We always talk about what the needs are for a team and rarely what the needs are for the prospect in landing with a team. Which I guess fits the narrative that no one player is bigger than the team and your needs will always come second. We call players “busts” and rarely label the team to have been the side to not hold up their end of the bargain. What about those who had their growth stunted, if not career destroyed, but being a bad fit, getting buried on the depth chart, or working with coaches who really didn’t understand them?
Why spend all the time blaming the players when we know for a fact that there are plenty of destructive coaches out there too? That being said, it doesn’t feel like the LA Rams have been a bad organization to play for in the cases of many players over the last three years under Sean McVay.
Players like Cory Littleton, Dante Fowler, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, and so on. That especially has seemed to be the case for receivers when it comes to those who have benefited by playing for McVay these last three years.
Woods went from 57 catches and 688 yards per season with the Buffalo Bills to 77 and 1,044 under McVay.
Kupp may have been successful with other clubs if they had drafted him, but it’s hard to imagine him doing better than what he’s done as the 69th pick out of Eastern Washington in 2017. Kupp missed half of 2018, but when you take his career stats and pace them out to a 16-game season, he’s averaging 80, 1.065, and nine touchdowns.
It’s rare you see any team with two 1,000-yard receivers, but really the Rams had three.
Sammy Watkins truly was what he was with LA and has proven it in his two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s a super talented receiver who can’t put it all together. With McVay he did catch eight touchdowns in his one season with the Rams, compared to six touchdowns in his 24 games with the Chiefs.
Brandin Cooks had played with Drew Brees for three seasons and Tom Brady for one, but his 1,204 yards with McVay in 2018 was a career-high. Had it not been for health issues and a better offensive line, perhaps Cooks could have continued on that path.
So no matter who replaces Cooks, they’re coming into a good situation.
Not only will they have the opportunity to produce immediately, but as you probably know, Kupp is a free agent in 2021 and Woods in 2022. I would never put it past Les Snead to extend anyone, especially not these players because they’re really good, but we’ve seen so much change at the position already. Pre-McVay was Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick. Then Woods, Watkins, Kupp. Then replace Watkins with Cooks. Then replace Cooks with somebody.
The somebody could very well be a second round pick this year and it may behoove them to come to LA rather than say, the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks have the quarterback a receiver would like, but don’t pass the ball that often and already have two receivers who will command attention. The 49ers are likely to be passing it even less than Seattle, though they have a little less competition in the receivers room.
Or take Marquise Brown as an example of how different teams have different ceilings.
The top receiver drafted in the 2019 draft. Goes to the Baltimore Ravens. Is going to be their number one receiver. Gets 71 targets and scores seven touchdowns but finished with 584 yards and I have to wonder if that is the type of ceiling you get with Lamar Jackson.
I know that yards are overrated, I tend to believe that much more than the average person, but the league seems to use little else to judge players when it comes to their next contract, awards, and other considerations.
Conversely there were a number of players drafted after him who produced considerably more and it must be a combination of things, including talent, but situations comes into play as well. Like A.J. Brown getting to go to a team desperate for a number one receiver and putting up 12.5 yards per target — over 4 yards per target more than Brown — in an offense that wants to move the ball downfield with its receivers.
Or Terry McLaurin going to Washington, where the number one was Paul Richardson of all people and no other player on the team had more than 400 yards. McLaurin averaged 9.9 yards per target playing with Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum and for a team that was often playing from behind.
Or D.K. Metcalf and Deebo Samuel going to their respective NFC West situations where there was opportunity, coaching, and they just took advantage of those moments albeit with some mistakes in either case. The Rams hold picks 52 and 57. Brown was drafted 51st. Metcalf was 64th. McLaurin was 76th. And this is meant to be a better receiver class than last year.
So while plenty of receivers will be mocked to teams because they have an obvious need at receiver, we should ask if that receiver will be satisfied by what a team offers him.
The Arizona Cardinals are rumored to be interested in a receive who could succeed Larry Fitzgerald. But there’s a lot of uncertainty still around Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray, and how they plan to spread the ball around. The Chicago Bears, picking nine spots ahead of the Rams in the second round and a team in need of a receiver since Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller have underwhelmed. But what if every receiver will underwhelm for Matt Nagy?
Receivers don’t tend to underwhelm with McVay and Eric Yarber, the receivers coach shown above.
Draft picks for your team always carry some amount of excitement. The 2020 LA Rams drafting a receiver in the second round though would be even a little more exciting than the typical pick.