Heading into the offseason, there is little doubt on “what” the St. Louis Rams need to address before embarking on the 2015 regular season. First and foremost, the Rams need to hammer out the quarterback situation, which, to this point, seems to be another year of praying for Sam Bradford to stay healthy. Secondly, St. Louis has to work out the kinks on the offensive line, with some decisions needing to be made on a number of under-performing, highly-paid veterans and pending free agents. After addressing those areas, the book is seemingly “open” for the Rams to do as they please during the offseason. In fact, should they make a handful of notable moves during the free agency period, it could allow Les Snead and Jeff Fisher to truly turn some heads in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Considering that scenario, some of the recent, high-profile mock drafts from around the league might make a little more sense. Some have had the Rams taking cornerbacks, edge rushers, and even a wide receiver with the No.10 overall pick in the Draft.
The latter might be the most interesting of the “luxury” picks, especially considering the shear amount of unknowns in the St. Louis Rams receiving corps.
Brian Quick is battling back from a “severe” shoulder injury and might miss most of the offseason workouts. Kenny Britt showed up towards the end of the season, but is an unrestricted free agent and should have some options heading into March. Stedman Bailey continues to impress late in the season, but still goes through bouts of inconsistency and has yet to truly earn a starting spot as an undeniable No.1 or No.2 receiver. Tavon Austin has been hot-and-cold in the offense, occasionally showing flashes of his former Mountaineer self, but , at other times, being non-existent on the field. Chris Givens has dropped into the nearly-irrelevant No.5 slot in the rotation, replaced by Britt and Quick as the “deep ball threat.”
While there is a bevy of potential and upside in the St. Louis Rams receiving corps, there might be just as much doubt. With Sam Bradford getting his “final shot” at quarterback and with Jeff Fisher and Co. likely out of their grace period in St. Louis, solidifying that cohort of receivers might not be the worst idea.
However, in order to use high draft picks on “luxury” additions, a team typically has to first button up any glaring holes on the roster. Last year, the Rams were able to snag players like Aaron Donald and Tre Mason only after they had drafted Greg Robinson to upgrade the interior of the offensive line and had “unofficially” wrapped up a deal for Kenny Britt to pull together their young receiving group.
This year, that glaring hole is, again, on the interior of the offense line. Scott Wells and Davin Joseph are likely cuts this offseason, leaving a need for a guard and a center in 2015. Luckily, with a projected cap bump and some “big name” players on the chopping block, the Rams should be in good position this offseason to contend for some of the top names. Tops on that list might be San Francisco guard, Mike Iupati, who would add a veteran presence and road-grading toughness to an offensive line that figured to be pushing downhill plenty in the upcoming season. There are also some top-tier centers available in free agency, like Kansas City’s Rodney Hudson and Oakland’s Stefen Wisniewski. Adding one or two starters to the offensive line in free agency should do the trick, assuming the Rams want to bite on a big name receiver in this class.
So, under the assumption that the Rams make a decent splash in free agency, are there any receivers worth dropping a Top 10 pick on this year?
Mel Kiper, Jr. recently mocked West Virginia star, Kevin White, to the Rams in the No. 10 spot. If adding another Mountaineer to the roster doesn’t sound appealing, Alabama wide out, Amari Cooper, is widely consider the top receiver in the class, entering as easily the most “polished” prospect, in terms of route running and translate-ability into the NFL. Lastly, DeVante Parker is a darkhorse for tops among the class, entering as arguably the best “in traffic” receiver of the group; one of the rare types of receivers who is “always open,” even with multiple defenders draped over his shoulders. All three possess solid size, particular White and Parker, good strength, and top-of-the-class skill sets to make an immediate impact at the next level.
For the Rams, with Quick likely out to start the regular season, both White and Parker might make sense at the No.10 spot. Not only would either player erase some of the questions among the receiving corps, they would finally give the St. Louis Rams and Sam Bradford a prototypical No.1 wide out that hcan rely on late in the game. While no one wants to “give up” on Brian Quick or Kenny Britt, the Rams have not had much luck banking on 1) a player returning (and continuing to stay) healthy after an injury or 2) keep red flag players away from “red flagging” in the future. Moreover, even if both players come back strong, having too many great receivers is not the worst problem to have in the NFL, particularly if none of them are demanding “great receiver” money. Assuming the Rams can button up the offensive line, Les Snead and Jeff Fisher would be wise to do their homework on this trio of receivers.