Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Trading Up for a Wide Receiver Would Be Worth It for the Rams

Historically, it has only been wise to trade if your team is one, or two pieces away from being competitive.

Although no one in their right mind would advocate that the Rams are one wide receiver away from going to the Super Bowl, it would be fair to say that Rams are one primary receiver away from snatching the NFC West crown. And as far as winning playoff games? Well, Seattle won one this past season, so anything can happen if the Rams win the division in 2011.

Sam Bradford had a great rookie season, and no one is taking that away from him. However,the Rams (or Bradford) attempted passes for 15 yards or more only 13.0 % of the time in 2010.

Within that 13.0 %, Bradford was only able to complete 23.5 % of those passes, which is worse than any rookie quarterback since 2008, and he only had a quarterback rating of 43.1 when throwing for more that 15 yards (which was the second worst rating amongst rookie quarterbacks since 2008, behind only Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions).

Given Bradford's success in most other aspects, it is hard to put the blame on him. Part of it was due to the West Coast offense the team ran, which put an emphasis on short routes by the receivers. But the real reason was a flat out lack of talent at the wide receiver position.

Although the team's lack of a primary target was clear in every game, and contributed to every loss of the season in some way, one needs to look no further that the Seattle game at the end of the season to find proof of the unit's inferiority.

The receivers were visibly struggling to stay on their routes after the first five yards, and any receiver that broke free was smothered by the secondary. There was no receiver physical enough to force his way free, just as there was no receiver fast enough to break free.

It's not that the Rams have no talent at the position whatsoever, it's just that the current receivers will not reach their potential until the team gets a real threat as a primary receiver. Here is what a bona fide No. 1 target could do for the St. Louis offense...

1) Danny Amendola

Amendola is flat out tough in every sense of the word, and he is dangerous in the slot, but when opposing teams double team him, he struggles. A top receiver would take away that double coverage, and it would allow Amendola to be the Wes Welker style first down machine that Rams fans know he can be.

2) Danario Alexander

Given his injury history and some slight inconsistencies, Alexander is not a proven commodity, and he certainly is not a candidate for being the top receiver until he proves he can stay on the field. But what we do know is that he is good for the occasional long ball, with an emphasis on the word "occasional". A true No. 1 receiver on the roster would make those long bombs to Alexander occur more frequently.

3) Steven Jackson
Jackson is still the primary threat on the Rams' offense. Although, with Bradford at quarterback, opposing teams are more skeptical when it comes to stacking eight men in the box to stop Jackson, but they still have the luxury of narrowing in on him. A primary receiver would relieve some of this pressure and help open up the run game.

4) Mike Hoomanawanui and the Tight Ends

Mike Hoomanawanui (or 'Big Mike'), was certainly something special as a rookie, especially as a fifth round draft pick. He was injured for most of the 2010 season, but when healthy, he showed that he can be a solid receiver out of the tight end position. A primary receiver would have opposing defensive backs watching the deep ball, which would help Big Mike and the other tight ends get open on their intermediate routes.

5) Sam Bradford

This is the obvious person that would benefit from a true No. 1 receiver. After the Rams drafted Bradford with their top pick in 2010, they immediately drafted left tackle Rodger Saffold in the second round to help protect him. Now that Bradford has some adequate protection, the team needs to provide their $50 million investment with a real weapon at receiver, or else a lot of money and potential will be wasted.

With the current rumors that suggest the Dallas Cowboys may be willing to trade their No. 9 overall pick, it could provide the Rams with the perfect opportunity to jump ahead of the Washington Redskins (picking No. 10 overall), and steal either A.J. Green or Julio Jones away from them.

Since the move would only be five spots (from No. 14), it would still be pricey, as it's a top 10 pick, but it wouldn't be as bad as, say, moving into the top 5. It likely would not have to cost the team a 2nd round pick, and it would even be possible for the Rams to keep their top picks, with the primary compensation being a 2012 draft pick.

Would it be worth it? Well, that depends on your personal opinion of Jones and Green. But, hypothetically, if those guys are the players that scouts think they can be, then look no further than the Seattle game film, and you'll probably see that it is well worth it. 

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