I haven't posted in a while, but I'm in two minds about drafting Blackmon at 4 or 6 should we move back.
Please, do not assume that I am jumping on the "knock Blackmon bandwagon"; I was very high on Blackmon last year and wanted him over Julio Jones at 14 because of how well he fit into the West Coast Offense as a Boldin/TO style number 1 WR.
Now the stakes are higher. The pick is higher, the need is greater (and urgent because of Sam's beating last year) and the offensive system is vastly different.
Schottenheimer's offense is basically as stupid as McDaniels'. Do not be under any illusions that it will differ too much except that Fisher will make sure our 4th down attempts are kept to a minimum and our run attempts up the gut are maximised.
I am going to post a few videos of game tape of Blackmon and other WRs that we should consider in the Top 3 rounds of the 2012 draft, and then analyse it and try and come to a conclusion with regards to what our WR Big Board should look like (for the Rams remember - if we were a WCO team Blackmon's value would be quadruple what it is in Schottenheimer's system) as well as where we should consider drafting these players - potential upside and their usage will come into this equation too.
This is his tape vs Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, a big game in which if I remember correctly he was injured shortly before. He had 3 touchdown catches in this game.
Firstly, you have to love his physicality. He demonstrated good but not elite hands. His arms are ridiculously long and allow him to extend and snare the ball, although it's not always the most fluid of processes. His game is predicated on YAC and route running. His routes are very good (see 3rd TD catch) and he's tough enough to make the catches in the intermediate range. He will not blow the top off or consistently get over double coverage or cover 2 defences. His size does not allow him to dominate opponents in the air despite great leaping ability. He has impressive strength in fighting for balls in the air, however, he doesn't do it enough. He plays much bigger than he is, but that does not indicate immediate success in the NFL as those playing opposite will be bigger and stronger than the competition he dominated in college. His good character and high motivation have been mentioned numerous times, and it is especially impressive to hear parallels to Larry Fitzgerald in that regard (Mike Mayock) - His physical limitations will always mean that he cannot be as good as Larry Fitz though. I think Blackmon, due to a somewhat contradictory physicality (strong and long armed, tough, shifty, good routes vs not super fast, big or amazing in terms of catching) means he will have to be drafted into a West Coast Offense or as a Number 2 to a more established number 1 WR to excel in the NFL.
Talent wise he is a top 20 player, mentality wise he is a top 10 and for the Rams means he shouldn't be considered until the 12th or 13th selection in the draft.
He is reminiscent of Michael Crabtree but considerably slower and with less impressive hands, although with an infinitely better attitude.
This is his tape vs the Florida State Seminoles in a Bowl Game.
He is clearly more physically gifted than Blackmon, as he is taller, faster and stronger. The Florida State defence did a good job of double covering him all game and Floyd did suffer from poor throws into tough situations. This is something repeated throughout every scouting report I've read and yet he still put up some impressive numbers. His character concerns do not raise as big of a red flag as they do with some people, because they are things I'm pretty sure 80% of people or College players do, it's just he got caught. I do not think Floyd is anything particularly amazing however, on a purely talent level. He would not be a top 5 prospect even if he didn't have the character flags because his hands aren't amazing, his route running is entirely average to poor and his leaping ability is disappointing for a man of his size. He has more upside than Blackmon due to his measurables, but it is not game breaking. What is peculiar and worthy of note is that he shares a name with a very similar Wide Receiver in Michael Floyd of the San Diego Chargers. If ND Floyd wasn't faster and a bit shorter I'd say they are very similar in terms of talent level as well as name.
Talent Wise he belongs in the 15 to 25 range, attitude wise I would say he is a 25 to 32 guy and for the Rams he is a 22 - 30 range player. I would not draft him any higher because while schematically he is a fit, I do not believe he has the ability to be the sort of WR to take over games and consistently do damage regardless of coverage. Essentially, he is very talented but he is not elite and that married with his DUIs (no matter how insignificant in my eyes) does not make someone worthy of selection in the top 20.
Kendall Wright is intriguing because the dude can straight up fly. His 4.6 40 is worrying only because you'd think he'd train a bit more at getting a good start: he can undoubtedly run like the wind in shorts or pads. You cannot teach speed and it allows him to be a versatile player, especially in motion and in the screen game. I can imagine he'd be utilised in the NFL much like Percy Harvin, someone who could make the one or two plays a game that would completely shift momentum and that is a high priced commodity in the NFL. He has demonstrated the ability to make the odd circus catch downfield but his catching in traffic is not good enough in my opinion. He will be a great complementary and gadget player, but that is not what the Rams need. As a number 2 to someone he could make huge game breaking impact, much like Torrey Smith did last year, although he is not the guy we should look at in the first round.
Talent wise he is a top 20 player. He is brilliant with the ball in his hands, fights hard for additional yardage, demonstrates toughness and forces off coverage (although a good press corner in the NFL may neutralise him) allowing him to run the 9 or the short curl route effectively. Mentality wise I cannot comment but I'd downgrade him purely due to not performing at the combine, which is an indicator of poor preparation. A blazing 40 could have pushed him into the top 15. Therefore I grade him in this field as a 22-32 range player. The Rams however should only consider him in the 2nd round, he is simply not the big bodied, every down versatile WR that we absolutely need right now, but he has too much talent to let slip past us in the 2nd round.
Alshon Jeffrey to me is the most talented WR in this draft. Firstly, he has the hands that you look for in such a big bodied WR. He goes up and gets the ball and he will be a redzone threat in the NFL. He runs deep comebacks, outs and posts well, although his route running is nothing spectacular, especially against man, however he is tremendous at finding gaps in zones and comes back to the ball. His speed is a concern, but honestly, his size and physicality can do damage and his intelligence in beating zone coverage erase that. Jeffrey is the type of WR that we need, in terms of size and strength, redzone prowess (especially with fade balls, comebacks/curls and slants) and intelligence. There are however a couple of knocks on him. In the above video you'd see a WR going through the motions. He would sometimes lay himself out for the ball and amaze you, and other times he would give up on making a catch. This is because his QB was an absolute joke. The throws he had to deal with were an absolute mockery; late, slow, all over the place and dangerous. We all want to see a WR lay himself out all the time, but self preservation does come into play at some point and I find it hard to knock him for this. I am, however, concerned at his fluctuating weight, which is unacceptable regardless. He weighed in at the combine at a great weight and looked the part, but then did not run the 40. This is a red flag. I want my players to want to compete regardless and impose themselves over their peers.
I would compare Jeffrey to Brandon Marshall in terms of potential upside, as he can be used at various levels and every down in the NFL, but has character based red flags (although a very different type from Marshall - no one ever doubts Marshall's passion for the game).
Talentwise I rate Jeffrey in the top 20 - a lack of speed takes him out of the top 10. His mentality however pushes him into the 2nd round. There are a myriad of things that you can say negatively about him and regardless of reason, they can be said. You do not invest a first round pick in a player who is likely to get fat (Mike Williams) or not be professional in every facet of preparation, regardless of the situation. It seems that the motivation to be great is not there and that may stunt his development. Interviews and individual workouts could save him, and he has too much talent to drop to the 2nd round. For the Rams needs I would consider him in the top 10 if his individual interviews are strong enough (and they'd have to blow me away) - he is exactly the type of WR the Rams need to help Sam out and fits into the system we wish to run perfectly. Because I cannot speak to Alshon myself, I will assume that he did nothing spectacular in interviews and will run a 40 in between a 4.55 to 4.63, thus giving him a Rams specific grade of a 20 - 32 range selection.
Everyone loves a combine freak. A 6,4 WR that has a big frame and can run a 4.3 40 yard dash means that the upside is limitless. He really does remind me of Demaryious Thomas, coming from a ridiculous gimic offence that wastes the talent of a WR who has the natural ability to succeed in any system, in college or the NFL. He demonstrates inconsistent concentration and hands, and at the end of this video fakes an injury to lessen the heat of a stonewall drop. He does however make some great circus catches, when not running a 9 or deep post showed some nice zone recognition and shows good determination to fight for more yardage - although his strength needs to be improved - I doubt it impacts his long speed negatively. Hill is the typical boom or bust player and his upside warrants a top 5 selection. However, he hasn't enough tape to warrant such a gamble and as such should only be looked at in the last 5 picks of the first round or in the 2nd.
You do not ignore a physically gifted freak who impressed at the combine not only with his 4.3 forty, but his desire to impress - laying himself out on an overthrown ball in the drills for example. He is hard to pigeonhole, but for the Rams specifically I would have him as an automatic selection early in the 2nd round, and I would give him very strong consideration in the 22-32 range should players such as Jeffrey or DeCastro not be there. He would not be an immediate impact player, and would have to be used in a limited capacity at first until his route running and strength is built up.
We are now fully into the next tier of WR prospects. Sanu is a 2nd rounder, who has some upside as a number 2 WR in the NFL. He has to deal with a fuck awful QB as well, and impresses through his dedication and application regardless of score and how bad his QB is. Thats a huge upside, but he also does drop a few passes, is not the fastest and his route running is not as great as I've been hearing. He gets YAC but not on every reception like Blackmon and is often caught from behind, indicating a lack of long and short speed (Blackmon's acceleration is very very good). He should not be considered by the Rams at all, because he is very very similar to Austin Pettis. His versatility in returning punts is impressive, but he does not add anything to this Rams team beyond another body vying for number 2 or number 4 WR spots.
He is a clear cut 2nd round talent, I'd say mid to late 2nd. Mentality wise he is a late 1st because of his determination, but I wouldn't say it outweighs his talent bracket to the point any team should consider him in the 1st. For the Rams I would take him as a clear cut BPA in the 6th round because he'd be a ridiculous steal.
I really used to like the look of Dwight Jones as an NFL WR, he has the requisite size and strength, good speed and leaping ability to be the sort of WR that could cause problems at the next level. This particular piece of tape however really puts me off. The sheer number of drops indicates a lack of concentration and he seldom separates from his man. He only ran one good route in zone coverage and otherwise was sloppy out of breaks and the hands speak for themselves.
He is a 3rd round talent at most, purely because of size, although his lack of concentration does not impress at all and if anything pushes him into the 4th round.
For the Rams specific needs (that being a WR that can CATCH the ball) he does fit that mandate at all and I would only consider him in the 5th round or later.
Marvin Jones is a big bodied WR who ran a 4.4 40 at the combine. He had the biggest hands at the combine too and is a very solid run blocker down field. This may help him in Fishers' mind, as those 2nd level blocks are vital to assisting a big RB like SJax hit the home run. I think he has some potential, but he reminds me of a Brian Robiskie/Massaquoi type WR. I believe that his upside is a number 2 WR and he does not have game breaking talent, despite good size and speed. The tape above shows rather poor sideline awareness, constantly relying on the soft NCAA catching rules of only having one foot in bounds to complete a catch. I like to see guys do their best to get both in and playing the college game like its the NFL, small personal knock there. He also has surprisingly small calves, which makes him susceptible to lower body injuries.
I see Marvin Jones as an early to mid 3rd round talent, with little knowledge of his mentality to comment decisively. His willingness to block indicates a competitive nature and matches up with his talent placing. I'd consider him in the 6th or 7th round for the Rams as an absolute steal because he'd provide good value in the run game, and has the frame to be a good NFL WR, although more accomplished college WRs have done less than him and I would not place any strong degree of faith in him being a number 1 WR for any team, let alone the Rams.
There are a couple of other WRs that are of interest, such as Jeff Fuller, Chris Owusu, DeVier Posey, Tommy Streeter, Greg Childs and Juron Criner, however I am not getting paid to write this article, and they all are diamond in the rough type WRs that will need more work than we can afford right now.
People, please remember, this WR class is DEEP but the top end talent is no where near the level of last year with AJ Green and Julio Jones. AJ Green is and was the best prospect since Megatron. They do not come around every year. We'll have to deal with it.
I rate the WR prospects for the Rams as such:
1. Alshon Jeffrey
2. Justin Blackmon
3. Stephen Hill
4. Michael Floyd
5. Kendall Wright
6. Marvin Jones
7. Dwight Jones
8. Mohamed Sanu
Wait, does this mean you would take Jeffrey at 4 or 6 over Blackmon???
My Strategy is this:
I would rather take a more impressive talent at a spot such as 4 or 6 (someone like Kalil, Claiborne, DeCastro, or move back further) than to overdraft someone like Blackmon, who will have a tough time living up to his billing as a Top 5 or 6 selection. Moving back further will allow us to collect a host of useful players at positions such as OG, C, OLB, DT, CB and FS as well as WR. Alshon Jeffrey at the 22 spot should we trade with Cleveland would be perfect and passing on Blackmon at 4 and moving back further (around the 15 spot) means we could get De Castro, Jenkins or Kirkpatrick as well as more depth in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
So, how do you feel about my conclusions? Am I way off base? Do you disagree? Why do you disagree?
Thanks for reading!