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The Royal Treatment

After Eddie Royal lit up DeAngelo Hall in Week 1, he became a hot commodity in the fantasy community. However, most people assumed that once Brandon Marshall returned, the exciting rookie wideout would see a serious dip in his production.

Well, this past Sunday, Eddie caught five passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. He also chipped in with a game winning two-point conversion.

Unfortunately, these numbers aren’t exactly definitive. They’re small enough to satisfy those in the “

Royal will disappear once

Marshall comes back” camp, but big enough to keep hope alive for the owners who’ve been forced to slot Eddie into their starting lineups.

If you watched

Denver play on the weekend, you saw that Brandon Marshall is more dominant than ever. The man-beast accounted for a large chunk of the Broncos offensive production, hauling in a ridiculous 18 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. Yikes. If you’re a Royal owner, that’s the bad news. Here’s the good news:

Denver’s offense looks to be incredibly explosive this year. The identity of this team is no longer tied to the ground game. Mike Shanahan knows what he has in Jay Cutler – maybe the most physically talented quarterback in the NFL – and he clearly intends to exploit it. This means that by virtue of his situation alone (he’s a starting WR on a prolific passing offense), Eddie Royal has value.

True, the rookie won’t often be getting double-digit looks as he did in Week 1, but he doesn’t need that kind of attention in order to produce decent numbers. As long as Cutler throws the ball in his direction a handful of times each game, Eddie will remain fantasy-relevant.

Of course, this is only good news to those who have realistic expectations. Some people (including at least one columnist from a major website) were actually disappointed with Eddie’s performance on Sunday, noting that he disappeared for large portions of the game. That’s the wrong way to look at this. Eddie Royal is not Marques Colston; he’s a small receiver who plays in the shadow of a freak talent. He’s going to be invisible sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that he’s underachieving.

When I say that Eddie is fantasy-relevant, I mean that he’s a WR4 who may develop into a low-end WR3. If things go well for him this season, here is the kind of stat-line that you can expect: 55 receptions, 700 yards and maybe six or seven touchdowns. If you’re hoping for more, you might want to take a peek at the rookie WR numbers from the past decade. You’ll notice that the guys that made a

real fantasy impact did so because their teams had no other strong WR options available (except for Randy Moss who is so talented that he doesn’t count). In other words, the rookies that are forced to take on a prominent role in their respective offenses are the ones that put up good numbers. Makes sense, right?

Let me give you a list of the standout first-year WR’s that have come into the league since 1998, along with their receiving counterparts (for the sake of brevity, I’ve set the ‘standout’ bar at 65 receptions and 900 receiving yards):

  • 2007: Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City Chiefs) had 70 receptions, 995 yards and five touchdowns. The next-best wide receiver on this team was

    Jeff

    Webb.

  • 2006: Marques Colston (New Orleans Saints) had 70 receptions, 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns. Since Joe Horn missed almost half the 2006 season (and he never returned to his former self),

    Devery Henderson often filled the No. 2 WR position in this offense.

  • 2004: Michael Clayton (Tampa Bay Bucs) had 80 receptions, 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns. Since Joey Galloway missed almost half the 2004 season,

    Joe Jurevicius was often Clayton’s running mate.

  • 2003: Anquan Boldin (Arizona Cardinals) had 101 receptions, 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns. The next-best receiver on the team was

    Bryant Johnson.

  • 2003: Andre Johnson (Houston Texans) had 66 receptions, 976 yards and four touchdowns. The next-best wide receiver on this team was

    Jabar Gaffney.

  • 1999: Kevin Johnson (Cleveland Browns) had 66 receptions, 986 yards and eight touchdowns. The next-best wide receiver on the team was

    Darrin Chiaverini.

  • 1999: Randy Moss (Minnesota Vikings) had 69 receptions, 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was playing with Chris Carter.

Okay. We know that Eddie Royal plays on a team that already has an established, dominant wide receiver. I can tell you that in the past decade, there have been only two first-year players in this predicament that have managed to transcend the low-end WR3 fantasy tag.

One was Larry Fitzgerald. In his rookie year, while playing alongside Anquan Boldin, Fitz caught 58 balls for 780 yards and eight touchdowns. The other was Lee Evans, who had 48 receptions, 843 yards and nine touchdowns. He was playing with Eric Moulds.

Unfortunately, Eddie lacks the vertical speed that makes Lee Evans so dangerous, and he doesn’t have the physical presence of Larry Fitzgerald. If you’re looking for a precedent that lends itself to Royal’s situation, you should turn to Torry Holt. Torry, like Eddie, is quick, diminutive and smart. Holt was the number three option (behind Isaac Bruce and Marshal Faulk) in that vaunted St. Louis passing game; Eddie will likely be the number three option in Denver’s high-octane offense, behind Marshall and Scheffler.

In Holt’s rookie season, he had 52 receptions, 788 yards and six touchdowns. Realistically, if Eddie can put up numbers similar to these, he’ll have done well for himself.

You certainly shouldn’t expect anything more from him. Not as long as Brandon Marshall is on the field.

If you’re a Royal owner, and you know that some of the guys in your league still think that this kid has serious upside, you should take advantage of that. This perception will evaporate before long.

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