Well the weekend is over, so let’s kick this week off by continuing our position-by-position preview of the upcoming draft. We looked at some of the quarterback prospects last week, so if anyone missed it and is interested feel free to scroll down and check it out. Today we are going to take a look at another major position of need for the Rams: wide receiver. There is plenty of need on both sides of the ball for this team, but anyone who watched the Rams play last season knows that we are without a true number one threat in the receiving corps. Donnie Avery was a high second round pick just a few years ago, and while he has shown flashes of being very capable, he is much better suited as a number two guy. Laurent Robinson and Keenan Burton are both solid players as well, but they both project better as three or four receivers on a good team. Receivers can be tough to project at the next level, but there are a few guys in this class that I think would be a very nice fit in St. Louis.
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
Positives: Bryant is the consensus top receiver in this year’s class despite only playing in three games last season due to an NCAA suspension, but he had 17 catches for 323 yards and four scores in those outings. His size is excellent at 6-2, 225, and while he doesn’t have blazing speed, he moves very well for a big man. His hands are exceptional, and he catches almost any pass that is in the same zip code. He is an above-average down-field blocker, and he is surprisingly elusive after the catch for a man of his size. Bryant has the potential to become a true number one NFL receiver, and he is the class of this year’s receiving prospects.
Negatives: Bryant really played just two college seasons due to his suspension this past year, so it could take him some time to adjust to the NFL game. Teams don’t seem to be overly concerned about his character, but he does have a bit of a reputation for taking plays off, especially if he is not the top option on the play, but better competition and more maturity should make this a non-issue. Bryant probably won’t be an option for the Rams unless the team trades down in the first round, and even then it seems unlikely that the team would take a receiver with their top pick.
Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech
Positives: Thomas has all of the tools to be an excellent NFL wide out, and he is one of the more intriguing prospects this season. He is 6-3, 225, and his hands are the size of catcher’s mitts. He grabbed 46 passes for 1154 yards and eight scores in his final collegiate season, and he averaged an ACC record 25.1 yards per reception. He is a big play guy who has good speed and elusiveness in the open field, and he possesses excellent body control when the ball is in the air.
Negatives: Thomas’s route running is a major question mark heading into the draft, as he rarely ran NFL routes while at Georgia Tech. He broke his foot in February while training for the combine, and he is expected to be out of action for 4-to-6 weeks due to the injury. Some scouts question whether his big play numbers were a product of the predominantly ground-attack offense he played in at GT. Thomas could fall a bit due to these concerns, but he could be a first round talent that will be available in the second round.
Arrelious Benn, Illinois
Positives: Much like Thomas, Benn has an undeniable skill set that could very well translate into outstanding NFL success. Benn is a bit smaller than Thomas or Bryant at 6-1, 220, but he is plenty big to play at the next level. His hands are excellent, especially in jump ball situations, and he isn’t afraid to catch the ball in traffic. Put up nice numbers at Illinois despite inconsistent quarterback play throughout his career, and he started all three years at U of I. He possesses excellent route running ability, and he can get himself open with his ability to be quick out of the cut.
Negatives: Benn’s stock has fallen a bit since the combine, as he struggled with his footwork and with drops during the wide receiver drills. His production dropped significantly last season, and he struggled with injuries throughout his college career. Some people have also questioned his work ethic in practice, but he seemed to mature a bit during his final season. The struggles of his entire team last season hurt his stock a bit as well, but he has been regarded by most as a first round talent since he came to Illinois three years ago. Benn could be another steal if he falls out of the first round.
Taylor Price, Ohio
Positives: Price was one of the biggest surprises at this year’s combine, and he has helped his stock significantly with his workouts thus far. He isn’t huge at 6-1, 205, but his 4.41 speed is excellent for his size. His route running is more polished than originally thought, and he has the ability to make the exceptional catch when given the opportunity. He is a bit under-the-radar coming from Ohio, and the lack of name recognition could allow him to fall farther than he should.
Negatives: Price didn’t put up great numbers during his college career, but that could be due to Ohio’s lack of talent around him. He will need to improve his down-field blocking at the next level, as this is probably the weakest part of his game. He didn’t play much against elite talent, so there could be an adjustment period in the NFL. May not be the best fit for the Rams, but he has the potential to be an excellent play maker who could still be available in the third round.
There are question marks surrounding all of these players, but Bryant, Thomas, and Benn have the potential to be legit number one threats at the next level. Bryant is probably not a realistic option, but Thomas or Benn would be nice value picks if one or both falls to the second round. Price is a bit of a wild card, but he looks like a play maker, and if there’s one thing we need, it is more big play guys on offense. A few other guys to keep an eye on include Golden Tate (Notre Dame), Brandon LaFell (LSU), and Mardy Gilyard (Cincy).