When the LA Rams signed DeSean Jackson to a contract worth up to $4.5 million despite the fact that he’s barely played in the last two years and is turning 35 in December, it seemed to signal that the team was getting desperate for a number three option. It doesn’t matter if “only” $2.75 million is guaranteed — that’s still a lot for Jackson given the circumstances and the lowered 2021 salary cap — the Rams still have to conduct business this year as if they will be spending the full $4.5 million on him.
And yet signing a $4.5 million receiver this year and drafting a receiver with the 57th overall pick last year doesn’t seem to have done anything to quell Les Snead and Sean McVay’s desire for more speed and talent at the position.
During LA’s pre-draft virtual meeting process so far this year, the Rams have met with 15 players that we know of and eight of them play wide receiver. It’s important to note that not all of those eight will be expected to become starting NFL receivers in the future. D’Wayne Eskridge, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, and Eli Stove are three players who have met with the Rams and who could specialize as returners in the league; Jacob Harris is more of a WR/TE hybrid similar to Brycen Hopkins; Demetric Felton is more of a WR/RB hybrid who could even be seen as a replacement for Malcolm Brown.
But it wouldn’t be a lie to say that all eight could play receiver at the next level.
- Demetric Felton, UCLA: actually had 132 rush attempts and only 22 receptions as a senior, as compared to 89 carries and 55 receptions as a junior. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler recently mocked him to the 49ers with the 180th pick.
- Eli Stove, Auburn: Expected to be a seventh rounder or undrafted free agent, Stove might be a true special teamer/gunner and little more.
- Jacob Harris, UCF: At 6’5, running a reported 4.4 at his pro day, Harris has made some fans enamored with the idea that he’ll project as an elite receiving tight end in the NFL. And maybe that’s possible. But I find it odd that nobody is talking about his weight: 219 lbs. Since 2000, only 32 players have measured over 6’5 and weighed under 220. One of them is Trevor Lawrence, and he’ll be the first player of that particular size to be drafted in the top-40 picks. The only other player drafted in the top-130 at that size is receiver James Hardy, who went 41st in 2008 and was out of the NFL by 2009 with 96 career yards. There also ain’t a single standout on the list other than Lawrence and 2018 sixth round pick Equanimeous St. Brown, and his career hasn’t been much yet. Brugler has Harris going in the fifth round, 173rd overall, to the Packers ... to replace St. Brown, of course. Brugler also called Harris his “number one sleeper.” Players who were 6’5, 219, and ran a sub-4.4: Tommy Streeter and Harris. Size and speed isn’t everything. Harris caught 30 passes for 539 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
- Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa: The most experienced receiver on this list so far, appearing as a regular for all four years at Iowa. Caught 25 passes for 345 yards last season, but in only seven games. Caught 44 passes for 722 yards in 13 games the year before. Had a kick return average of 30 yards with two touchdowns over his first three collegiate seasons. Brugler didn’t have Smith-Marsette getting drafted in his seven-round mock. ProFootballNetwork recently projected him to go to the Titans in the third round though. Good luck following where the “experts” say these players will go this year.
- Tutu Atwell, Louisville: Maybe the most coveted receiver that LA has met with so far this year, Atwell has an average projection of the third round, but he’s the type of prospect that could surprisingly wind up near the mid-to-top of the second. The most productive receiver on this list. Atwell blew up for 69 catches, 1,272 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019, then returned with 46-625-7 in nine games last year. Ran a reported 4.32 40-yard dash, but that’s a little easier to do when you’re 5’9, 165 lbs. Atwell could have a good NFL career. However, there’s also a perfectly reasonable comparison to be made to Dri Archer, a third round pick of the Steelers in 2014 who posted 159 receptions for 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior, had a limited campaign as a senior, went to Pittsburgh, and was out of the NFL two years later. Archer was measured at 5’8, 173 lbs, and ran a 4.26 at the combine. Not at a pro day. And another however....DeSean Jackson was 5’10, 169 lbs, and ran a 4.35 back in 2008.
- Dez Fitpatrick, Louisville: LA has met with both starting receivers for Louisville, whose head coach Scott Satterfield is entering his third year at the helm in 2021. Prior to that, Satterfield spent five years at the dominant Sun Belt program Appalachian State. Satterfield won a lot at App State and had some notable offensive accomplishments, but never produced an NFL receiver and that could be partly due to the limited route tree that they run for this system. It’s noteworthy to me that any player from Louisville might need a year or two of refinement and teaching and it’s always easier on the coaches when they have less to teach; it gives them more time to work with somebody else. That’s one thing that they know they didn’t have to do with Van Jefferson, whose father Shawn Jefferson would surely have given him plenty of knowledge already after so many years as an NFL receivers coach. Fitzpatrick has been a starter for all four years at Louisville and he caught 43 passes for 833 yards and three touchdowns last season. He’s look at as a late day three pick or undrafted free agent.
- Anthony Schwartz, Auburn: Welcome to another player who might not be in the top-25 receivers this year but can reportedly run a sub-4.3 40-yard dash. At least with Schwartz it could be real. Schwartz ran a 4.25 at his pro day, which is easier to believe because he was a nationally recognize track athlete in high school. A four-star prospect to Auburn, Schwartz never put up crazy number but did catch 54 passes for 636 yards and three touchdowns last year. He ran the ball 38 times during his first two seasons, scoring seven touchdowns, but that part of his game disappeared in 2020. His speed could get him drafted as early as the late third round, as Brugler has him going 110th overall to Cleveland. But the fact that he’s mostly just speed — his NFL.com comparison is Jacoby Ford — means that Schwartz could also fall to the sixth or seventh.
- D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan: Maybe the first of these eight receivers off of the board, Brugler has Eskridge going 92nd overall to the Packers. That means that if LA really wants him, they’ll probably need to consider using their 88th pick in round three or risking waiting until pick 103. Eskridge is 5’9, 190 lbs, and he was a fifth-year senior in 2020, posting 33 receptions for 768 yards and eight touchdowns — in six games! He also got the “Jacoby Ford” label at NFL.com, as he was also a high school track star. Was clocked at 4.38 at his pro day. Could be the best wide receiver prospect on this particular list, maybe commanding as high as a second round pick, but there’s still a lot of projection left for Eskridge and though he did run wild last year, it was against some weak MAC competition. It’s a risk to use a second or third round pick on a player who maybe was only a borderline draftee after four years in college.
Which of these WRs and their perceived draft values would you prefer the most?
This poll is closed
Eskridge (Day 2)
Atwell (Day 2)
Felton (Early-Mid Day 3)
Harris (Early-Mid Day 3)
Schwartz (Early-Mid Day 3)
Smith-Marsette (Day 3-UDFA)