Many St. Louis fans were thrilled with the selection of Mardy Gilyard in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. The electric receiver out of Cincinnati was one of the most impressive receivers in the NCAA in 2009, and on top of that, his intriguing rags-to-riches life story was certainly a testament to his overall character and work ethic.
However, even though fans love the Cinderella stories in the NFL, professional football is not a fairytale world (and no, that's not a 'Shawshank' reference). Teams in the NFL strive to put together the best 53 players possible, and although high-character players certainly have an advantage over the thugs, it is still a business in the end. A business that requires production.
Unfortunately for Mardy Gilyard, production was not something he contributed during his rookie season. In 11 games played, Gilyard had only six catches for 63 yards. He had 356 kick return yards with a 22.3 yards-per-return average, but it was not enough to beat out Danny Amendola as the primary return man.
It's not like he didn't have any opportunities. With the injuries to Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Danario Alexander and Laurent Robinson, Gilyard was put in an ideal position to get some playing time, but he did not find himself on the field. He struggled to learn the play book, and he actually took a step backwards towards the end of the season, as he did not even dress for the last few games.
Even so, I have still heard (on several occasions) some fans discussing the possibility of Gilyard having a breakout year under new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. No one can deny that McDaniels loves slot receivers, and that is one thing the Rams have an abundance of (Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola, Mark Clayton, Mardy Gilyard).
But despite the fact that McDaniels uses slot receivers frequently, does anyone honestly believe that Gilyard will beat out Avery, Amendola and Clayton, and at the same time learn a new play book, even though he greatly struggled to learn the plays last season?
Gilyard is a high character guy. He showed a lot of ability in college, and he may develop into a solid player in time. But he is not eligible for the practice squad next season, and the Rams would be crazy to cut one of their more productive slot receivers to keep Gilyard. In the end, it is a game of numbers, and Gilyard will likely be the odd man out.