The LA Rams may have a solid depth chart of starters and backups in the wide receiver room, but that has never stopped this team from opening doors to new faces in the hopes of finding a player who can fill a niche role or contribute on special teams. You see, the Rams can take a wide receiver and end up with a punt or kickoff return specialist, or perhaps a fast gunner for coverage teams.
Or simply welcome all of that amazing talent held in reverence on the practice field and stash it away on their bench, ne'er to be heard from again. After all, there is an established pattern of rookie receivers who simply failed to see any action in their first season on the LA Rams roster. But if there is a chance to earn a roster spot for any receivers this year, that will only happen if they become valuable to special teams.
A quick summary
Special teams and offensive prospects are not as common as you might think, and the LA Rams have spent the offseason in an NFL scavenger hunt to restock the bare cupboards with special team players. While the LA Rams have no clearcut frontrunner for return specialist, the smart money is betting on Florida A&M receiver Xavier Smith to earn the job.
What I don't like about this signing
To be fair, the LA Rams have a place for innovative offensive weapons. But the track record of the LA Rams with young receivers is not stellar. And the Rams seem to have met their quota with 5-foot-9 174 pound receivers already, so one more really doesn't offer a lot of variety.
What I like about this signing
If you like what Tutu Atwell brings to the team, then you will be delighted when you realize that the LA Rams have doubled down, but this time with an undrafted rookie receiver in Xavier Smith. Smith is 5-foot-9, 174 pounds, and can blaze a 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds. For the record, LA Rams WR Tutu Atwell is 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, and can blaze a 40-yard dash is 4.39 seconds. Atwell was chosen in Round 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Smith never heard his name called out.
While I don't foresee Xavier Smith getting offensive snaps this year, he does serve as a great insurance policy for the Rams offense should Tutu Atwell be injured for any prolonged period of time.
What I love about this signing
I know that the LA Rams are not exactly the type of team to entrust rookies with roles as uniquely valuable as a return specialist, but I think that the role of returning kickoffs and punts is custom-made for Smith. He is a swift-footed receiver who uses more than speed to create separation, and accomplish his role on offense:
Xavier Smith also has three seasons of college football where he served in the capacity of both punt returner and kickoff returner. That is going to go a long way as the team tries to sort the chaff from the wheat in a compressed race to find viable contenders.
What are his chances of making the roster?
If not for the special teams component, Xavier Smith would be a remote chance even for a practice squad role. But considering that he is a front runner to establish himself as a return specialist, I set his odds of making the 53-man roster at 33 percent (one out of three) and of making the practice squad at better than 80 percent.