St. Louis Rams: Predicting the 2013 WR Depth Chart
Everybody was drinking the Kool-Aid.
After the Chicago Bears took the Rams to the proverbial woodshed in Week 3, maybe the Rams aren't set at receiver for the next half-decade after all. Since the Rams hold four first-round picks over the next two years—and they have last year's No. 33 overall pick buried on the inactive list—they're going to have a lot of in-house options to look at when addressing the wide receiver position.
So what will the wide receiver depth chart look like next year in St. Louis?
Here's my best guess...
1. Greg Jennings
Hey, a guy can wish, can't he? The Packers have drafted well, which means they have a ton of good players on their roster. When this happens in the NFL, you eventually enter "Salary Cap Hell." It's common knowledge that the Packers are probably going to have to let Jennings go.
I know the Rams have a boat load of first-round picks coming, but rookie receivers take a while to develop. Heck, Calvin Johnson only caught 48 passes as a rookie. Sam Bradford will be entering his fourth season next year, so he needs a true "go-to receiver."
Greg Jennings would immediately be the best receiver on the roster, and his presence would "roll the coverage" toward him, making life easier on the rest of the Rams' receivers.
2. Danny Amendola
There is no doubt he is not only the Rams' best receiver, but he's also Sam Bradford's security blanket. Amendola will be a free agent at the end of the season. I think he will finish this year with 90-100 catches, setting himself up for a nice pay raise.
Amendola will be with the Rams for the foreseeable future, working those short to intermediate passing routes. If the Rams could ever line up two good receivers on the outside—allowing Amendola to work exclusively out of the slot—there's no telling what kind of damage he could do.
3. Brian Quick
Maybe I'll be dead wrong about Brian Quick. Maybe he will prove to be a bust as the No. 33 overall pick—the first pick in the second-round. Maybe he is Donnie Avery 2.0, since Avery was also the No. 33 overall pick.
I believe in Quick. He is big (6'3, 220), fast and he is probably the most physically talented receiver on the Rams' roster. Coming out of Appalachian State, you had to expect a learning curve. Like I said, even Calvin Johnson, the best receiver in the universe, only caught 48 passes during his rookie season.
Lining up Quick and Jennings on the outside, with Amendola working out of the slot, could give Sam Bradford the kind of weapons he hasn't had to work with since he was playing for the Oklahoma Sooners. Of course, all of this is only going to happen if Quick continues to work hard and learn the nuances of the position.
If he does, expect big things from Quick in Year 2.
4. Chris Givens
Chris Givens could leapfrog Quick and start next season. He got his first start Sunday, in only his third game as a pro. Givens has one elite skill, his electric speed, and that skill translates well to the NFL. If Givens continues to improve his hands, becomes a better route runner and learns how to beat press coverage, he could be a great player for the Rams.
I think Givens is a "lower ceiling, higher floor" player than Brian Quick is. With Givens, because of that speed, you know he is going to make some plays every week. Because of Quick's size and physicality, I have him rated slightly higher than Givens.
Either way, I think both players will be with the Rams for a long time.
5. Austin Pettis
A lot of people are quick to forget that Pettis was a highly regarded player when he was drafted in the third round. While he doesn't have Givens' speed or Quick's size, he is perhaps a better all-around receiver than both of the Rams' rookies at this point in their careers.
Pettis will make the Rams team next year, barring the Rams going out and drafting another rookie receiver, or an explosion by another player on the roster this season (Steve Smith, Brandon Gibson).
You have to keep in mind that the Rams have three receivers—Quick, Givens and Pettis—that are so young, along with a player like Amendola that you know they're going to keep. That's why I think it makes more sense to bring in a free agent receiver like Jennings, rather than drafting another young receiver that is going to take time to develop.
You can't keep drafting receivers every year.
I do think the Rams will draft a rookie receiver late in the draft, trying to find a steal. It worked this year when they brought in Daryl Richardson at running back in the seventh-round. They also might bring in an undrafted free agent.
I don't think Brandon Gibson or Steve Smith will be back with the Rams next year, barring something unforeseen. Both Gibson and Smith will be free agents. It's going to take a monster season by either player for them to be back with the Rams next year, simply because there are going to be so many good options on the free agent market.
If Gibson explodes for 70-plus catches and/or double digit TD's, then of course he'll be back. Same goes for Smith. Having said that, I don't think either player is capable of that kind of production, or we would have already seen it.
Gibson is a good third or fourth receiver. The Rams won't keep him around because they'll have cheaper, more talented receivers that are younger. I do think Gibson will get picked up by another team, and I do think he will be very productive (40-50 catches) in that third-receiver role.
Smith was one of the best possession receivers in the NFL before he got hurt, but even if he shows that he is 100 percent healthy, Smith's game is too similar to Amendola's. The Rams need an outside receiver, not another receiver getting in Amendola's way.
So expect the Rams to go after a young player—who can preferably play special teams—to round out the receiver depth chart.
If Sam Bradford doesn't have time to throw, it wouldn't matter if he had Jerry Rice and Randy Moss in their prime. The Rams are going to have to address their offensive line through the draft, because good tackles just don't hit the free agent market.
It looks like the Rams will have two picks in the top 10, maybe even top 5.
So as Rams' fans all keep rooting for Washington to lose every game, expect the Rams to draft at least one offensive tackle in the first round. The second pick the Rams hold in the first round will be spent on a safety, an outside linebacker or another offensive lineman.
I don't think the Rams will draft a wide receiver unless a truly elite receiver falls in their lap.
If the Rams draft a left tackle, then move Rodger Saffold to right tackle next to Harvey Dahl (right guard) and Scott Wells (center), the Rams would have 80 percent of a good looking line. If Sam Bradford is standing behind a good line, with options at running back (Steven Jackson, Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead), receiver (Jennings, Quick, Amendola, Givens, Pettis) and tight end (Lance Kendricks, Matthew Mulligan)...
If that happens, the Rams' offense might actually be at a level close to their defense, and that would be a very good thing.
A guy can dream, can't he?