By Jeremy Clements
The St. Louis Rams have been busy in the last few weeks, signing three free agents to fill holes in the roster. The addition of Cortland Finnegan shores up the secondary and Kendall Marshall will solidify the defensive line. With those two needs addressed the Rams can return focus to their biggest problem, the lack of a number one receiver. The front office has a little more than a month to finish their homework on the prospects in a draft that has no shortage of wide receivers.
Most experts list Justin Blackmon as the best wide out in the draft, posting back to back seasons of more than 1,500 yards. while hauling in 4o touchdown catches. He measured a little shorter than expected at the combine, standing only 6’1 instead of his listed height of 6’3, but he is long, has good hands and is strong as well. The only question the Rams should really be concerned about when discussing Blackmon is will he still be on the board when they make the 6th overall selection and who would they take if Blackmon isn’t available?
Minnesota Could Be The Key To Blackmon Being Available At the 6th Spot.
We already know the first two picks are going to be Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
Minnesota holds the 3rd pick and they are rumored to be shopping it since both Cleveland and Miami need a quarterback and Ryan Tannehill is regarded as the only other franchise type quarterback in the draft.
Of course, the Dolphins might also be in on Blackmon after sending Brandon Marshall to Chicago. The franchise hasn’t selected a quarterback in the first round since 1983, so passing up on Tannehill wouldn’t shock me. The Jacksonville Jaguars could be a team to watch here as well. They drafted Blaine Gabbert last year and could use an elite wide out, so trading up to get Blackmon would make sense for their franchise.
If the Vikings don’t trade down they would likely select offensive tackle Matt Kalil to help protect Christian Ponder. Though I wouldn’t be shocked if they decided to select Blackmon here either. They could use a star receiver for their young quarterback, and let’s face it Percy Harvin isn’t exactly an elite wide out.
Cleveland has two options in my mind. Their two biggest needs are a quarterback and running back now that Payton Hillis is in Kansas City. So they will either select Tannehill or running back Trent Richardson with the 4th pick.
This bring us to Tampa Bay at the 5 spot. The Buccaneers signed Vincent Jackson to a five year deal earlier this month, likely ending any interest they had in drafting a wide receiver. With that in mind, I expect they will turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball and draft cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Now to the Rams, who’s 6th selection may be determined by what the Vikings do at the 3rd spot. If the Vikings stand pat, I think it is highly likely that Blackmon will fall to the Rams here. If the Vikings trade down and their trade partner takes Blackmon, it doesn’t mean the Rams can’t get a star wide out for Sam Bradford to target either, since there are at least three number one caliber receivers in the draft.
Who Should They Take If Blackmon Is Off The Board?
I think it is likely the Rams end up with Blackmon, but if he isn’t on the board when the Rams go on the clock, Les Snead and company shouldn’t panic. Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright are both extremely talented prospects who could be capable of putting up pro bowl type numbers at the next level.
Floyd leaves Notre Dame as the best wide out in school history. He caught 271 passes for 3,686 yards with 37 touchdowns during his four seasons in South Bend. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Floyd as the 2nd best receiver in the draft comparing him to Hakeem Nicks. He’s a big-bodied playmaker who is great in the air and will use his athleticism to beat corners and safeties in the middle of the field.
Kendall Wright is the wide out Floyd just passed on Kiper’s big board. Wright made a habit of hauling in passes from RG3. He tallied 302 catches for 4,002 yards and 30 touchdowns during his career at Baylor. He saved his best season for his senior year, hauling in 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. Whatever Wright lacks in height and strength he makes up for in speed. He is one of the fastest players in the draft and has breakaway speed that will help any team stretch the field vertically.
Those two are the only other wide outs with first round talent in my opinion. The draft is deep with receivers like Mohammed Sanu, Alshon Jeffery, Stephen Hill, Nick Toon and Sammy Watkins. In fact, the Rams would in all likelihood be able to get one of these second tier wide outs with one of their second or even third round picks, which wouldn’t be a bad idea for a franchise that has only accounted for 69 passing touchdowns since 2007, which is the fewest in the NFL during that period.
The fact of the matter is that the Rams have no choice. They can not afford to ignore this position with at least two elite prospects in this draft. No matter which way you spin it they should leave the draft with at least one legitimate receiving threat and anything less would be unacceptable.
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