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Like Royalty
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Royal with cheese? How about a Royal with touchdowns?

That's the kind the Chargers have been ordering up lately.

If you're looking for this year's breakout star, I have just the man for you. It's Eddie Royal, a sixth-year wideout who has been keeping scoreboard operators busy all season.

In a Week 1 battle with Houston, Royal greeted the visiting Texans by hauling in more touchdowns than he had all of last season. Then, because two visits to the end zone wouldn't suffice, Royal stormed the castle three times in a Week 2 win against Philadelphia.

As it stands now, the former Virginia Tech Hokie is halfway to double-digit touchdowns. No Charger has reached that number since 2010 (tight end Antonio Gates). For the last time a Chargers receiver made it to that benchmark, you'd have to go all the way back to 1996 (Tony Martin).

To put Royal's touchdown extravaganza into better perspective, consider this. He already has the same number of touchdowns that Calvin Johnson had all of last season.

So after Sunday's three-touchdown masterpiece against the Eagles, is it finally time to crown Royal (that's the last bad pun you'll see in this article, I swear) as the king of fantasy football?

Before we can answer that, it's important to look at Royal's career arc. Believe it or not, this isn't his first brush with fantasy relevance. Royal was a Rookie of the Year candidate for the Broncos in 2008 (91 catches, 980 yards, five TD).

But what followed was almost a half decade of mediocrity (1,361 yards total in his next four seasons). Royal's productivity plummeted and so did his reputation. In a span of four years, Royal went from "fantasy darling" to "late-round afterthought" to where he began this season, the scrap heap known as the fantasy waiver wire.

Some of Royal's stat lines during that stretch were so poor it's a mini- miracle he even has a job. One hundred fifty five yards in 2011? One touchdown on 23 catches last season? A long of just 20 yards in 2009? Even with Tim Tebow at quarterback for a few of those seasons, those stats are pretty alarming.

I love comeback stories as much as anyone, but is two weeks really enough time to build back all the trust Royal lost in his previous four seasons?

Also troubling is the fact that Royal only has 114 receiving yards through two contests. Yes, it's a monumental improvement over his shockingly unproductive 2012 season (234 yards in ten games) but it's well off the league-lead (53rd in the NFL).

Royal's low yardage total becomes a little easier to understand when you look at targets. Though Royal is currently tied for the team-lead in that category, his 14 targets rank just 50th out of all NFL players.

That's because quarterback Philip Rivers likes to spread it out. Gates, Royal, Malcom Floyd, Danny Woodhead and Vincent Brown have all been targeted at least 11 times this season.

The distribution numbers between Floyd and Royal are especially telling. Before Floyd took a bone-crushing hit at the start of the third quarter on Sunday, he was leading Royal in targets by a count of six to one. After Floyd left the field on a stretcher, Royal caught six passes for 79 yards to boost his yardage total to 90 for the afternoon.

So, even on a good day, Royal is only Rivers' second-favorite receiver to throw to. If Floyd's injury lingers, the change of command could shift. But until that happens, it's Floyd one, Royal two.

Doesn't exactly scream "fantasy superstar," does it?

And that's the problem with all you people. Everybody HAS to be a superstar in our warped world of preposterously high fantasy expectations.

Royal isn't that but he also doesn't need to be. Mostly, he's good at being in the right place at the right time. And in fantasy, that's a very valuable attribute.

Look at what James Jones did in 2012. He didn't even sniff 1,000 yards but because he was the recipient of 14 Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes, he finished as the 16th-highest scorer among fantasy wideouts last season.

Just like it does for Jones, the cherry picker role suits Royal. That's why I'm making him my top priority on the waiver wire this week.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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