an overly aggressive player and his impact on games does not even come close to matching his athleticism. For that reason, I had him graded as a late-2nd.

    To get him where the Saints did is a steal, though.  He can spend time learning behind one of the NFL's most instinctual middle linebackers in Jonathan Vilma and he should start at the next level.

DE Pernell McPhee, Ravens (165th Overall)

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 13: Defensive lineman Pernell McPhee #90 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs sacks quarterback Greg McElroy #12 of the Alabama Crimson Tide November 13, 2010 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Al Messerschmi
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    McPhee had a bit of a down-year statistically, but I believe he'll be a starting 5-technique in the National Football League. 

    He has college experience playing in the 3-4 and has the strength/toughness to carry over to the next level.  Once he learns to stay more gap-responsible and try not to do everything himself, he could be a very effective player.

DE Greg Romeus, Saints (226th Overall)

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 02:  Adam Froman #9 of the Louisville Cardinals is sacked by Greg Romeus #91  of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the Big East Conference game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 2, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by An
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    It's all about the injuries for Greg.  If he can stay healthy, I think he'll be a starter for the Saints.  He's a complete defensive end that's adept at playing the run and rushing the passer. 

    Why all the love for the Saints? They had a really good draft.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons (145th Overall)

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    CORVALLIS, OR - DECEMBER 04:  Jacquizz Rodgers #1 of the Oregon State Beavers runs the ball against Michael Clay #46 of the Oregon Ducks during the 114th Civil War on December 4, 2010 at the Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/G
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    I admit that I initially cooled on him a lot after his plodding 40.  However, after going back to the tape after the combine, I remembered why I thought he was a 3rd round talent initially.

    Jacquizz has so much short-area quickness and agility he's tough to bring down one-on-one.  He has soft hands out of the backfield and has surprising leg drive for such a small guy.

    He's been productive his entire life and that trend should continue while he splits carries with Michael Turner.  He's an ideal 3rd-down back and can take some of the brutal workload off Turner's shoulders.

WR Dwayne Harris, Cowboys (176th Overall)

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    BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Wide receiver Dwayne Harris #17 of the East Carolina Pirates leaps to catch a pass for a touchdown over cornerback Rashad Carmichael #21 of the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Blacksburg, Virgi
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    If that picture doesn't sum up why I liked Harris in the 3rd round, I don't know what does. 

    He's not very fast or overly elusive, but he's physical and has strong hands.  He can contribute returning kicks and has the concentration to make acrobatic receptions.

    At this point he's a contributor, with the potential to start down the road for the 'Boys.

K Alex Henery, Eagles (120th Overall)

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    LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 13: Alex Henery #90 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers kicks an extra point against the Kansas Jayhawks during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Kansas 20-3. (Photo by Eric Francis/
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    I think as much as you can get excited about a kicker in the draft, I was excited about Henery.

    His special teams coach says "the moment never gets too big for him."  He backed that up in '08 by booting a 57-yarder with under two minutes to play against Colorado.

    He's a money kicker with a strong leg.  Training camp shocker? He'll beat out the aging David Akers.

NT Jerrell Powe, Chiefs (199th Overall)

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 16:  Jerrell Powe #57 of the Ole Miss Rebels against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    There's a reason his helmet is so scuffed up.

    Powe is physical and disruptive when fresh.  He's such a competitive guy and he hates to lose.  Jerrell is pretty tough to stop with one guy.  Unfortunately, he's a bit old for a rookie.  He'll be 24 when he first suits up.  He also has some learning disability issues, which is a concern when trying to pick up an NFL playbook.

    I graded him out to be a NT that can contribute in a rotation with upside.  My theory is, it doesn't have to be rocket science for a nose tackle.  You can have a complex scheme with zone drops or stunts or you could say: Jerrell, go eat up a double-team on this play.

S Tyler Sash, Giants (198th Overall)

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    IOWA CITY, IA - OCTOBER 30- Cornerback Tyler Sash of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates after intercepting a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Kinnick Stadium on October 30, 2010 in
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    This is a good fit for Sash.  He lacks the great speed you'd want in a safety, but he's an instinctive guy that always seems to be around the football.

    In Perry Fewell's Cover Two scheme, the free can act like a center fielder out there.  Look for Sash to make some plays for the Giants.  I think he can potentially even start down the road for them, but should become good depth at the very least. 

DE/OLB Ricky Elmore, Packers (197th Overall)

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    I think that Elmore will prove to be the most talented defensive lineman on that Arizona Wildcat team.

    He's been productive in college, but he'll have to develop more pass rushing moves.  At this point, his go-to maneuver is dipping his shoulder around the tackle.  He's a tough guy that will put a lick on the QB if he can.

    He is probably a better fit at 4-3 end, but I think he can be a contributor with upside to start in the 3-4 as well.

OT/OG Chris Hairston, Bills (122nd Overall)

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Chris Hairston #61 of the Clemson Tigers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Bills took the top lineman available in the 4th round and he can be a good one.

    Hairston doesn't have the quickest feet and needs to learn how to play with the same tenacity every snap, but he is a very intelligent football player.  He doesn't have many mental busts and can really maul when he's on his game.  He also is a competitive guy that hates to lose.

    I think he'll maximize his potential at guard, but the Bills will probably try him out at right tackle to start his career.  He has the upside to potentially start for a team that needs a road-grader to start opening lanes for his former Clemson teammate, C.J. Spiller.

RB Evan Royster, Redskins (177th Overall)

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Running back Evan Royster #22 of the Penn State Nittany Lions rushes upfield against the Florida Gators January 1, 2010 in the 25th Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    When I first watched Royster play, I honestly thought to myself: "This is a Shanahan guy." 

    I had him as a 4th Round player that would be able to provide solid depth for any team, but he has the potential to start down the road for the 'Skins. 

    His North-South running style is a perfect fit in that scheme and he could be a productive player for Washington.

    This is a really good fit for everyone involved and I'm excited to see how the Penn State product does in that offense.