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After trading Allen Robinson, wide receiver is one of Rams’ biggest needs before draft

Can Rams land a top-tier receiver in 2023 draft?

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Allen Robinson experiment came to an end on Tuesday when the Los Angeles Rams traded the wide receiver to the Pittsburgh Steelers in order to move up 17 places in the seventh-round of the NFL Draft.

While Robinson’s season was disappointing, there was still some chance that he could have turned it around in year two. By all accounts, believe them how you will, Matthew Stafford will have a healthy offseason. Stafford’s elbow injury certainly had an effect on the rapport and chemistry between him and Robinson.

Additionally, the Rams offensive line never got its footing set in 2022, constantly dealing with injury. The offensive line got a lot of blame for a lot of things in the offense. However, Robinson never got that benefit, despite regularly being a secondary read and misused in the offense.

As I wrote earlier this offseason, the narrative that Robinson didn’t get open simply wasn’t true. According to ESPN’s Open Score metric, Robinson’s open score of 65 led Rams receivers last season.

We’ll never get to see what Robinson’s full potential in the offense could have been. Both sides will now move on with fresh starts. Prior to the Robinson trade, the Rams were likely going to need some wide receiver depth. Now, the Rams are now left with a pretty big hole at the second wide receiver spot.

It’s been proven time and time again that Van Jefferson isn’t that guy. After Odell Beckham Jr. went out in the Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jefferson was asked to step in to the number two receiver role. Had Cooper Kupp not taken over in the fourth quarter, the Rams very well could have lost that game. Jefferson finished the Super Bowl with four receptions for 23 yards off of eight targets. His eight targets against the Bengals were just two fewer than Kupp.

Jefferson had a good 2021 as he very quietly finished with 800 yards. However, there’s a reason the Rams went out and signed Beckham Jr. midseason and then overspent on Robinson last offseason. Jefferson can be solid, but he’s not a number two wide receiver. Ben Skowronek is a solid fourth option in an offense for a seventh-round pick. He’s also not a number two wide receiver.

As of right now, the same can be said about TuTu Atwell. Atwell has shown some flashes as a deep threat with opportunity. Still, how much confidence is there for him to all of a sudden be the guy that the offense relies on outside of Kupp?

Lance McCutcheon shined in the preseason last year, but in 55 offensive snaps, including 26 against the Kansas City Chiefs, he remained very quiet.

It’s ok to be optimistic about players like Atwell and McCutcheon. However, that doesn’t change the fact that these are still two players who can’t yet be relied on as the number two wide receiver. This group leaves a lot to be desired behind the triple crown winner. Despite missing eight games last year, Kupp managed to lead the Rams offense in receiving. The closest wide receiver to Kupp was Skowronek who finished with 376 yards.

That number two wide receiver role and secondary option to Kupp is something that is still very much missing in the Rams offense. Last season, Kupp led Rams wide receivers with a 30.9 percent target share in the offense. That number ranked second in the NFL behind only Davante Adams with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Meanwhile, Jefferson’s 16.7 percent target share ranked 19th among number two wide receivers. The 14.2 percent gap between Kupp and Jefferson was the third-highest, ranking below only Adams and Mack Hollins of the Raiders and the Chicago Bears’ duo of Darnell Mooney and Dante Pettis.

Unless a team has Patrick Mahomes as their quarterback and Travis Kelce at tight end, it’s becoming increasingly important in the NFL to have two capable wide receiver options that defenses have to respect. The Philadelphia Eagles have AJ Brown and DeVanta Smith. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins lead the way with the Bengals. Even the San Francisco 49ers have found a balanced target share between Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

This isn’t to say that the Rams must take a wide receiver with the 36th overall pick. However, it should absolutely be on the table.

If the Rams were to take a wide receiver such as Jalin Hyatt over O’Cyrus Torrence or John Michael Schmitz, there would absolutely be flashbacks to Atwell over Creed Humphrey in 2021. Undoubtedly, some fans would be upset.

The big difference in that scenario is that Atwell was a luxury pick. The Rams selected a wide receiver when there wasn’t a need for one and there was a need at center. That’s not the case at the current point in time. There are current needs at both positions.

At the current point in time, it also seems like the Rams are ok with the current offensive line that they do have. There’s a good chance that the Rams front office likes the group they have when healthy and see Bruss as “an extra draft pick” this year. If they felt like they needed to rebuild the offensive line, they could have this offseason. Instead, the Rams restructured and committed to Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen.

Heading into the draft, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a receiver selected with one of the Rams’ first three picks. As they should. Following the trade of Robinson, the wide receiver position is one of the Rams’ top positions of need.