Make no mistake about it - the 2014 NFL Draft will prove absolutely crucial to the Rams' hopes to find success in the years ahead. Two first round picks to play with, a glut of potential compensatory picks at the back end and a relatively light list of needs that haven't been addressed with young talent.
Wide receiver isn't a position the Rams have ignored in recent years. Unlike the offensive line, which certainly has some fans looking to upgrade early, the Rams have made concerted efforts to add to the WR corps early in the draft.
In the last four years, the Rams have drafted seven wideouts before the 5th round, with only Greg Salas and Mardy Gilyard no longer on the team. The current grouping of Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Austin Pettis are all in-house draft selections. With the current CW bouncing around the league that the only path to success is to draft your roster up and develop within, there's case to be made that the Rams would be wise to give this group another year to improve and gel collectively.
That case is wrong.
The Rams haven't employed a single wide receiver who gained more than 700 yards in a season since Torry Holt. Last year, 54 players (wideouts and tight ends) topped 700 yards.
The Super Bowl Champions Seattle Seahawks (Disgusting. My fingers just threw up typing that for the first time) had two receivers, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, break that mark. Their Super Bowl opponent, the Broncos, had four.
San Francisco and Arizona, the other two NFC opponents the Rams have to deal with, each had a pair top 700.
Roddy White gained 711 yards playing on one leg made out of leg and the other made out of wet paper in an offense that relied on a sieve where an offensive line should be. In 13 games.
In fact the Rams were (emphasis coming entirely mine...) THE ONLY TEAM IN THE NFC WITHOUT A RECEIVER TO GAIN MORE THAN 700 YARDS.
We've seen the need. A 3rd and 6 without a possession receiver who's reliable to pick up a first down consistently. A red zone opportunity that fails because the Rams lack a credible threat to run a fade. The hesitancy on the part of Sam Bradford to throw up a ball for a receiver in one-on-one coverage because he's not sure that the target won't lose out on a battle to play the ball at the highest point.
This, more than anything else facing the Rams right now, has to be fixed. It has to. There is no way the Rams will approach the playoffs in 2014 unless this gets right.
Now there is a hopeful plea out there that Brian Quick suddenly becomes that guy this year. And sure, it's possible. But the Rams can't rely on that. You're talking about an NFL franchise. Success and failure in the NFL are millions of dollars apart. Nobody in the front office should be putting millions of dollars of potential revenue and a renewed faith in the franchise on Brian Quick's shoulders.
They have to draft a guy, and he has to hit.
That's the bottom line. Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Marqise Lee, Kelvin Benjamin, Insert Name Here, Jr. -- it doesn't matter. It just has to work.
Personally feeling this is the only true absolute need for the Rams, I'd think they'd want this wrapped up before the 13th pick. If they don't have ultimate confidence that there's a perfect fit to grab at #2 at value and end up trading down, they've got to take their guy where ever they drop to. If they're not sure he'll be there when they're on the clock, then they just can't trade down and hope. Nobody should be putting millions of dollars of potential revenue and a renewed faith in the franchise on hope's shoulders either.
The upcoming season is pivotal. It's Sam Bradford's fifth upon a return from a devastating injury. It's the third for both Head Coach Jeff Fisher and Les Snead. And it's the last season on the stadium lease...like I said, it's pivotal.
And nothing would help the Rams pivot toward the successful side of life more than a wide receiver that inspires confidence in his quarterback, the team and the fans as a whole.