NFC West: Alex Bannister
Mike Sando: The Rams aren't alone on this front. Back in 2008, ESPN's John Clayton pointed to league-wide troubles in developing true No. 1 receivers.
In the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks have tried to revive Mike Williams' career, with some success. Is he a true No. 1 wideout? Not from a speed standpoint. The Seahawks have not placed a receiver in the Pro Bowl since Brian Blades qualified in 1989 (Alex Bannister made it on special teams more recently). The San Francisco 49ers used a top-10 draft choice for Michael Crabtree recently, but the team hasn't had a Pro Bowl wideout since Terrell Owens in 2003.
The Rams did the best they realistically could have done in the 2011 draft. Taking a receiver at No. 14 wasn't realistic given how teams and analysts rated the prospects available at that point. Moving up eight spots to select Julio Jones at No. 6 wasn't going to work; Cleveland enticed the Atlanta Falcons to jump 21 spots for the choice, and at a high price.
The Rams did use their second, third and fourth picks for pass catchers. New coordinator Josh McDaniels has gotten good production from players with questionable pedigrees. Brandon Lloyd put up No. 1-receiver numbers for Denver in 2010. But others share your concerns, Joel.
"I am all about drafting for value and they did it with Robert Quinn in the first round," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said, "but in the end, you have seven wideouts for 5-6 spots and you still don't have a No. 1. When analyzing how they picked, you can't be critical. I'm just not sure you are any better at receiver."
Growing the depth at receiver at least gives the Rams a larger, healthier and younger pool from which to draw. Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton are coming off serious knee injuries, as is developmental receiver Dominique Curry. Danario Alexander has long-standing knee issues. Laurent Robinson missed two games last season and has missed 25 over the past three. Brandon Gibson has missed time and has yet to show consistency. Mardy Gilyard's career has yet to get going.
Paul Kuharsky will have the main piece on the AFC South blog later Tuesday.
In the meantime, I wanted to offer another item on the receiver rankings that came out last week.
Larry Fitzgerald finished second to Andre Johnson in that poll, but he has no serious competition in the NFC West.
The chart ranks NFC West wide receivers by regular-season receptions since 2008, based on totals available at Pro Football Reference. The totals reflect only those catches made while playing for teams in the division. Anquan Boldin's receptions with Baltimore would not count, for example.
Fitzgerald (three) and Boldin (one) are the only receivers to earn Pro Bowl honors while playing for an NFC West team during the three-year period in question.
The San Francisco 49ers last had a Pro Bowl wideout in 2003 (Terrell Owens). The St. Louis Rams had one in 2007 (Torry Holt). The Seattle Seahawks haven't had one since Brian Blades in 1989. Receiver Alex Bannister made it as a special-teamer in 2003.
That is bad.
The chart shows NFC West draft choices since 2000 with Pro Bowls on their résumés, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Pro Bowl counts include appearances made for teams outside the division.
For example, 2001 Seahawks draft choice Koren Robinson earned Pro Bowl honors as a return specialist in Minnesota. Thomas Jones never did much for Arizona, but he blossomed elsewhere.
Niners draft choice Julian Peterson earned Pro Bowl appearances with Seattle and San Francisco, but he's listed with the 49ers because they drafted him.
The Cardinals drafted a division-leading nine Pro Bowl players. Their first-round choices averaged 11th overall during the decade.
The Seahawks drafted seven Pro Bowl players. Their first-round position averaged 20th overall.
The 49ers drafted six. Their first-round position averaged 18th overall.
The Rams averaged 17th overall in the round with a range of very early and very late selections.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
A first-round scenario to consider when the NFL draft begins Saturday: The Lions draft Matthew Stafford, the Rams take a tackle, the Chiefs address their defensive line and the Seahawks draft Aaron Curry. Under that scenario, might Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree fall to the 49ers at No. 10? And if he did, would the 49ers take him?
The possibility came to mind as I looked at 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan and the receivers his teams have drafted since 1994. The names, listed in the chart by overall selection, shed light on McCloughan's philosophy.
McCloughan's mentor in Green Bay, Ron Wolf, shied away from drafting receivers early. He perceived the position as a risky one.
If we look at McCloughan's history, which overlapped Wolf's tenure in Green Bay, we see his teams drafted only one receiver -- Koren Robinson at No. 9 in 2001 -- among the top 55 overall selections since 1994. McCloughan's teams have drafted five receivers between the 76th and 90th choices, zero in the fourth round and 10 between the 140th and 181st choices.
While the 49ers might be tempted to take Crabtree at No. 10, history says McCloughan might target the position in other rounds. The 49ers hold the following picks: 10, 43, 74, 111, 146, 171, 184, 219 and 244. McCloughan's history suggests he might look for a receiver at 74 and then at 146 or later. Taking Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin or another receiver at No. 10 would go against the most firmly established precedent.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren plans to "force-feed" the ball to receivers not named Jordan Kent in the upcoming exhibition game. Holmgren has nothing against Kent. He simply thinks the former Oregon receiver has gotten a disproportionate number of passes thrown his way this summer.
Courtney Taylor, arguably the most promising young receiver on the roster, hasn't caught a pass in either exhibition game. Seventeen Seattle players have caught passes in those two games, but Taylor hasn't caught one -- even though he was the starter last week. Holmgren:
"Hopefully, I can get some touches to players who haven't touched the ball very much. Jordan Kent has had some touches and he has become a media darling only [because] he's gotten more opportunities. I want to see Courtney [Taylor] touch the ball, Ben [Obomanu] touch the ball. I think they're just as capable. We have to sort that out. So we're going to try and force-feed that just a little bit to see how we're going to line up the first game."
The disparity of opportunities jumped out during a quick look through the official gamebooks for Seattle's first two exhibition games.
The play-by-play lists intended receivers for each pass, when readily identifiable. Kent showed up as the intended target four times in the exhibition opener and seven times in the second exhibition game. Taylor's name showed up zero times in the opener and twice in the second game, including one near-miss that might have produced a long touchdown pass.
These are hardly official totals, but they do support what Holmgren is suggesting. Holmgren's comments also let us know we shouldn't read too much into preseason reception totals. James Williams, Alex Bannister, Jason Willis, Jerheme Urban and Maurice Mann have led Seattle's wide receivers in preseason receptions over the years.