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Can Austin Pettis be the St. Louis Rams #1 wide receiver?

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We've been taking some questions about all things St. Louis Rams from the community over on our Facebook page, with a pretty good response so far. Myself and the other TST writers will be tackling some of those questions in the coming weeks, so hit us up if you need answers. I'm jumping into the fray today with tough one.

This question comes from Brent Lancaster, who asks: "I think austin pettis will eventually be the #1 receiver (hands, separation, intelligence)... what are the odds?"

Defining a number one wide receiver is tough. The first thought that jumps to mind is Larry Fitzgerald...but few players possess Fitzgerald's complete package of size, athleticism, route running and hands. Randy Moss was a prototypical number one receiver in his prime, and when moved to more of a deep, down field threat in his last few seasons with the Patriots he produced those kind of WR1 numbers.

And what about the numbers themselves? Being his quarterback's favorite, most reliable target technically makes a guy a #1 wide receiver. On numbers alone, Wes Welker was the Patriots' #1 receiver in 2008 and arguably in 2007, when Josh McDaniels was the offensive coordinator. 

For now, the best way to bridge all the various ideas of a number one receiver is how they beat coverage. Obviously, they do it with the tools mentioned above. Possessing one or more of those traits can make a receiver his QB's top option for good reason. A like Fitzgerald or other top receivers can beat all kinds of single and double coverage with one or more of those traits. 

Can Pettis' skill set make him a number one receiver then? It remains to be seen. Scouts bragged on his hands and route running heading into the draft. And his football intelligence, with Brent alludes to, has already impressed the Rams coaching staff. 

Speed is the biggest knock on Pettis. Explosiveness might be another factor that keeps his ceiling from the elite level too. Can he get behind defenses into one-on-one matchups with safeties? Those are the biggest factors working against Pettis right now...without having seen him play against NFL competition. 

His hands and ability to get the jump ball will help him with tight coverage, even double teams. And he has the potential to add some weight to his 6'3" 209 lbs body, which will make matchups harder for defenders too. Route running and his ability to sell his routes ought to be a help with zone coverages. 

Odds? I'm not much for odds making. Speed is one of those things you can't really teach, maybe his weakness in that area is being oversold. From this vantage point, it looks like Pettis could be a good possession receiver with the tools to help the team in the red zone.