Amendola, Gibson, and Smith are likely not coming back. Realistically, we only want 2 of those 3 anyways. Sorry, Steve Smith, you really weren't worth our time. This news leaves us with the options of
- Chris Givens, our little speedster 4th rounder from last year,
- Brian Quick, our developmental future gem of the second round
- Austin Pettis, the giant who just started catching touchdowns last year
- 2 practice squad members, Nick Johnson and Raymond Radway
Not only are we missing playmakers on offense... we are missing players! And I will give you three reasons why the panic button should be hit:
1. Fisher's WR Draft History:
We have talked about his draft history in terms of "will he" and "won't he" for offensive linemen. Rightly so, considering the incredible need we have there, as well. But let's take a look at the names he brought to the Titans and Rams in 16 years of draft experience at the wide receiver position:
Chris Sanders, Derrick Mason, Joey Kent, Kevin Dyson, Darran Hall, Eddie Berlin, Justin McCariens, Darrell Hill, Jake Schifino, Tyrone Calico, Roydell Williams, Brandon Jones, Courtney Roby, Jonathan Orr, Joel Filani, Chris Davis, Lavelle Hawkins, Domonique Edison, Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, Chris Givens
Pick Breakdown: Two 1st rounders, Three 2nds, Four 3rds, Six 4ths, Two 5ths, Four 6ths, One 7th
I bolded one name of this list, because Derrick Mason is the only one that was selected as an All-Pro (2000). The 4 italicized names are the receivers with him at Superbowl XXXIV (Kevin Dyson went on to additionally play at Superbowl XXXVII as a member of the Carolina Panthers, but was hurt most of that year). We also remember Dyson as the one who nearly landed in the endzone, which would have rewrote history for the Rams entirely.
But the bigger picture is the breakdown of these picks. You can see that most of these names are just that: names that are or will be forgotten in pro football. The jury is still out on Kenny Britt of the Titans, as well as our own two youngsters, but we should be worried.
Our team is in obvious need of playmaker ability as well as depth at the WR position. However, if you look at who has been interviewed at the WR positon so far, via Walter Football, its an immediate pattern of lesser know players: Aaron Dobson and Conner Vernon. While I personally love both players, that's not good enough.
2. Fisher's Free Agency History
If you can't get them in the draft, you still have free agency, right?
Those names do not get much better:
Yikes. All of us waiting for Fisher to make a splash in Free Agency might be left feeling washed out.
The pattern typically seen here is that he picks players that either went unnoticed (Thigpen, Washington) on their previous teams or make one good year/play when it mattered (Russell, Wade, Smith). Another startling connection to be made is that most only stayed for 2-3 years.
It's good news if you like a player in this years free agency that are a lot like Julian Edelman, Jermone Simpson, or Braylon Edwards. It's a bad thing if you're looking for Wallace or Cruz to wear the blue and gold.
3. This Year's Crop of Wideouts
Per NFL.com and PFF, the rankings for the wide receivers in this free agency isn't looking too pretty. I never believe that some of the non-producers couldn't produce, so these rankings are to be taken with a grain of salt.
However, the entire idea for this year is to either have the developmental players of old step up, or for them to continue developing as a backup. Nobody wants Brian Quick to be stuck on the bench, but what if the few flashes we saw are the same as the few flashes we'll see? We need someone to take the reins as a number one, and not many number ones are going to head to Saint Louis anyways.
Another problem is what you and I hear every day about the best receivers in the draft: they are raw. Players like Cordarelle Patterson and Tavon Austin are amazing athletes, but they may not be ready to lead a core of men with 1000 yards as a rookie.
Is there hope?
Yes, there is. There are veterans with tons of experience that may help bring expertise to the core. Greg Jennings and Brandon Stockley come to mind, with 7 and 13 years respectively. Greg Jennings is a favorite among bandwagoners, posting up great numbers from great QB and OL play. While I don't expect him to ever have the same numbers without Rodgers, he is still productive and should be welcomed. Stockley will be a much smaller free agent signing, but if his old bones don't give out, we may have a valuable catcher as our men continue to develop.
Some people may not like the decrease in athleticism, but there are players in this draft that are not classified as "raw" who could contribute very easily in our system. One name that comes to mind is Keenen Allen, who seems to be the cursed of the draft-receiver litter that nobody really enjoys talking about. Like I said, he's not as athletic, but behind faulty QB play at Cal, this guy posted 737 yards in 9 games, with 5 touchdowns in his last 5 games as a Golden Bear.
Another name that has been whispered during this offseason is Texas A&M's Ryan Swope. With an overwhelming beard and a less-than-perfect trick shot video (see below, you can see the mess of eggs from the ground below him), he shows great awareness in zone coverage and the ability to pull the ball down on the sideline. He's not going to burn you with blazing speed, but neither was Amendola. Either of these would make a great compliment to our young group.
A last option would be the t-word that no one wants to talk about. Not torture, trade. We know of many unhappy receivers, and we have the draft picks and defensive depth available to send for one such crybaby, Percy Harvin. Vikings seem persistent in not trading him, but how much whining can one take?
The most important thing in this period is not to expect too much. The Rams have not had a receiver catch 1000 yards since Holt in '07. Likely that doesn't change immediately, and there are now more holes to be filled with releases and free agents named Jackson leaving to chase the ring. Let's focus on just making a better team, with less focus on who is sporting those horns.
Let's hope for the best, Rams fans