Editor’s note: This is a guess post from Kevin Roberts of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow Fantasy Football Overdose on twitter at @NBAandNFLInfo, and for more information on St. Louis Rams stats, news and rumors – visit Fantasy Football Overdose.
The St. Louis Rams need help at wide receiver. More specifically, they need a true go-to number one target. Despite trading up to snag Tavon Austin in the 2013 NFL Draft, they still didn’t have one last year. Letting Danny Amendola walk in free agency certainly didn’t help, but even he wasn’t a true number one option.
The Rams are not without talent in their receiving corps. In fact, it’s still entirely possible that one of the guys currently rostered could develop into that go-to option they sorely lack. Austin isn’t it, but the likes of Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey all have excellent natural talent.
It’s possible for one of those receivers to be the guy, but it’s not really all that likely. Quick hasn’t been able to develop into a consistent threat and will be entering a make or break season in 2014. Givens has proven to be serviceable, but is best used as a deep threat, while Bailey was productive in college but doesn’t have the imposing size top targets generally have. The Rams also have Austin Pettis, but he’s nothing more than an average possession receiver.
This leaves the Rams with three choices. They can just stand pat with their current group. There is plenty of talent and upside there, but the Rams will be taking a chance on their youth finally developing. Considering Quick hasn’t figured it out yet, there’s a good chance he never will. Givens and Bailey are further ahead, but have size limitations. There’s a good amount of risk with this approach.
The other two options are chasing down an upgrade via the draft or free agency. The draft sounds easy enough, as the Rams hold two first round picks and even if they don’t get a receiver there, they could snatch one up in round two. But that’s where they got the guys they already have. Again, some real risk involved.
That’s not to say there wouldn’t be any risk with potentially over-paying a free agent receiver on the open market. However, the good news is that anyone they bring in would likely be a proven option, and would also offer the tools needed to be the guy the Rams need them to be.
It’s anyone’s guess which route St. Louis ultimately takes, but with some solid options available in free agency this year, let’s break down the top five candidates that could sign with the Rams at the wide receiver position:
Eric Decker (Denver Broncos)
Decker has to be seen as the top free agent wide receiver – both in general, and for the Rams. Many think he’s merely a product of Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but we can’t ignore the eight touchdowns he scored with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow tossing him passes. Decker has the size, speed and ball skills to create separation and finish plays, and he’s done it consistently throughout his career. In all honesty, the only thing holding him back at all seems to be focus at times. In the right situation, he could absolutely blossom into a true #1 option. That just might be St. Louis.
Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles)
Maclin missed all of 2013 with a knee injury, so some will shocked to see him on this list – let alone right after Decker. He clearly comes with some risk thanks to missing a year of football and having a knee history now, but he’s also probably the most talented receiver on the open market. Most teams will ask him to do a one-year, “prove it” deal because of his situation, but if someone believes in him enough, he might sign a 2-3 year deal at a discount price. My guess is he stays in Philly as he works his way back to the player he previously was, but he’d be a heck of a get for the Rams.
Hakeem Nicks (New York Giants)
Nicks was awful in 2013. He once again failed to play 16 games and didn’t even score a single touchdown. Despite his terrible contract season, though, Nicks brings a great combination of size, speed and ball skills to the table. Besides, the entire Giants team was a mess in 2013. To blame Nicks’ poor production only on him would be a mistake. My personal opinion is he knew he was a sitting duck and wouldn’t be back in New York. He foolishly pouted with his lethargic play and like usual, couldn’t overcome injuries. If the Rams can get him in on a bargain, though, they should snatch him out. He’s still got youth and talent on his side and could easily turn his career around.
James Jones (Green Bay Packers)
Jones has a long history of struggles with fumbles and drops, but when he’s not making boneheaded mistakes, he’s making plays with the football and scoring touchdowns. Injury bogged down his 2013 season, but he ripped off 14 touchdowns in 2012 and absolutely has the talent to be a top option. Consistency and focus are the keys. In St. Louis, he could be the main chain mover and improve the red-zone efficiency for the Rams. He doesn’t come without risk, but he could probably be signed fairly cheaply.
Riley Cooper (Philadelphia Eagles)
I didn’t say Cooper is the guy the Rams should sign, but he’s got to be a guy they’d consider. He doesn’t separate with the best of them, but he does have underrated speed and terrific size. Simply put, the dude seems to just be open when you need him to be. With so much speed elsewhere in the Rams passing game, Cooper would really just need to fill his role as an outside threat who can be a factor in the red-zone. I think he can do that and he might be worth taking a shot on at the right price.
It’s worth noting that Rams GM Les Snead has publicly backed his receiving corps and that the need for an upgrade at wide receiver is more perpetuated by the media. Perhaps. But if Snead is serious about the Rams taking it to the next level on offense in 2014, he’ll likely at least consider some of the options above.