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Rams draft preview: Wide receiver

5/1/2014

The NFL draft is set to begin May 8 and the St. Louis Rams hold 12 picks. For the next week and a half, we'll take a look at a different position every day with what the Rams have in place, what they need, when they might address it and some possible fits.

We continue the countdown with a look at this year's crop of wide receivers.

In place: Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis, Kenny Britt, Justin Veltung, Emory Blake

What's needed: For the past two drafts, the Rams have made a habit of doubling down on receivers, grabbing Quick and Givens in 2012 and Austin and Bailey in 2013. Those picks were all made within the first four rounds, including the move up to No. 8 to acquire Austin last season. To varying degrees, each of those four players has flashed potential to be a successful NFL wideout, though it's still too early to project how high that ceiling goes for any of them. In the case of Givens and Quick, both bring a different skill set to the table with Givens having accomplished more in his rookie year than Quick did in his first two combined. Austin appeared to be coming on late last year before an ankle injury cost him the final three games. Bailey also flashed at the end of last year and figures to have an expanded role in 2014.

Pettis has, at times, been a useful target in the red zone and third down but fell further down the depth chart as the season wore on. The team added Britt in free agency and is hopeful he can provide the size element that Quick hasn't yet but it remains to be seen.

In terms of depth, the Rams seem to be trending fine at receiver. The problem here is a lack of a clear-cut No. 1 option who can consistently win one-on-one battles against cornerbacks outside the hashes. Bailey showed a bit of that ability and Givens and Austin have showed they can be deep threats with Austin also excelling on crossing routes. Perhaps it's too early to make sweeping generalizations about the group as a whole but a true No. 1 receiver would go a long way in bolstering the offense.

Possible fits: The obvious name linked to the Rams here is that of Clemson's Sammy Watkins. The Rams have lacked a receiver of Watkins' pedigree and ability since Torry Holt and Watkins is the first wideout of that caliber they've had a chance to draft since Holt and Isaac Bruce were at the end of their run. The Rams have showed plenty of interest in Watkins, bringing him in for a visit and putting him through a private workout. Texas A&M's Mike Evans would also be an intriguing option and another the team brought to St. Louis for a "top 30" visit. Evans brings the size to win jump balls on the outside and would likely step into the role the team envisioned for Quick. Beyond the top two, it's a deep receiver class with excellent talents such as LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and USC's Marqise Lee also on the board. The Rams also showed some interest in Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin and South Carolina's Bruce Ellington.

Verdict: The Rams have played their plans at No. 2 overall extremely close to the vest but it's safe to assume Watkins is in the conversation. If the Rams can't find a trade down partner, it's a discussion that likely boils down to a choice of three players (assuming Jadeveon Clowney goes No. 1) Watkins, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews. The interest in Watkins is real and it's possible the team would take him but it's still unclear whether they'd prioritize him over Robinson or Matthews. If the Rams can find a trade partner and Watkins remains on the board while the tackles go, the problem is solved. If they move down and all three are gone, perhaps Evans enters the conversation. With a dozen picks, it's likely the Rams take a receiver at some point in the draft. It's always possible a wideout not taken at the top could fit the bill as a No. 1 eventually but if the Rams are truly in the market for an upgrade to the position, they'll come away with one of the top two.