Well, with the recent developments I suppose a look at the wide receiver position might be in order. There's been a LOT of talk about the position around here over the past week, whether it's been about drafting Michael Crabtree or the eventual release/trade of Pro-Bowl wide receiver/fan favorite/face of the franchise Torry Holt.
Honestly, it doesn't really matter if the Rams release or retain Holt, this is a position that is in need of a new number 1 type receiver anyway. Holt just isn't a top dog anymore and Donnie Avery is probably best suited as a number two deep threat. So, the position was going to have to be addressed at some point in the next two years.
I don't know about you, but I could go through a season of Avery as the number 1 with plans to go big next offseason. Then again, just like almost everything else this offseason, it kind of depends on how the dominoes fall. We still have positions like Offensive Tackle, Middle Linebacker, Strong Safety (c'mon James Butler, we know you want to sign, please let me cross that position off the to-do list), Defensive Line, and Cornerback as well as adding a competent back-up Quarterback and depth at Running Back and a few more positions.
Where exactly does the Wide Receiver position rank in all that mess? Well, that's hard to deterimine. In a perfect world, we'd add a really good, big receiver (not necessarily Crabtree) who can go through some growing pains this season and then will be all set for 2010. Is that a possiblity? Let's take a look after the jump.
Okay, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume Mr. Holt is gone. Heck, he might be gone by the time you read this. I have no idea what their time-table is for him (although I wouldn't be surprised if they waited until the last minute to release him after his little public release-request) but I'm about 99.999999% sure he's gone, so I won't include him in my review of what is on the roster.
- Donnie Avery - 5'11" 190 - Signed through 2011. Avery will make $547,500K this season with $1.7475M counting against the cap (I think). He's young and fast and he makes spectacular catches. Plus, he's not a knuckle-head like a certain someone from the Eagles so I like his future. He's best suited to be a No. 2 receiver since he really can take advantage of one-on-one coverage. He's not going to be a guy who makes a living going over the middle, but he is a major weapon flying up the field.
- Keenan Burton - 6'1" 200 - Signed through 2010. Burton will make $470K this season and should count that same amount against the cap. Burton had a bit of an up and down season last year. He was hurt in the real early and then showed flashes of greatness in the pre-season before getting hurt again (that's the correct order, right?). Then, it seemed like pulling teeth to get him on the field again and once he did, he had moments of really good play mixed with periods of disappearing. When it was all said and done, he played in 13 games and caught 13 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown. Burton's got a little more size than I originally thought, so he's probably got a career as a pretty good No. 3 who can mix it up over the middle and can stretch the field from time to time. He battled injuries all year so he never really got on track.
- Dane Looker - 6'0" 194 - Dane is actually a free agent, but I'm putting him on this list anyway since I think there's a good chance he comes back next year. Looker is not a star by any stretch of the imagination, but he's so valuable to a team, you almost value someone like him a little more than you probably should. Looker plays special teams and is one of the leaders on the team. He's held for field goals and he's hauled in huge catches that keep the chains moving in crunch time. Basically, he's a modern day Ricky Proehl. And a team needs a Ricky Proehl which is why I think he'll be back. Sure, there's a new coaching staff, but Looker's the kind of guy who's probably just hanging around Rams Park all offseaosn and the coaches just assume he's still on the team. Plus, he's a fan favorite (they actually sell a lot of Looker jerseys). Bottom line........I think he'll be back.....I hope he'll be back.
- Derek Stanley - 5'11" 179 - Signed through 2009 and will be making $460K. Anyone know anything about him right now? Stanley tore his ACL late in the season so I'm assuming he's not going to be 100% come pre-season. Stanley's a burner and that ACL injury might diminish his value a tad. Stanley's season pretty much consisted of one big play and then a few more little catches here and there. He also returned kicks although his performance was a little underwhelming. He's no more than a 4th receiver and if he loses his speed due to the injury, he'll probably fade away rather quickly.
- The Rams also have Travis Brown (6'2" 198), Matt Caddell (6'0" 187), and Nate Jones (6'2" 195) on "reserve/futures contracts" which means these players were on practice squads last season. I wouldn't expect too much from any of these 3 guys.
So, if the Rams re-sign Looker, we'll have 4 guys under contract and 3 of those guys (Avery, Burton, Looker) can expect to see regular time next season. With the addition of a big number one receiver, this unit is good. Real good. But as it stands right now, our receiver will get eaten alive by even the most average pass defenses. Now, having Randy McMichael and Steven Jackson running around catching passes does throw a wrinkle into the whole thing, but you cannot escape the fact the Rams need a legit number 1 receiver.
So, let's see if there's someone in free agency who tickles anyone's fancy.
- Terrell Owens - Dallas Cowboys - 6'3" 224 - Owens isn't going to be a Ram. Period. End of sentence.
- Marvin Harrison - Indianapolis Colts - 6'0" 185 - There's speculation out there that Harrison might not want to play anymore. He's been banged up the past couple of seasons, he'd be taking a pay cut, and there really hasn't been any interest in him anyway so he might be leaning towards retirement. He's really not a top receiver anymore and if Torry Holt has no place on this team, I can't imagine Marvin Harrison does since they're pretty much the same player. Sure, he'd be a great tutor for the young guys on the Rams, but I always find it interesting when people assume old vets want to be mentors on their way out to pasture.
- Bobby Engram - Seattle Seahawks - 5'10" 192 - Engram used to be good. He's not anymore. Kansas City was said to have interest in him, but let him leave his visit without offering a contract. He's a major injury risk and isn't someone we should be looking at.
- Ronald Curry - Oakland Raiders - 6'2" 210 - Curry's got good size but he really isn't a number 1 type of guy. He's also an injury risk but he's only 1 year removed from back-to-back 700 yard seasons. I think he's still got something left to offer, but it's probably as a number 2 and that's not what we're looking for. If we already had our No. 1, I'd really consider signing Curry since he's sure to come at an affordable price but right now, I think our money can be better spent elsewhere.
At this point, I'm going to cut this list short. We're looking for a number one receiver and frankly, there isn't one available. It's not like there isn't good receivers out there because there is, it's just they're not the types of receivers who the Rams really need right now. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is signed with Seattle and Devery Henderson re-signed with New Orleans, and after those two and the above list, you'll see guys like Shaun McDonald, Hank Baskett, Ashley Lelie, Koren Robinson, Amani Toomer, Marty Booker, Mike Furrey, Joey Galloway, D.J. Hackett, and Ike Hilliard. If you find something in that list that interests you, well then good for you, I guess.
Anyway, anyone surprised we found absolutely nothing here? I didn't think so. So, what now? Maybe we can find something in the draft.
(Remember, click the player's name for Mocking Dan)
- Michael Crabtree - Texas Tech - 6'1" 215 - We all know Michael Crabtree around here. He's a stud. Yes. Probably gonna be a real good wide receiver for a long time. Had a bit of a downer combine where he shrunk and it was revealed he had a stress fracture in his foot but I wouldn't worry too much about either "issue". Tape don't lie. Just because he's 6'1" instead of 6'3" doesn't mean all those great plays we all saw him make this past season never happened. They happened. He's special. And the Rams have to think long and hard about whether this is their guy or not.
- Jeremy Maclin - Missouri - 6'0" 198 - Maclin probably isn't really on the Rams draft board since there's really no chance they could draft him. He'll go too low to take with the 2nd overall pick, and he'll be gone long before the Rams pick in the 2nd round. Plus, I'm not sure he fits into what the Rams are looking for. Is he really a number 1 receiver in the NFL? Well, probably on more than a few teams. But I think he'd really be amazing as a number 2.
- Darrius Heyward-Bey - Maryland - 6'3" 206 - Now, depending on what the Rams do with their 1st pick, Heyward-Bey (Hey-Bey) could be a name you should become very familiar with. If the Rams don't select Crabtree with their first pick, there's a damn good chance Hey-Bey could be available when the Rams make their next pick. Although, I wouldn't want to bet my draft on it. Heyward-Bey really helped boost his draft position at the combine by running a 4.30 40-yard and killed the position drills. Add those skills to his 6'3" 206 frame, and you're going to have to work mighty hard to convince me he's not going to be the best NFL Wide Receiver in this draft. Some think he might go in the top 15 picks leading the Chicago Sun Times to speculate he won't last until the Bears pick at number 18.
- Brian Robiskie - Ohio State - 6'3" 199 - So, if not Crabtree or Hey-Bey, how about Brian Robiskie? Let's see. Robiskie was the GMAC Performer of the Day at the NFL combine by placing 9th in the vertical (37.5"), 8th in the 20-yard shuttle (4.19), and 5th in the 3-cone drill (6.72). Oh, and he ran a 4.48 40-yard and his dad was disappointed (btw, his dad is Terry Robiskie). This guy is big (and can probably fill out still) and is athletic (think about that 6'3" frame jumping 37.5 inches straight up). Pair Robiskie with Donnie Avery and you might have one hell of a wide receiver combo for years.
- Kenny Britt - Rutgers - 6'3" 218 - So, maybe the Rams decide to go receiver with their second pick, still want a big receiver, and just miss out on Brian Robiskie. Well, Kenny Britt might be waiting right behind him and he's just as big. He was timed at 4.47 in the 40 and is a beast over the middle. The Giants are said to be interested in him to replace Plaxico Burress and there are more than a few similarities between the two on the field (hopefully not off the field).
Percy Harvin - Florida - 5'11" 197 - As far as the Rams are concerned, Harvin's size and injury history (neck, hamstring, ankle) has to be a negative. He's fast and elusive but is he was the Rams are looking for? For what it's worth, the Sacramento Bee speculates that the Raiders could possibly take Harvin with the 7th overall pick. Personally, I don't think he'll go anywhere close to that high, but never underestimate Al Davis. Maybe he figures Michael Vick is going to need a target who can run with him? Heck, Al might draft Harvin and put him in the backfield in the Wildcat formation.
- Hakeem Nicks - North Carolina - 6'1" 215 - Nicks is another guy who has the size the Rams are probably looking for so he's definitely a possibility. Supposedly the Dolphins are extremely intrigued by Nicks and might take him fairly early (25th overall). Nicks, by the way, pulled up lame with a hamstring injury in the combine and he didn't run the 40 quite as fast as he predicted (he ran 4.51 and said he'd be in the low-to-mid 4.4s).
- Louis Murphy - Florida - 6'3" 203 - Here's yet another guy who has the size the Rams should be looking for. Murphy missed the Senior Bowl due to going under the knife to clean out some cartilage in his knee but still ran a 4.43 40-yard at the combine. They guy is big and can flat out move (unfortunately he didn't do a vertical at the combine) although he might be best used in an offense that allows him to be single covered as opposed to being the main guy.
- Juaquin Iglesias - Oklahoma - 6'1" 204 - Iglesias was considered by the National Football Post as the "most natural receiver" at the Senior Bowl practice field. Everything I read about Iglesias reminds me of Torry Holt. He's a savvy route runner with reliable hands and tracks the ball well over both shoulders. He's also spent time as a kick and punt returner so he's got that going for him and the Rams definitely need someone back there who can get out past the 22 yard line. He's also not afraid to go over the middle. Iglesias would be a solid pick for the Rams. He's not the biggest and strongest receiver in the draft, but he's as solid as they come and the team could always go and draft a big dude in the first round next year.
- Brandon Gibson - Washington State - 6'1" 202 - Gibson's got decent size but he's considered more of a possession receiver. Probably more of a role player as opposed to a number one guy the Rams really need. Plus, he pulled a hamstring at the Senior Bowl and didn't participate in the combine. That definitely hurt his draft position.
- Derrick Williams - Penn State - 5'11" 197 - Had a poor showing at the combine but it's been revealed he had the flu which probably had an effect on his performance. Williams is actually a great athlete who has the potential to be a great playmaker, but he's been inconsistent in his career at Penn State. He's also had durability concerns.
- Aaron Kelly - Clemson - 6'5" 190 - Kelly set the Clemson record for single-season catches his junior year and followed that campaign up with 67 catches for 722 yards and 4 touchdowns in his senior season. He also spent time returning kicks and punts so he has versatility. He's a tall dude and recorded a 38 inch vertical at the combine with a 4.49 40-yard. He's got talent.
- Kevin Ogletree - Virginia - 6'2" 189 - Ogletree is really interesting. Playing at Virginia was a good and bad scenario for him. The good? He played in a pro-style offense. The bad? He never had a good quarterback. Also, keep in mind he posted a 4.38 40-yard and he missed 2007 with an ACL injury....and he still ran a 4.38! Ogletree's got a very good chance at being drafted in the middle rounds. Is he the type of guy the Rams are targeting? I'm thinking they have to have their eye on him. If they miss out on some of the guys listed above or feel the need to get a MLB or a CB or something else in rounds 2, 3, and maybe 4, picking Ogletree after the 3rd round could turn out to be a big steal.
- Pat White - West Virginia - 6'0" 197 - Many feel he'll be drafted as a wide receiver and compare him to Antwan Randle-El but I don't think the Rams are in the market for a player like White.
- Ramses Barden - Cal Poly SLO - 6'6" 229 - In his senior season for Cal Poly, Barden posted 67 receptions for 1,257 yards and 18 touchdowns which is impressive anywhere. He's not particularly fast (4.57 40-yard) compared to the rest of this year's wide receiver field but it's still pretty good. Barden could be a future WR/TE hybrid like Antonio Gates.
Okay, the Wide Receiver position is majorly deep and this is great news for the Rams. There's really no pressure for the Rams to spend their first round pick on Crabtree especially since I think there are a couple of other receivers who fit the Rams needs much better and could have just as good a career (if not better) than Crabtree.
If there's anyone here that can now make a legitimate argument for anyone on the free agent list after seeing the depth and breadth of the draft, then I welcome you to make that argument
Actually, this draft is too deep for the Rams not to take a dip in and see if they can't find a gem. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, they've always got next season to draft that big mofo since they should be much more solidified across the board with young and talented players on both sides of the ball.
Personally, I'd like the team to pass on Crabtree and target a group of receivers including Robiskie, Britt, Nicks, and Iglesias. Outside of Iglesias, all of those guys are projected in some mocks to go in the first round and in the late 2nd or early 3rd in others. But, so are a lot of the guys on this list so I'm inclined to think one or two of these guys is going to slip and be available when the Rams make their 3rd pick. Whoever, they get, is going to be able to help immediately and they might find themselves with an absolute steal.