I know this is a position I don't often take but, I am pretty happy with the Rams draft this year. Wide Receiver was our biggest team need and we went after the best scraps we could find in the third and fourth rounds. Pettis and Salas are smart guys that get in and out of routes quickly while still having the hands to grab the ball when thrown in their direction. I know, I know they don't have the speed to be a deep threat. Well, Anquan Boldin posted a 4.7, Fitzgerald ran a 4.6 and Rice, Burress, V Jackson and Colston were 4.5 guys at the combine (I meant Sydney but Jerry Rice was much worse, he ran a 4.7). To get to the point, a 4.3 vs. a 4.5 is the difference between duck and cover and standing upright during a nuclear event. Rather, it's how fast you get in and out of your breaks and if you can hang on to the ball in traffic that really matters. If you can get the d-back to stop his feet you will have a 2-3 yard lead on him, straight line speed doesn't mean anything. Once a 2-3 yard cushion is obtained it's all about catching the ball and the burst. That is what these guys have. Boldin, Fitzgerald, Rice and Rice have routinely made 4.2 & 4.3/ 40 d-backs look like bumbling fools as they spike the ball in the end zone 50 yards later. Besides, if speedy receivers were "the bee's knees" Al Davis would be winning every year, I guess "The Crypt Keeper" learned nothing from Fred Biletnikoff. Besides if you have been a Rams fan for longer than a year or two you know how much track speed means (see: Kennison and Ron Brown), nothing.
So now that we have pretty much destroyed the speed thing, lets move on to our current situation. We have multiple receivers who are borderline starters and we have to move into the realm of NFL caliber guys. Like I have said multiple times in the past, there is a reason why Clayton, a castaway from a good team was our best guy after a half week of practice. We were just that bad at the position. So let's check out our current group of receivers.
Denario Alexander- Pro's: Speedy (4.5), extremely tall, great range, physical, is a decent route runner and has shown to be something special when given the chance. Downside: Knees, knees knees and he that he plays a physical style with those knees.
Donnie Avery- Pro's: Speed (4.2) and average hands. Downside: Knee, Speed seemed to be his only asset, small by today's standards, has only averaged 40 yards/game career.
Mark Clayton- Pro's: Crafty veteran who knows what a square in is supposed to look like, may have chemistry with and the confidence of Sam Bradford, can also bring a "coach on the field" mentality to the Rams. Downside: Knee, not signed, has had four good games in a 5 year career, was given up on by the smartest GM and staff in pro football and is getting up there in age.
Brandon Gibson- Pro's: Did show some improvement in the 2010 season, works hard. Downside: Has not shown much of an "up side", hands are suspect and does dumb things at crucial times.
Danny Amendola- Pro's: Hard worker, team first guy, good route runner, tough! Downside: Not much upside or speed, only averaged 8.1 yards per catch.
Lauren Robinson- Pro's: nothing to speak of. Downside: Frequent injuries, terrible route runner, suspect hands and questionable dedication.
Mardy Gilyard- Pro's: Has the quickness and hands to be a productive receiver. Downside: May not be intelligent enough to learn the playbook, ran "soft" routes in college and may be a locker room distraction.
Pettis- Pro's: Can catch the ball in traffic, decent frame and height, quick in an out of routes, smart and has a good attitude. Downside: Comes from a smaller school, hasn't stepped onto an NFL field yet.
Salas- Pros: Great hands, good route runner, good size, shields defenders from the ball, over 3,000 yards in his last two years of college football. Downside: Smaller school and hasn't stepped onto an NFL field yet.
Now keeping these things in mind, who would you keep and who would you discard? Now obviously there will be some competition in camp and in the pre-season (if we have either of them) but you have to figure Pettis & Salas have immunity, Denario if he comes into camp healthy and maintains his health throughout should have a spot, Clayton if we decide to re-sign him will have a spot, so that makes 4. If we decide to keep 6 receivers, there are only 2 spots available. Gibson, Amendola, Avery and Gilyard will be fighting for their jobs IMO and deservedly so.
I did like our draft and believe we filled some crucial spots. It is really hard for me to believe that we needed a TE so badly that we reached for one over say, Leshour, M. Austin or Moch but who knows what they were thinking. McDaniels didn't even use his TE's last year at all and everyone keeps comparing our TE situation to New England's? Hey people, McDaniels was Denver's coach last year not New England. He had nothing to do with their two TE sets. With a team that has as many holes as ours, we would have been fine with Hoomanawanui, Bajema and company. What's done is done and you have to think that Spags and Devaney are also fighting for their careers this season so; I am guessing they will finally be hitting the free agent market with some urgency.
I don't know about you but, I am pretty excited about the possibilities of scoring 28 pts a game as opposed to eeking out 17. Throwing the ball wins games and it is undeniable that we have upgraded our passing game. This alone gives me a guarded optimism for the upcoming season.