Blaine kicked off our review of the Jeff Fisher Era by taking a look at the RB situation. Now I get the pleasure of reviewing the wide receivers and tight ends.
I hope y’all are sitting down, because this is going to be painful.
During Jeff Fisher’s time as the head coach of the St. Louis / Los Angeles Rams, the NFL had quite the boon of young WRs entering the league. There were game changing talents (Sammy Watkins, Amari Cooper), superb specialists (Tyler Lockett, Tyreek Hill), a couple of elite TEs (Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed), and the WR class of 2014 - which is turning out to be as good as advertised.
Fisher was the Rams coach through 5 NFL drafts (2012-2016). Here are all of the receivers taken in those drafts who have made a Pro Bowl (# of appearances in parenthesis):
Alshon Jeffery (1)
T.Y. Hilton (3)
Tyler Eifert (1)
DeAndre Hopkins (1)
Cordarrelle Patterson (2)
Travis Kelce (2)
Jordan Reed (1)
Sammy Watkins (0)
Mike Evans (1)
Odell Beckham Jr. (3)
Allen Robinson (1)
Jarvis Landry (2)
*Amari Cooper (2)
Tyler Lockett (1)
Tyreek Hill (1)
That’s 14 receivers with a combined 22 Pro Bowl appearances without counting Sammy Watkins - who is highly regarded and has a 1000 yard receiving season and 17 touchdowns (more than any Rams receiver in that time) under his belt through his first three seasons.
*The ONLY receiver on that list the Rams were not in a position to draft was Amari Cooper in the 2015 NFL Draft.
In place of any of the receivers above, the Rams drafted the following players under Fisher’s rule:
*No longer with team (Quick is a Unrestricted Free Agent)
There isn’t a single Pro Bowl appearance between those players. They’ve all been disappointments to date and honestly I’m not sure if more than 3 of those remaining on the Rams roster today will be back next season.
In regards to free agency, the Rams had plenty of opportunities to add talent their as well. The following receivers changed teams via free agency from 2012-2016: Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Golden Tate, Steve Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Torrey Smith, Michael Crabtree, Andre Johnson, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Anquan Boldin, Martellus Bennett, Jermaine Gresham, and Julius Thomas. That’s quite a list.
Which free agent receivers did the Rams sign over that period? The other Steve Smith, Kenny Britt, and Jared Cook.
They instead chose to spend those funds on Cortland Finnegan, Jared Cook, Jake Long, Scott Wells, a Nick Foles extension, overpaying Rodger Saffold, and choosing Mark Barron over Janoris Jenkins last season.
Before and After Fisher
So it’s without question that the Rams had ample opportunities to address their receiver issues under Jeff Fisher. They just chose not to.
Have a look at the before and after:
|Brandon Lloyd||Kenny Britt|
|Brandon Gibson||Tavon Austin|
|Mark Clayton||Brian Quick|
|Danny Amendola||Mike Thomas|
|Danario Alexander||Bradley Marquez|
|Austin Pettis||Nelson Spruce|
|Lance Kendricks||Lance Kendricks|
|Michael Hoomanawanui||Tyler Higbee|
|Billy Bajema||Temarrick Hemmingway|
Forgive me for being blunt, but that 2011 group is ugly. Brandon Lloyd had his moments, but they didn’t come with the Rams. The best of the rest may be Lance Kendricks - which is scary.
The sad part is that you can make the case that it’s better than the 2016 group.
In this year’s group, you had a 1000 yard receiver in Kenny Britt and not much else. Tavon Austin struggled mightily and Brian Quick continued to be...well... Brian Quick. If Britt was under contract at a reasonable rate for next season I may be inclined to call the 2016 group better. But he’s not.
At least the 2011 group had players who had shown they could produce in the NFL. Lloyd led the league in yards in 2010. Amendola and Alexander could produce to a lesser extent, but were never healthy. The 2016 group has no one who could reliably produce.
Sean McVay is left with Tavon Austin, Lance Kendricks and a bunch of youngsters who have shown nothing in the NFL.
It’s depressing, but Jeff Fisher inherited an ugly group of WRs and found a way to leave his successor with even less.