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2011 NFL Draft: Could Evan Royster Be a Late Round Steal?

The Green Bay Packers running back situation has become temporarily comfortable this offseason. The emergence of James Starks in the playoffs has seemingly put Ted Thompson's mind at ease since winning the Super Bowl, although drafting a running back this Thursday isn't totally off the cards.

After looking through the many top prospects, it doesn't appear Green Bay will pick a running back in the early rounds. That being said, there is no reason to believe a suitable backup can't be handpicked on days two or three.

Sifting through the many prospects is no easy job right now. There's a boatload of runners who could easily become free agents if not selected this weekend, and with many running backs from top schools occupying low rankings, it's simply a matter of picking the cream of the crop from Green Bay's view point.

However, one prospect stands out: Penn State's Evan Royster.

You'll probably never find another of Penn State's all time leading rushers fall as low as Royster is expected. This time last year he looked likely to excel under a growing Joe Paterno system, yet somehow Royster failed to make much of an impact, even though a select group of optimistic fans considered him a Heisman underdog.

Still, consider this before you write him off:


What Royster does well is as plain as day. He lacks size at the best of times, but he does have a mobile set of feet beneath him, perhaps the one missing ingredient on the Packers roster with Ryan Grant purely a power back.

Royster's awareness and vision is also a plus. The Packers placed only 88 first downs on the board in the run game last season, mainly due to the failed Brandon Jackson experiment which led to the emergence of Starks.

Therefore, Royster brings some much needed burst to the Packers midfield game -- an area which has gone unnoticed for quite some time.

Clearly, elbow grease is needed to bring Royster up to scratch. He will need to work hard, but the Packers could land a solid backup in the fifth or sixth round for basically nothing. Let's not forget Royster played under a Penn State system which was ruled by "dime a dozen" quarterbacks. Placing him behind Rodgers, could be for the best.


Firstly, Royster doesn't have a great deal of strength. He won't power on once contact is made and is often tackled far too easily if the offensive line fails to make a push. Royster also injured his hamstring at the NFL Combine, leaving a slice of doubt lingering toward his fitness.

Secondly, speed is a huge issue. It is puzzling to think Royster is now Penn State's all time leading rusher, but he hasn't been known to take one to the house in stylish fashion.

And thirdly, Royster lacks the biggest asset of any modern day running back: hands. Much of this is due to Royster's questionable open field play, and with no "fifth gear", he is often caught short when trying to juke around tackles.

Why Should the Packers Consider Royster?

He won't be the knockout punch the Packers have been wishing for in the run game. Nor will Royster waltz into Green Bay (if selected), and silence the naysayers.

However, Royster has plenty of room for improvement. The Packers running game isn't desperate, and after running a 4.54 during Pro Day , Royster's still the running back we thought he was prior to a lazy 2010 season.

Thin ice lays beneath Brandon Jackson and Dmitri Nance. Rolling the dice on Royster in the later rounds could make sense.

So are we really going to doubt a Joe Paterno product?

This time last year, James Starks was in the exact same position.

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