On his hit single, Two Tickets to Paradise, Eddie Money sang, “Got a surprise especially for you; something that both of us have always wanted to do. We’ve waited so long, waited so long.” We have also waited so long for another Eddie. And now, Mr. Royal apparently wants to take us “on a trip so far from here.” But are those tickets in his pocket to Paradise, or to some place a bit more devilish?
In Royal’s rookie year with Jay Cutler throwing it to him, he posted a 91 reception, 980 yard, five touchdown stat line. He also posted his best ever mark of .59 net expected points (NEP) per target (a measure of how many real life points he added to his team’s score on a per target basis).
Things were looking up for the young receiver, but then the Broncos made what can only be described as a great decision and traded away Jay Cutler in favor of Kyle Orton. In 2009, Royal’s targets dropped from 126 to 79. Even worse, his catch rate fell off nearly 25 percent from 71.5 to 46.8 percent. He found himself fighting with Jabar Gaffney for targets and was never really able to regain a prominent role in the offense.
Royale with Cheese
So far this season, Royal has five touchdowns on 10 receptions among his 14 targets. His NEP/Target is 1.26 (third in the NFL) and his catch rate is a sparkling 71.4%. Nobody expects the touchdowns to continue, but with the Chargers thin at wide receiver and Philip Rivers looking like his old self, can Royal continue to at least catch balls at this rate? His post-rookie breakout history suggest not.
Ranks Among Receivers with at Least 40 Targets
|Year||NEP/Target||NEP/T Rank||Catch Rate||Catch Rate Rank|
It does bear mentioning that the low NEP/Target figures can be in part attributed to his usage. He is a slot guy in the mold of a Wes Welker or Brandon Stokley. And generally speaking, players who have low YPC numbers with low volume rank poorly in our NEP metrics. That said, no other slot receiver has been nearly as abysmal as Royal in these two measurements.
Which is it: Paradise, or that Other Warm Place?
Despite the opportunity for more pass plays provided by the Chargers leaky defense and Royal’s fantastic start, this is unlikely to end well. We have him as the number 53 ranked receiver this week and number 55 for the rest of the year. While I think that may be a bit low (especially in PPR), I still don’t see him as a starter in any 12 team league. The facts remain that Royal is not great at catching the ball, the Chargers offensive line is incredibly suspect, his quarterback has been awful for two straight seasons and the advanced metrics are screaming, “HALT!”
Feel free to stash him on your bench in case we are wrong (hey, it happens), but unless you are desperate or in a deep league, keep him away from your lineup. As Guns N’ Roses once sang about Paradise City, “I must be losin’ my mind; are you blind? I’ve seen it all a million times.”