Setting aside the labor troubles for a few moments, let's get back to the 2011 NFL Draft. Predicting draft picks is fraught with uncertainty (kind of a spring theme for the NFL, no?). One thing we do know: anyone with their heart set on the St. Louis Rams drafting Alabama WR Julio Jones in the first round better prepare for contingencies. That would apply for the Rams' office as well.
We've talked about some of the second tier options. Players like Jonathan Baldwin, Leonard Hankerson or Torrey Smith certainly offer some upside for the receiver-hungry Rams. But the second round is a veritable gold mine of talent this year, packed with difference makers at almost every position, from running back to offensive line to cornerbacks. If a team picking in the middle of the round hews to a best player strategy, receiver might not necessarily be the choice.
What about the later round? Is there a 2011 version of Mike Williams, a guy who maybe gets overlooked for various reasons but has the ability to make an impact?
Wes Bunting from the National Football Post has his list of five late-round options at WR. The list includes some familiar names. Ricardo Lockette is one player that we have talked about before on TST, and Bunting puts him on the list. Lockette is also a player that the Rams have shown interest in recently.
South Alabama's Courtney Smith also made Bunting's list. You might remember his name as it got batted around at the Senior Bowl. Smith impressed with his measurements and early work in practice. However, it didn't last.
Chris Matthews from Kentucky gets compared to Malcom Floyd by Bunting. Here's what Bunting said about Matthews:
A king sized wide out prospect at 6-5 who takes a couple steps to get up to full speed, but is tough to keep pace with down the field and displays a comfort level working the intermediate pass game.
Those guys are mostly seen as picks in the last three rounds or so of the draft. Moving up a few round, say round three through four, there are a few other names that pique my interest.
Tandon Doss, Indiana - He has solid hands, something that's hard for Rams fans to imagine after some of the painful drops last year. Doss also does YAC well given his big frame and physical style of play. Four pillars-wise, he'd be a lock.
Greg Little, North Carolina - Another one of the suspended players from UNC. Little cranked out 27 reps on the bench at the Combine. He's also a former running back and plays like it with the ball in his hands.
Niles Paul, Nebraska - A wide receiver from a run-first program, he might have some four pillars issues too. Still, he has talent, and if a team like the Rams believes that they can squeeze it out of him he might be a real steal in the third round.
Austin Pettis, Boise State - Pettis is a big man and plays like one. He had a solid outing at the Senior Bowl. Is he quick enough to make a difference with the ball in his hands? Probably a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
Edmund Gates, Abilene Christian - Has skills, but raw and attached to small school stigma.
Terrence Tolliver, LSU - Another big man who can play fast. Doesn't have much in the way of college production numbers. Tasted a police taser in bar brawl this time last year.
There's some potential there, none of it with the kind of guarantee, or as close as it gets to one, with a player like Jones. Can Josh McDaniels and an guided missile quarterback bring out the full potential of one of these guys? We may have to find out this year.
Below is some video of Doss from a game against Michigan. It's not the best, but it does show his hands working well.