For the Rams and the wide receiver position, when is enough enough? The answer to that question Thursday will help shape the team’s 2014 draft, and really the short-term future of the organization. Over the past two drafts, the Rams have invested heavily in the position. Four picks total have been expended on wide receivers in that span — one apiece in each of the first four rounds. Last season, the Rams even traded up for West Virginia’s Tavon Austin in the first round, making him the first skill-position player taken in the 2013 draft (at No. 8 overall). If Houston, as is now expected, takes South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney at No. 1, the Rams would have the opportunity to take the top wide receiver in the draft two years in a row. “This guy (Watkins) and Austin?” asked NFL analyst Russ Lande, a former Rams scout. “Holy smokes if you get them rolling.” Watkins and Austin is a nice daydream for Rams Nation. But all indications are that a Sammy Watkins-Tavon Austin tandem will not materialize. “The reality is, Austin is gonna be a dynamic guy if they can basically say: ‘We’re just gonna get him the ball. Let’s figure a way out,’ “ said Lande, who is a football analyst for multiple media outlets while doubling as college scouting director of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. “I don’t think (Brian) Quick is ever gonna be that guy; it doesn’t look like it,” Lande continued. “We don’t know about (Stedman) Bailey, although I like him a lot. He’s got potential. “But this guy, Watkins, is a game-changing player to me. I think if you look at the Rams, one of their biggest issues is they don’t have playmakers. “The only thing that would concern me about taking Watkins high is that Austin is a dynamic playmaker, and their coaches couldn’t figure out how to use him properly. So are they gonna know how to use this kid properly?” That concern aside, Lande has basically stated the pro-Watkins argument. And despite all the signals from Rams Park about standing pat at wide receiver — including some public statements by coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead — it’s believed there are some in the building who would like to take Watkins. And if you put the truth serum into members of the personnel department, some — maybe most — would say Watkins is a more talented wide receiver than anyone on the current roster. That’s no slam at Austin, because he’s kind of in a separate category, more playmaker and “loose play” specialist than pure polished pass-catcher. So why walk away from Watkins at No. 2? For one, maybe the wide receiver corps is better than given credit for and a little more patience is needed. There’s just one season to judge Austin and Bailey (class of 2013), and only two years to judge Quick and Chris Givens (class of ‘12.) Future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, for example, didn’t have a 1,000-yard receiving season until 1999 — his fourth year in the league, with Indianapolis. One veteran NFL scout, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the current Rams receiver corps is better as a group than his team’s group. (His team, by the way, is not picking in the top 10.) “With Bailey and Austin, you probably have enough (talent), if they are established guys,” Lande said. “But at this point you don’t know.” Also to be factored in is the fact that backup quarterback (Kellen Clemens) was throwing to them for nine of the 16 games last season because of Sam Bradford’s knee injury. For all the good things Clemens did, the wide receiver starts were deflated to a degree with him at QB. So it goes back to the question of how much do you invest in the position, particularly with a run-first offense, a defensive-oriented head coach and needs at several other positions. A three-time all-American at Clemson, Watkins is the schools’ career leader in receptions (240) and receptions yards (3,391) over those three seasons. He had 103 catches and 12 touchdowns last year alone. Watkins also returned 60 kickoffs over his career (scoring once) and had 52 carries for 339 yards (and a touchdown).
Watkins is intriguing possibility for Rams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | May 4