Of the four Rams’ [offensive] skill position rookies from 2012, two contributed regularly in the offense and sometimes in a very big way. Fourth round selection Chris Givens was the Rams biggest deep threat. His incredible exhibition of speed and hands were put on display in Weeks 4-8, when he caught five deep balls for 50[+] yards. The other rookie - Daryl Richardson - won the backup running back gig prior to the onset of the regular season, and never looked back.
Neither of the two aforementioned rookies were world-beaters, but those expectations were at a minimum considering the team selected a player at both of their positions earlier in the draft. Their contributions, though, were not only critical in a few of the Rams' victories, but showed the Rams coaching staff what they were capable of doing when called upon.
Are either ‘locks’ as starters this year? I'd say one more than the other. Chris Givens did little in 2012 to suggest that he’s not going to be in the huddle in Week 1. Outside of the dreaded "I" word, Rams fans should expect to see more of the same from Givens: blowing by defenders and making big plays… regularly. For Richardson, the road to hearing Sam Bradford’s first play call in 2013 is going to be a bit more difficult, but "do-able". Regardless, the coaches, fans, and their opponents should expect both players to be slightly more dangerous with a year of experience under their belt.
But what about the draftees who may not have impacted the team’s offense as immediately as the fans would’ve liked? Things may have gotten a little tougher for them if they were hoping to have ‘breakout’ year…
Brian Quick, WR - Selected 33rd Overall
If you’ve followed the Rams in any capacity over the course of the past few seasons, you know the 2012 NFL Draft was chock full of wide receiver(WR) prospects the Rams could’ve targeted. Justin Blackmon was the biggest name in the WR pool last year, but trading back with the Redskins took them out of the running for the Nation’s most sought after receiver. Blackmon wasn’t the only wideout taken between 5th overall and when the Rams were put on the clock at the start of Day 2. There were still plenty of notable names available at the time.
The Rams taking Quick with the first pick of the second round was a bit of a surprise. Ok, it was many bits of a surprise. Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, and Rueben Randle were all still available when the Rams chose the small school prospect from Appalachian State. More than a few heads were scratched, I’m sure.
Bust? C’mon now. Quick’s 11 catches for 156 yards are far from stellar, but head coach Jeff Fisher made it crystal clear he wasn't going to be rushed onto the field. For those of you who fear a Mardy Gilyard-length stay in St. Louis, I’ll ask that you Keep Calm and…well you know the rest.
With that being said, Quick’s draft selection doesn’t immediately ink him into the starting rotation. While Givens left little doubt that he can compete at the next level, Quick only showed flashes of what the Rams expected when they drafted him, and did little to paint himself as consistent or reliable.
The potential targets for both Quick and Givens became more uncertain when the team not only traded up to 8th overall [to grab Tavon Austin], but took his teammate - wide receiver Stedman Bailey - three rounds later. If the coaching staff hasn’t already fallen in love with their new receiving threats from WVU, the fan base has. Those two were the nucleus of one of the Nation’s most potent offenses. There’s little reason to think that either of these WR’s can’t contribute in the Rams offense immediately. With the loss of Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson, it may be more an expectation that they do.
Surpassing 156 yards in 2013 is far below the minimum expectation for Brian Quick in the upcoming season. And fortunately for him, despite the new additions, he’s got something that none of the other Rams’ wideouts do: size [6’3”]. But with Chris Givens looking to use his 698-yard, team-leading rookie campaign as a stepping stone, and the addition of the rookie Mountaineers, having a ‘breakout’ season might not be in the cards for what was essentially a first round pick in 2012.
Isaiah Pead, RB - Drafted 50th Overall
By this point - even if you’re the newest of Rams fan - you know that Pead was not the team’s "go-to" rushing option when Steven Jackson needed a break. As I mentioned earlier, Daryl Richardson had not only surpassed Pead on the depth chart, but has shown big play ability from the onset of the season. It wasn’t until Week 6 that Pead got his very first carry in the NFL, and after that carry, he averaged one yard per attempt. There would be six more games between that carry and the end of the regular season where he remained absent in the Rams offensive play-calling.
Bust? Certainly not. But unlike Quick - who showed flashes of what a size and speed combination could do for Sam and the Rams offense - Pead’s highlight reel as a Ram is shorter than Titus Young’s. There simply weren’t many plays where he made you second guess the staff’s decision to call upon Daryl Richardson.
Pead can be a very good running back in the NFL. He’s got the talent, but he’s got to find a way to make plays when it counts. And if there’s one thing he can improve upon, it’s being decisive and finding ways to get north and south; something Richardson did well.
There’s one quality both of these RB’s lack though: power. Terrance Ganaway - a 6th round selection acquired from the Jets - was a complete non-factor in 2012. With Steven Jackson gone, though, there will be a need for a back who can punch it in in goal line situations.
Unfortunately for all of the above, the Rams traded both of their 6th round picks in this most recent draft to trade up and snag Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy; a player who may not possess elite speed, but displays tremendous power and the ability to turn nothing into something. Trading up with] two picks to take Stacy, speaks to Les Snead and Jeff Fisher's thoughts on his potential in the offense. He may be the most complete back on the Rams' roster at this point…
"Zac is a very explosive runner. He's an outstanding young man, smart, good out of the backfield, pass protector; he's a complete back. He's a strong inside, kind of power runner that kind of gives us a change of pace. You can't have too many of these guys." - Jeff Fisher
Pead admittedly struggled to transition from college to the NFL, and is hungry to prove himself in 2013. It’s going to be a crowded backfield in St. Louis, and that’ll make it much more difficult for Isaiah Pead to have a ‘breakout’ season.