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Small receivers, the next big thing?

Ok, now here's an interesting add-on to what's been a constant discussion of the Rams wide receiver situation: it's not the size, it's how you use it...when it comes to receivers that is, according to this Ross Tucker column at Last year's crop of successful rookie receivers were of the speedy, svelte type, i.e. not the 6'1" 210 lbs superstud prototypes, including Eddie Royal, DeSean Jackson, and our own Donnie Avery. The bigger guys didn't have comparable seasons.

First off, this stands out as coincidental analysis. There weren't any "can't miss" WR types, a la Crabtree or Nicks, in last year's draft. The smaller guys, like Avery and Jackson, were the best of the bunch. It's also important to consider the teams they played for. The Eagles had a complete offense. The Broncos, for all their problems, had one of the league's top pass attacks with Cutler, Royal and Brandon Marshall. And the Rams, despite not having a very good offense, had nobody else to throw to, with Holt locked down in coverage...and written out of the playbook for most of the season. That's not to imply that any of those three rookies don't have the ability, because they certainly do.

There is sound logic behind Tucker's point. Part of the reason for the success of these player types is that their speed and agility allows them to manuever around many cornerbacks and deke the press coming off the line of scrimmage. Here's Tucker: takes bigger receivers longer to learn how to fight off the jam at the line of scrimmage, whereas smaller guys use their quicks, which is more natural for a rookie or young player.

There's definitely something to that, and the point is made more interesting when you consider how the Rams new playbook. (Actually, the playbook on defense too, since Spags and Flajole are implementing a system that calls for physical play from the DBs to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage).

But is it a wider trend? That's a much tougher thing to determine. Take a look at the list of the league's top ten WRs in yards from last season. There's a pretty good mix of player types, from the big guys like Andre Johnson and Fitzgerald to the more diminutive types like Wes Welker and Steve Smith. You've got four guys above that 6'1" 210 lbs threshold (Andre and Calvin Johnson, Fitzgerald, and Brandon Marshall), four guys under it (Smith, Welker, Greg Jennings and Reggie Wayne) and two guys right on the bubble (Roddy White, 6'0" 208 lbs and Antonio Bryant, 6'1" 205 lbs). If I were feeling really ambitious, I'd probably go back through the years and look at how the league leaders measure up through the years. But I won't. There's no reason to because I think the information will just confirm an old chestnut of wisdom: it's not the size, it's how you use it.