Your ridiculously early look at the draft, Part I: Wide Receivers

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

The regular season built to a roar, then finished with a whimper. In less than a week, though, the myriad possibilities that the Rams of 2011 could take as they continue to rebuild have taken over our conversation as Rams fans. And in many ways, that conversation is as exciting as talking about the season itself. Some thoughts on the first week of the offseason.

The Rams’ #1 need is at wide receiver… but who will be there at #14?

The two leading receivers entering the draft are AJ Green (Georgia) and Julio Jones (Alabama). As the college season went on, they may have jostled with each other for the top spot, but both appeared to separate from the pack as the best available options. However, draft guru Mike Mayock says that there may be as many as five first-round talents in this year’s crop of wideouts. The only catch? All five are juniors.

Of course, the question is, who comes out? By this point, everyone with an eye toward the draft (or who has sat in front of ESPN in the past week) knows that Stanford QB Andrew Luck, the consensus #1 talent available, has decided to return for his senior year rather than become slightly richer than Sam Bradford.

Luck’s decision upsets the order at the top of the draft, and moves each obvious talent one rung up (and further away from the Rams at #14). But it could also reflect severe uncertainty among underclassmen, regarding the chances to actually play a full NFL season in 2011. Why come out now, with the unknown specter of a rookie wage scale looming, and the possibility of not working with your new coaches for months?

Assuming that there is WR talent in the draft…

With an unsettled mess in the quarterback ranks, teams may shy away as they did from Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy last year. In that case, it’s almost a certainty that two premier edge talents in Green and Jones go early. Would it be insane to draft a third WR by the 14th pick? Well, at the very least it isn’t unprecedented, but recent history says that you’re entering a crapshoot.

Since the 1982 strike, there have been eight drafts that featured at least three WRs drafted by pick 14. And in nearly every one of those years you had a collosal bust: Troy Williamson and big Mike Williams in 2005 (though Williams may be redeeming himself now); Reggie Williams in 2004; Peter Warrick (the first WR picked) in 2000; Troy Edwards in 1999; Michael Westbrook and JJ Stokes in 1995; Alvin Harper in 1991.

1988’s receiver class was the only one of the bunch that stands out, with Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe and Michael Irvin among the top 11 players drafted. Is this that kind of draft? And should that color the way we perceive second-tier talents like Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd or Maryland’s Torrey Smith?

Here at RamsHerd, we are officially geeking out about the draft, and with fellow writer Ottoman89 coming on board to contribute, expect a ton of content in the next few months to discuss questions like these, talk about player we love (and those we hate), and try our hand at shaping the next year’s Rams.