2014 NFL Draft: Top WR Prospects for the St. Louis Rams

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: Top WR Prospects for the St. Louis Rams

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    The St. Louis Rams used their first-round pick on Tavon Austin a year ago, but wide receiver remains a serious concern. 

    Time is running out for the development of Sam Bradford, and finding him another playmaker is a top priority this offseason. 

    The Rams already have a few key pieces of the puzzle in their receiving corps. Austin is the ideal playmaker in the slot, and Chris Givens provides them a solid deep threat.

    Austin Pettis and Brian Quick also provide quality depth, but neither player is capable of being the go-to possession receiver Bradford needs. 

    The following slideshow ranks the top five wide receiver prospects based on how they fit the Rams' needs. Additionally, some big-name prospects who are left off the list are included with an explanation of why they don't quite fit into the scheme in St. Louis.

Big Names Who Don't Fit

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    Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

    Benjamin is an elite talent with the raw skills necessary to develop into a true No. 1 receiver. His size and speed are rivaled by few; however, he is among the most undeveloped prospects in this class. His hands are shaky and his route running is sloppy, making him a risky pick for the Rams, who need to supply Bradford with an instant-impact weapon. 

     

    Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

    Beckham is a legitimate first-round prospect, but he may not be a great fit in St. Louis. Beckham is undersized and would be a dangerous weapon in the slot. However, he and Tavon Austin bring too many of the same tools to the table. 

     

    Marqise Lee, USC

    Lee has the tools to play on the outside, but his biggest early impact in the league will be from the slot. At USC, he was used almost exclusively on short routes (screens, drags, etc.) and never developed the ability to consistently get open down the field. In the short term, he would get lost in the shuffle sharing the field with Austin.

5. Jarvis Landry, LSU

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    Jarvis Landry's ceiling isn't as high as the other receivers on this list, but he has the tools to step into an immediate starting role and become a safety net for Sam Bradford. 

    LSU ran a very traditional NFL offense under the guidance of Cam Cameron this past season, and Landry emerged as Zach Mettenberger's go-to target. 

    The Rams could reasonably expect Landry to step into a similar role on the outside for Bradford, freeing things up for Austin to make plays from the slot.

4. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

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    Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

    Jordan Matthews needs to become more consistent battling for jump balls, as his hands have proven to be shaky when going up for contested passes. However, he has a nice blend of size and speed, which compares favorably to Keenan Allen, who excelled as a rookie in San Diego this past season. 

    Matthews is talented, intelligent and has a reputation as a hard worker, giving teams good reason to expect him to make quick strides in his development under the guidance of an NFL coaching staff. 

    If Matthews falls to the second round, he may be the Rams' best hope for finding an immediate impact player in that range.  

3. Allen Robinson, Penn State

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    While he isn't the most exciting receiver in the draft, Allen Robinson is among the most polished prospects at his position. 

    Robinson is limited in his ability to make plays after the catch and won't scare many defenses with his speed. However, he runs crisp routes and has reliable hands, making him a solid option for any team needing an immediate impact-possession receiver. 

    Due to his lack if elite playmaking ability, Robinson is a notch below the top prospects in this class, but a team like the Rams could feel comfortable in his ability to make his presence felt early in his career.

2. Sammy Watkins, Clemson

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    Sammy Watkins makes the list because his ceiling is so high that it would be tough for the Rams to pass him up. But he comes in at No. 2 on the board because he doesn't really fit what they need right now. 

    Watkins was rarely targeted beyond five yards down the field at Clemson, and he was used primarily on screen passes. Essentially, he was a running back who lined up out wide.

    As a result, Watkins will be able to make the most immediate impact at the next level in the same role that Tavon Austin currently fills in St. Louis. 

    The Rams would certainly welcome the addition of Watkins based on his long-term potential, but his immediate impact may not be what they need to help Sam Bradford take the next step. 

1. Mike Evans, Texas A&M

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    Mike Evans is exactly what the Rams hoped either Brian Quick or Austin Pettis would eventually become. 

    Unfortunately, those two haven't developed, but Evans could easily fill that role as the possession receiver who doubles as a downfield threat. 

    Evans' dominance in jump-ball situations may be the most impressive we've seen from a prospect since Calvin Johnson. And while his overall athleticism doesn't quite put him on Johnson's level, he has more than enough to make an immediate impact in St. Louis. 

    With Evans as the possession receiver, Austin as the speed-slot guy and Givens as the downfield threat, the Rams would suddenly have an impressive, well-rounded crew.