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NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receiver

Posted Apr 11, 2011

By the end of the 2010 season, if you were a wide receiver under contract with the Rams, chances are you had a golden opportunity to play.

As injuries took their toll once again on the Rams receiver corps, more and more wideouts got a chance to prove themselves.

So heading into this month’s NFL Draft, the Rams have plenty of options for the receiver position but that won’t preclude them from taking a long look at potential prospects in this year’s class.

The way it stands, Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, Laurent Robinson, Donnie Avery, Brandon Gibson, Mardy Gilyard and Dominique Curry are coming back as receivers with playing experience as Rams.

In addition, the Rams have expressed interest in re-signing Mark Clayton when free agency begins. Clayton has also expressed interest in staying in St. Louis.

Last season, the Rams got contributions from nearly all of those players to varying degrees.

After losing Avery to an ACL injury early in the season, general manager Billy Devaney made a shrewd move to acquire Clayton in exchange for a swap of late-round draft picks.

Clayton quickly established himself as quarterback Sam Bradford’s favorite target, hauling in 23 catches for 306 yards and three touchdowns in four plus games.

When Clayton went out for the season with a leg injury of his own, the Rams turned to the next man up. Gibson and Robinson handled most of those duties as Gibson finished with 53 catches for 620 yards and two touchdowns.

Robinson posted 34 catches for 344 yards and two scores.

The one constant in the passing game was Amendola, who was at his best working out of the slot. He led the Rams with 85 catches and 689 yards with three touchdowns.

Alexander was a midseason revelation, working his way back from a knee injury and making big plays in wins against San Diego, Denver and San Francisco as he put up 20 catches for 306 yards and a touchdown.

Gilyard never quite got on track as he fell behind early because of NCAA graduation rules and a wrist injury. Curry, who won a spot on the team mostly because of his special teams prowess, blocked a punt against Washington but later suffered a season-ending ACL injury as well.
With new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in town, it’s possible that the receiving crew will be asked to do things a bit different than in former coordinator Pat Shurmur’s West Coast scheme.

Because they have so many young players returning to compete for jobs, there figures to be plenty of competition for jobs at the receiver position in St. Louis.

But that doesn’t mean the Rams won’t be on the prowl for more play makers to pair with Bradford for the future.

This year’s draft class features a pair of studs from the Southeastern Conference, both of whom could land in the top 10 of the draft and a group of talented wideouts expected to go in the next few rounds.

Headlining the class is Georgia’s A.J. Green and Alabama’s Julio Jones.

Green showed the type of catching skills and body control that have drawn comparisons to Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald. Some scouts even believe Green is the best player in the draft regardless of position and he’s expected to go no later than No. 6 to Cleveland.

The big, physical Jones had a breakout 2010 season for the Crimson Tide and his combination of size, speed and love for the game has made him a favorite in league scouting circles. While Jones will likely last longer than Green, it doesn’t seem too likely he’ll be around when the Rams pick at No. 14 in the first round.

Should Green or Jones somehow fall into the Rams’ range, though, they would both almost certainly draw serious consideration for the pick.

More likely, should the Rams opt to land a pass catcher; it will have to come after the first round barring a trade down in the first round.

There are some intriguing options after Green and Jones. Boise State’s Titus Young, Maryland’s Torrey Smith, Kentucky’ Randall Cobb and Indiana’s Tandon Doss figure to land somewhere in the second round or early in the third.

 

2011 NFL Draft Top Wide Receivers

1. A.J. Green, Georgia – Talented pass catcher who some believes is most polished receiver prospect to come out since Larry Fitzgerald.

2. Julio Jones, Alabama – All the physical tools and a love for the game make the soft spoken Jones a shoo in for the top half of the first round.

3. Titus Young, Boise State – Speedy and productive for the Broncos, Young can stretch the field and figures to go early in the second round.

4. Torrey Smith, Maryland – Good size and speed combination makes Smith an intriguing prospect for any team.

5. Randall Cobb, Kentucky – Wildly versatile player with the skills to play any of the receiver positions, running back, run the wild cat and return kicks and punts.

Sleeper: Jock Sanders, West Virginia – Small but dynamic receiver was late addition to the Senior Bowl roster and showed his ability to produce on a consistent basis. Some compare him to Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster because of his size and versatility.