St. Louis Rams: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at WR
Last week, we looked at the running back position for the St. Louis Rams, but this week's position breakdown will cover the wide receivers.
Wide receiver is one of the more intriguing positions for the Rams in the upcoming season. Though an underwhelming group a year ago, the unit possesses the potential to make big strides in 2014.
The Rams have a top-notch defense and a solid running game to carry the team, but there's a great deal of uncertainty surrounding their aerial attack. The team's passing offense maximizing its potential could be just the boost the Rams need to finally make the playoffs. But if the group stumbles, it could drag the whole team down.
Without a doubt, all eyes of the St. Louis fanbase will be on the Rams receivers.
This article will break down the position and provide information on each player, giving you an idea of what to expect in 2014.
Obviously, this is a very big year for the former second-round draft pick. After two NFL seasons, Brian Quick has done little to justify his lofty draft status.
Quick was drafted to be the offense's No. 1 target but instead has produced like a part-time contributor at best. He finished his second NFL season with just 302 yards and two scores, and that simply does not cut it.
Quick has a rare combination of size, speed and athleticism. If he plays with any consistency, he could very well be the answer to St. Louis' wide receiver woes.
If Quick does not look the part of a No. 1 receiver in training camp, he's in danger of losing his job.
Rams general manager Les Snead has always liked Quick, so the third-year wideout will more than likely get another chance, but his roster spot should no longer be considered a guarantee.
Once again, Tavon Austin will be the wild card on offense, but hopefully, he'll no longer be the most underappreciated weapon on offense.
The expectations for Austin heading into his rookie season were astronomical. Maybe after a year-long reality check, the hype will simmer down, and Austin's contributions will receive more appreciation.
Of course, if Austin can inflate his stats, that will certainly help his cause as well.
Austin had under 500 yards receiving and under 200 yards rushing in 2013. He had 280 yards in returns and one touchdown, though he had a couple of big returns wiped out by penalties.
His season was still far from being a total disaster. He had over 300 all-purpose yards and three scores against the Indianapolis Colts, and he had three multiple-touchdown games in just over 13 contests.
If Austin can roll out those highlight games on a more consistent basis, the critics will be silenced.
Overall, we saw enough out of Austin in his rookie year to justify his top-10 draft status, at least for now. If he improves his consistency, he'll become the most dynamic offensive weapon in the NFL.
Stedman Bailey is facing a four-game suspension in 2014 for violating the league's substance abuse policy, according to NFL.com. It's really a shame too, since Bailey was starting to pop towards the end of 2013.
Bailey had multiple catches in each of the final five games in 2013. During the Week 16 game against Tampa Bay, Bailey had three catches for 44 yards and a 27-yard rushing touchdown.
Bailey exceeded expectations for a rookie mid-round pick, and hopefully he'll be able to build on that in 2014. If the suspension motivates him and he enters Week 5 with a chip on his shoulder, he'll provide the offense with a nice boost for the final three quarters of the season.
If everything goes as planned, the addition of free agent Kenny Britt could prove to be for the Rams the most profitable move of their entire offseason.
Britt provides attitude on offense—a much needed trait against the enormous egos occupying Seattle's secondary—as well as true No. 1 potential. He's the perfect example of a low-risk, high-reward acquisition.
Injuries and off-the-field foolishness have hindered Britt's career, but there's little doubt he can be a game-changer when he's healthy and on the field.
Britt will compete with Quick and Austin Pettis for the No. 1 wide receiver job. If Britt is unable to discipline himself away from the field, the Rams will drop him in a heart beat.
If he puts his past to bed and shows up ready to play, he could very well be the player who makes Rams fans forget the name "Sammy Watkins" once and for all.
Chris Givens was pegged as a potential breakout candidate last year, but he has since been demoted to an afterthought.
It's true that Givens is virtually a one-trick pony. He's excellent going deep but struggles to make a difference on intermediate routes.
Even so, one trick is better than no tricks. Givens can still be a valuable weapon on offense, and people are writing him off prematurely.
In fact, as someone who has a finger on the pulse of Rams Nation, I find it quite amusing that much of the fanbase is more than ready to give Quick another chance while simultaneously calling for Givens' head—even though Givens basically doubled Quick's production in a supposed down year.
After Sam Bradford was lost for the season, the Rams lost the ability to throw the deep ball, and that killed Givens' production.
Givens isn't completely blameless, however. He got off to a slow start and failed to produce while Bradford was in the lineup. Had Bradford remained healthy for 16 games, it's likely that Givens would have produced a few impressive performances at some point down the road, but it didn't work out that way.
Givens is entering the year hungry after his failures in 2013. With Bradford back under center, it's safe to expect a rebound year from Givens.
Austin Pettis has been a solid addition since joining the team in 2011, but he has been unable to establish himself as a particularly dynamic weapon or irreplaceable player.
Pettis has good size and strength, and he has some value in the red zone, but he's basically a role player who will be easy to replace once a better option emerges (something Ram fans hope either Quick and Britt, or both, will accomplish this season).
Pettis' play is basically the barometer that will measure the value of St. Louis' receivers. If Pettis takes first-team reps during the preseason and ultimately makes the final cut, it tells us that the development of Britt and Quick is lacking, which is theoretically a cause for concern.
If, however, Pettis takes the majority of his preseason snaps with the second-team unit and struggles to make the roster, we can conclude that Quick and Britt are coming along and that St. Louis' receiver may finally pop in 2014.
Pettis is not terribly vital to the offense, but his role with the team will give us some insight into the development of the other receivers.
A good portion of Rams fans double as Missouri Tiger fans on Saturdays, so former Mizzou standout and free-agent addition T.J. Moe certainly has the support of the St. Louis faithful.
Unfortunately, the Rams are fairly packed at wide receiver, and it's very difficult to see Moe making the roster over any of the players mentioned in the previous six slides.
If Moe can establish himself as a standout special teams player, he'll have a shot at the roster. As a receiver, however, the Rams already have two shifty chain movers in Austin and Bailey, so there's little need for Moe on offense.
At the very least, it'll be fun to watch a former Mizzou star suit up for the Rams this preseason. With a little luck, he just might turn some heads.
Justin Veltung tried out for the team a year ago but came up short. He was instead signed to the practice squad.
Veltung was promoted to the 53-man roster for the final three games of the season. He helped fill in for the injured Austin and returned seven punts for 61 yards, including a 15-yard return.
The 5'11", 183-pound Veltung will have a tough time making the 2014 roster, as his skills are similar to Austin and Bailey. He may be a decent replacement for Bailey during his four-game suspension, but other than that, Veltung is strictly a special teams player.
Veltung has only three games on his NFL resume, so he's still eligible for another year of the practice squad. (Players are eligible for the practice squad as long as they've appeared in fewer than 10 games).
Emory Blake is another familiar low-level face from last year's camp, and like Veltung, Blake failed to crack the final roster and instead settled for a spot on the practice squad.
Blake, barring a number of injuries, will spend at least another year on the practice squad before he gets a chance to play on Sundays.
It's also worth noting that Blake played for Auburn, making him a former teammate of Jeff Fisher's son, as well as a former college teammate of new St. Louis draft picks Greg Robinson and Tre Mason. At the very least, the Auburn connection will provide Blake with some comfort, which could help his performance.
Austin Franklin has been the highlight of the New Mexico State offense for the past two seasons and even finished with 74 catches and over 1,200 yards in 2012.
Franklin has the production that the Rams look for in undrafted rookies from small schools. Adjusting to the speed and the intensity of the NFL will be his biggest hurdle, but he certainly has the speed and skills to make plays.
Franklin is a practice squad candidate in 2014, but that doesn't mean he can't develop into a contributor at some point.
At 6'2" and 188 pounds, Jamaine Sherman has pretty appealing size compared to the other rookie receivers who are currently further down the depth chart.
Sherman is another small-school prospect out of East Texas Baptist University who became the program's first ever 1,000-yard receiver.
Sherman was overlooked by the big-name universities, but playmakers don't always come from programs that double as football factories.
Rookie Diontae Spencer will replace Austin as the smallest player at Rams' training camp.
Spencer (5'9", 161 pounds) is an inch taller than Austin (5'8", 176 pounds), but he's also over 10 pounds lighter, so it just depends on how you look at it. In any case, the front office must be interested in Spencer's speed and shiftiness to offer him a shot.
Spencer, like every undrafted receiver on the training camp roster, is under 200 pounds and has potential as a returner. He has a lot of competition, but as Austin demonstrates, size is no excuse.