NFC West: T.Y. Hilton

You might recall the high school kid who parlayed an old cell phone into a $9,000 convertible through a series of online trades.

I wonder what he could get for a third-round draft choice.

We considered earlier how the San Francisco 49ers could conceivably parlay one of their 2013 NFL draft choices into 2014 picks. That item focused on getting value for one of the second-round choices the 49ers possess. Later selections can also return future capital.

The 49ers aren't the only team to demonstrate this, of course, but with a league-high 14 selections this year, they provide a good example.

Last year, the 49ers turned the 92nd and 125th picks into the 117th and 180th choices, plus 2013 picks in the third, fifth and sixth rounds. Those 2013 picks are 74th overall from Carolina, 157th overall from Indianapolis and 180th overall from Miami. The picks from Carolina and Miami were the 12th choices within their rounds. The one from the Colts was the 24th choice of its round.

The chart shows what the 49ers gave and received in each of the four trades. The underlined picks are the ones San Francisco started and finished with in their possession. The 49ers moved down in the first three trades before moving up to select guard Joe Looney in the fourth one.

A look at how those trades went down:

Trade One

What happened: San Francisco sent the 92nd overall choice to Indianapolis for the 97th choice and a 2013 fifth-rounder.

Immediate fallout: The Colts used the 49ers' pick to select receiver T.Y. Hilton, who finished his rookie season with 50 receptions for 861 yards and seven touchdowns. Hilton had five games with between 100 and 113 yards receiving.

Comment: The seven players San Francisco drafted hardly played until an injury to Kendall Hunter forced second-rounder LaMichael James into duty. The 49ers had to figure their rookies weren't going to play much. The Colts had different needs. They were turning over most of their roster. They needed young players to contribute right away. They had a spot for Hilton and made the most of the pick. The 49ers put that 2013 fifth-rounder in their pocket before using the 97th pick in the next trade.

Trade Two

What happened: San Francisco sent the 97th choice, acquired from Indianapolis, to the Miami Dolphins for the 103rd and 196th choices, plus a 2013 sixth-rounder.

Immediate fallout: The Dolphins used the 97th choice for running back Lamar Miller, who rushed for 250 yards and a touchdown while playing 13.7 percent of the offensive snaps as a rookie.

Comment: Quarterback Kirk Cousins was among the players selected between the 97th pick, which the 49ers owned, and the 103rd pick, which the team acquired. Washington took him 102nd overall. The 49ers could use a young quarterback now, but there would have been no reason for them to select one at that point. Alex Smith was the starter and Colin Kaepernick was next in line. The 49ers pocketed that 2013 sixth-rounder. The 103rd and 196th picks factored into trades below.

Trade Three

What happened: The 49ers traded the 103rd pick, acquired from Miami, to the Carolina Panthers for the 180th pick and a 2013 third-rounder.

Immediate fallout: The Panthers used the 103rd pick for defensive end Frank Alexander, who had 2.5 sacks while playing 52.3 percent of the Panthers' defensive snaps as a rookie. The 49ers used the 180th pick for safety Trenton Robinson, who did not play on defense and was inactive for the final 13 games.

Comment: Getting that 2013 third-rounder worked out well for the 49ers after Carolina finished only 7-9. The Panthers were coming off a 6-10 season when they made the trade, but they had relatively high expectations after Cam Newton's promising rookie season. Finishing below .500 meant the third-rounder Carolina sent to San Francisco would fall 12th in the round.

Trade Four

What happened: The 49ers were the ones trading up this time. They traded the 125th choice, which was their own, and the 196th choice, acquired from the Dolphins, to the Detroit Lions for the 117th choice.

Immediate fallout: The 49ers used the 117th pick for Looney, who was recovering from surgery and would not be ready right away. Alex Boone emerged as a solid contributor for the 49ers at right guard, diminishing the immediate need for Looney. But general manager Trent Baalke noted on draft day that Looney could project at center eventually as well. The Lions used the 125th choice for linebacker Ronnell Lewis, who played one snap on defense in eight games. Detroit used the 196th pick for cornerback Jonte Green, who played 38 percent of the defensive snaps while appearing in 15 games.

Comment: The 49ers must have felt as though Looney would not be available to them at No. 125. There was much activity in this range of picks. The 118th, 119th and 120th choices also changed hands. So did the 123rd through 126th picks. That meant eight of the 10 picks from No. 117 through No. 126 changed hands. Looney was the only offensive lineman selected in that range and the only guard picked until Washington used the 141st choice for Adam Gettis.

Chris Givens giving Rams needed weapon

November, 27, 2012
It's tougher to say the St. Louis Rams lack weapons to help Sam Bradford in the passing game.

Rookie fourth-round choice Chris Givens is changing the dynamic.

Givens is averaging 21.2 yards per reception. The routes he runs average 17.0 yards past the line of scrimmage. The average is 7.6 yards for the rest of the team and 10.0 yards for the Rams' other wide receivers, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Last season, no Rams wideout averaged better than 15.0 yards past the line of scrimmage on his routes. The leader was at 13.3 in 2010, 12.7 in 2009 and 14.2 in 2008 among players with at least one reception. Givens' average could come down as the Rams expand their plans for him. The big-play aspect is something they'll want to keep, of course.

Givens, a fourth-round choice from Wake Forest, has 22 receptions for 467 yards and three touchdowns. He had a string of five consecutive games with at least one reception covering 50-plus yards. He's coming off a 115-yard game against Arizona, the first 100-yard game of his career. Givens averages a healthy 8.9 yards after the catch, tops among the 21 drafted rookie wideouts with at least one target this season.

"You're seeing more production, different types of production," Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters Monday. "The first few weeks it was the long balls and now he’s making the short catches and runs, the jailbreak screens, and then the third-down catch there in the fourth quarter (Sunday) was a big play for him as well."

A one-game suspension for violating team rules kept Givens from playing during a 24-24 tie at San Francisco in Week 10. Givens will be available for the rematch Sunday in St. Louis. The 49ers have allowed eight pass plays of 30-plus yards, tied for second-fewest in the NFL behind the Rams and Minnesota Vikings, who have allowed seven apiece. Tampa Bay has allowed a league-high 22.

The Rams' offense has needed a vertical dimension for years. Brandon Lloyd and Mark Clayton provided one sporadically in recent seasons. Givens has a team-high six receptions of at least 30 yards despite having only 43 targets. The 2009 Rams had six of them on 513 targets. St. Louis had 15 last season. The team has 14 through Week 12 this season.

Givens was the 14th receiver drafted in 2012 behind Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins, teammate Brian Quick, Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, Ryan Broyles, Rueben Randle, Devier Posey, T.J. Graham, Mohamed Sanu and T.Y. Hilton. Givens ranks third among drafted rookie wideouts in yardage, tied for fourth in touchdown receptions, first in 30-plus catches, second in yards after the catch and first in average route depth among rookies with at least one reception.

The first chart shows the Rams' play-action passing stats for wide receivers. The second chart shows corresponding figures on all passes, not just play-action attempts. I've ranked both charts by average route depth, which ESPN Stats & Information charts for all throws. It's a fresh way of looking at how teams use players.

Three things revisited: Rams-Colts

August, 12, 2012
Looking back on three things discussed here before the St. Louis Rams' preseason opener Sunday against Indianapolis, a game the Colts led 35-3 as I filed this in the fourth quarter:

1. Isaiah Pead's debut. Steven Jackson started the game at running back and found room initially, finishing with four carries for 17 yards. The Rams ran Jackson three times to start the game. They worked Pead, one of their rookie second-round choices, into the game quickly. Pead generally struggled. He fumbled once and contributed to another fumble through a botched exchange on a delayed handoff from the shotgun formation. Pead carried 10 times for 33 yards, with a long run of 11 yards.

2. Dueling No. 1 overall QBs. The Colts' Andrew Luck was outstanding in his NFL preseason debut, outproducing the Rams' Sam Bradford. Luck, like predecessor Peyton Manning in 1998, connected for a touchdown on his first preseason pass attempt. Luck completed 10 of 16 passes for 188 yards and two scores. He read the Rams' coverages effectively, including when he found a receiver matched against linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar down the middle of the field for a gain to the 1-yard line. Bradford completed 7 of 9 passes for 57 yards. That included a quick, high pass to Austin Pettis for a conversion on third-and-short. Pettis made a couple tough catches. Bradford seemed to have a good rapport with tight end Lance Kendricks. There wasn't much happening down the field for Bradford, however. He went deep for Steve Smith up the left sideline, but a defender was near, Bradford had pressure in his face and the pass sailed out of bounds.

3. Jenkins' impact. The Rams' promising rookie corner started and played extensively. He had tight coverage on Colts receiver Reggie Wayne early in the game, forcing Luck to scramble. The Rams stopped Luck short of the first-down marker on the play, forcing a punt. Luck challenged Jenkins with success when he found rookie T.Y. Hilton for a sideline completion on an out route. Jenkins jumped the route, but Luck had enough velocity on the ball to find Hilton before Jenkins could arrive. Jenkins was not in coverage on either of Luck's scoring passes.