In 2008, the makeup of the St. Louis Rams drastically changed in a number of ways. It marked the death of the legendary Georgia Frontiere and oversaw the acquisition of a number of “big name” free agents, including Josh Brown from Seattle and Jacob Bell from Tennessee. The Rams used their 2nd overall pick to select Chris Long in the 2008 draft, who recently signed a massive contract extension to anchor our defensive line for the next half decade.
In a lesser remembered storyline from that draft, the Rams decided to bypass DeSean Jackon in the 2nd round and, instead, draft Donnie Avery, the burner from the University of Houston. In retrospect, the Rams’ made a poor choice, with Jackson, character issues aside, blossoming into one of the perennial young wide receivers in the NFL.
Avery put up some decent numbers in his rookie campaign, with 674 yards on 53 receptions, with over 22.6 percent of those catches going for 20+ yards. Fast forward to the 2010 Preseason Week 3 matchup against the New England Patriots where we all watched the end of Donnie Avery’s career in St. Louis, as he was carted off the field with a torn ACL. Since then, our wide receiver corps has been plagued by injury, inconsistent production, and rapid turnover that has diminished any hopes of Bradford building a strong, on-field connection with any single player.
In 2012, Head Coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead made it a priority to break this cycle by drafting Brian Quick with the first pick of the 2nd round and taking Chris Givens in the 4th. Givens was marked by draft analysts as a burner, a player from a smaller university whose speed could translate into problems for the opposing defense. Ring a bell? The same was said about Avery coming into the draft. Sports Illustrated had this to say about each player’s “positives” in their respective draft profiles:
“Game-breaking receiver who can take it the distance. Plays with outstanding balance, body control, and quickness… leaves defenders in the dust if given the slightest bit of open space. Has a second gear, easily runs to the long throw… Displays solid eye/hand coordination, finds the soft spot in the defense, and for the most part catches the ball with his hands.” -on Donnie Avery
“Big-play receiver with a nose for the endzone. Displays tremendous overall quickness, has deceptive speed and is consistently doubled by opponents. Works his way back into the clearing to make himself an available target, uses his hands to separate from defenders… Displays good eye/hand coordination… Runs well laterally, making the reception in stride. Shows a burst and can turn it on in a single step. Plays with terrific balance and body control.” – on Chris Givens
Alongside their seemingly identical pre-draft analyses, Avery and Givens also have eerily similar size, speed, and collegiate production. Check out a comparison of Givens’ Wake Forest stats vs. Donnie Avery’s stats from his last three years at the University of Houston, as well as NFL Combine results:
|Height||5′ 11||6′ 0|
|40 Yard Dash||4.43||4.41|
|225 Bench Reps||16||19|
|Major Injuries (requiring surgery or significant loss of playing time)||ACL (Right Knee, 2010)||ACL (Left Knee, Junior Year of High School) |
ACL (Right Knee, Senior Year of High School
If Givens can reincarnate the production that Avery put out during his rookie and sophomore campaigns, then Givens will be the steal of the draft for the Rams. On the flip side, if Givens follows too closely down the path that Avery paved, we may just have another 4.40 40-time receiver pacing the sidelines on Sundays. Hopefully not the latter, but only time will tell.