Between now and the NFL Draft, we will run a series of articles analyzing each team’s needs using stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com
The Rams obviously have more than a few needs to address this offseason. I’m sure I and everyone else covering the NFL Draft will spend more than enough time analyzing their decision with the No. 1 overall selection, so for this feature I’d like to focus on their need for a No. 1 receiver.
In 2007 the Rams inexplicably made Donnie Avery the first wide receiver chosen in that year’s draft. It was a decision that ranks among the more underrated draft blunders of all time. Since it happened in the early 2nd round the baffling decision didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved. It wasn’t the greatest draft for receivers, but wouldn’t DeSean Jackson look good in a Rams uniform right about now?
Two years later the Rams are left with a depleted receiving corps and nothing resembling a No. 1 receiver. For all intents and purposes Avery was their go-to-guy, but at 5’11″, 186 pounds he just isn’t cut out for the role.
Among receivers that were targeted as least 90 times this season, only the Lions’ Calvin Johnson and the Raiders’ Louis Murphy caught a fewer percentage of balls thrown their way.
On the surface, the one thing that these three receivers have in common is poor quarterback play. Its fair to say that each of these players would have an increased catch percentage had they played in Indianapolis or New England. In Avery’s case, however, much of the blame has to fall on his shoulders.
Its tough to grade Avery in games quarterbacked by Kyle Boller or Keith Null, but Avery wasn’t any better with Marc Bulger throwing him the football. In games started by Bulger, Avery caught just 27 of 51 balls thrown his direction (52.9 pct).
To be fair, Avery should never have been put in this position. As I mentioned, this was a hole the Rams dug for themselves. Each of their top three receivers – Avery, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola – are 6’0″ or shorter. Rams quarterbacks need a big receiver that can go up and make plays. Smaller receivers rely on their speed and route running ability to get open and only the elite can be truly effective week-in and week-out with that skill set.
So how does this apply to the Rams draft?
In the second round there should be a number of receivers that would fit perfectly into the Rams offseason. In my current mock draft I have the Rams selecting Arrelious Benn. Benn is 6’2″ and has the speed to stretch the field. He was somewhat inconsistent at Illinois, but was often at the mercy of some truly terrible quarterback play by Juice Williams and others. Other options include Brandon LaFell, Demaryius Thomas and Damian Williams – all of whom are 6’1″ or taller and have the ability to make their presence felt immediately in St. Louis.