As predicted, Penn State’s small senior class yielded only two draft picks – Stefen Wisniewski (48th overall) and Evan Royster (177th overall). Despite their college productivity, neither player is expected to be an NFL star based merely on their draft position.
But sometimes numbers can lie – just ask the Raiders (JaMarcus Russell, 1st overall) and the Patriots (Tom Brady, 199th overall). While everyone seems to be handing out draft grades these days, what they're evaluating is a very unfinished product. Like our much beloved/maligned recruiting rankings, these grades are an imperfect projection based mostly on measurables and somewhat on lower level production.
Those rankings are all well and good. They give us something to discuss in the interminable off-season and allow us to look back and figure out just how wrong Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, ESPN, and CBS were. What really matters aren’t college statistics (Texas Tech QBs during the Mike Leach Era) or measurables (Mike Mamula and Matt Jones). Those are just small pieces of a giant puzzle:
Does the drafted player "fit" with his team?
Hands like velcro and no compunction about going over the middle made Wayne Chrebet into a beloved Jet receiver, hauling in 3rd down conversions from Vinny Testaverde’s errant lasers. Fitting into Houston’s zone blocking scheme made Arian Foster, an undrafted free agent, the 2010 NFL rushing champion. On the other hand, a leaky offensive line and a lack of sprinter speed turned surefire superstar David Carr into gun-shy third stringer. And multiple defensive coordinators made LaVar Arrington so uncomfortable that his Pro Bowl athleticism couldn’t ensure a long and decorated career in Washington.
Fit is about opportunity and skill set, which is why Wisniewski and Royster have strong odds in favor of success at their respective destinations.
For Wiz, it starts with the bloodlines. He’s been trained to be a football player since birth, and it shows. His technique is sound and his lower body strength is good. The knock on Wisniewski seems to be a lack of elite upper body strength, but you have to believe that can be cured by an NFL weight room.
Most importantly for Wiz, the Raiders scheme and depth chart are perfect for an immediate impact. Samson Satele, last year’s starting center, was beaten out in training camp by rookie LT Jared Veldheer. Satele won the job back after the first game and Veldheer ended the season as starting LT. Even so, the Raiders are very clearly not committed to Satele in the long term, and "will give [Wiz] preference . . . if he looks good in training camp."
Despite the offensive line commotion, the Raiders finished 2nd in the league in rush yards and 4th in attempts. In a run-first system with a stable of capable backs, a starting job there for the taking, and a relative on the coaching staff, Stefen Wisniewski is the right fit for the Oakland Raiders. Silver and Black Pride, SBNation's Raiders blog, concurs:
This is a very solid and safe pick. It fills one of the Raiders biggest needs, and this should pay dividends now and in the future. His versatility along the line will prove to be invaluable. And after more than a few draft picks where the Raiders selected players no one was talking about it is reassuring to draft guys we almost all thought made sense.
With the departure of oft-injured former star Clinton Portis, the Redskins depth chart is wide open for Royster, the hometown hero. He’ll have plenty of competition – last year’s Portis replacement, Ryan Torain, gained 742 yards and averaged 4.5 per carry. But the ‘Skins rushing offense was 30th in the league last year, which means Torain is going to have to earn his job against Royster and fellow rookie Roy Helu, the team’s 4th round selection.
So if the depth chart for #22 is a little murkier than Wiz’s in Oakland, what does Royster have going for him? Mike Shanahan, who compared Royster to Terrell Davis, used his innovative zone blocking schemes in Denver to make virtual unknowns into 1000-yard backs. Royster’s never been known for his breakaway speed, but his vision and smooth cuts make him the perfect style back for Shanahan’s system, assuming the coach is able to replicate it in Washington.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Royster plays a position that’s become a multi-player rotation in the modern game. His receiving skills make him a capable three down player, and sharing time with Torain and Helu isn’t out of the question so long as he performs well. Hogs Haven, SBNation's 'Skins blog, doesn't have much to say about their 6th round pick, but does confirm that the starting job is wide open...
Runningback: This should be a really fun position battle in training camp. The Redskins currently have eight RBs in their stable in Helu, Royster, Torain, Williams, Simpson, Davis, Brown, and McNeil. Right now it looks like a given that Helu, Torain, and Williams will make the squad. Shanny actually moved up in the draft to grab Helu, who is supposed to be one of the best one cut runners in the draft. It will also be interesting to see what hometown prospect Evan Royster can bring to the table.
...and projects Royster as the team's 3rd down back. Despite his 6th round selection, Royster finds himself in a terrific situation for any young running back. He'll have the opportunity to put it all together on a team that's rebuilding with youth, which is why he's a good fit with the Redskins.