I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase “read between the lines,” right? Throughout this whole draft, free agency and offseason process, the NFL lures you in with smokescreens, constant moving in mock drafts and flashy free-agent pick-ups. You would have to channel your inner Ms. Cleo to uncover the truth. In some instances, you have to stop at every gas station and look at every passing sign to find what you’re looking for, but some signs look at you and say, “Hey, you’re looking for me?”
The Rams offseason has been subtle in numbers, but loud in impact. With the draft quickly approaching, every move is heavily scrutinized and any hint that falls from the lip of a head coach or general manager is seen a credible. St. Louis is looking for explosion in a variety of ways to put points on the board. As Bradford continues his ascent from a good to an elite quarterback, it is imperative the Rams surround him with premier talent. Explosion is all across the board in the 2013 NFL Draft, but signs are pointing towards a 5’8″ 173 pound thunderbolt from West Virginia.
1. Amendola’s absence
True, this was a given. However, besides height, what other aspect to Amendola’s game is superior to Austin? None. The mountaineer dynamo has the wheels to take a 5-yard slant to a 50 yard score. The knock on Austin is his size, which is also a concern of mines, but he does have thickness to his frame. I see him as a smooth blend of DeSean Jackson and Dexter McCluster. He showcases his quick use of hands to adjust to wide or high passes, as well as tracking balls over his shoulder. Austin is a mismatch on every down in the slot. As the NFL involves, so does the mold of players. Austin is what you would call an “OW,” an offensive weapon. You can line him up inside, outside, in the backfield and on punt and kickoff returns. Don’t blink when he has the ball in his hands.
2. The Jake Long signing
Inking Long doesn’t necessarily mean Austin, but it does mean one of the Rams two first round picks will be used on a wide receiver, especially with the loss of Amendola and Brandon Gibson. St. Louis could very well target wideout Cordarrelle Patterson, who is equally as electrifying as Austin. Signing Long solidifies protection for Sam Bradford and gives him more time find receivers downfield or opening up underneath.
3. Rams 2012 WR draft class
The emergences of Chris Givens and the development of Brian Quick also suggest the Rams drafting Austin. In the preseason and throughout the regular season, Jeff Fisher and Les Snead both were quoted saying they have “visions” of Quick and Givens lining up opposite of each other. While Givens does posses the ability to play the slot, a bulk of his homerun catches came on the perimeter. I believe the Rams will keep him on the outside because of his ability to stretch the field and his above average route running. To me, Quick is not a “project”, the Rams knew they had to develop and bring him up to speed coming out of Appalachian Sate. Patterson is also seen as project because of his raw skill set. This could cause the Rams to overlook him and go with the sure thing in Austin. However, I could also make the same argument of Patterson.
4. “Cook”-ing up something
Maybe a bit more surprising than the Long signing. Jared Cook is as much of a WR as he is a tight end. Standing at a lean 6’5″ and 249 pounds, Cook’s size element allows the Rams to become more versatile in their selection process. With Quick and Givens on the outside and Cook in the middle of the field, Austin’s small stature could provide dividends as he potentially could go unnoticed. Austin’s ability to make quick cuts and create constant separation underneath will open up opportunities for everyone.
5. “Keep Calm and Snead On”
As I previously stated, Snead and Fisher has said numerous of times that they are looking for playmakers. “Playmakers come in all shapes and sizes.” – Les Snead. Snead said this at the NFL Scouting Combine as he watched the linemen drills. From the start of the offseason, the duo has been preaching protection and explosion on offense. They locked up protection with Long, and the explosion only awaits if Austin is the pick.
But then again, Patterson could be the pick as well. Sue me.