Rams gamble on the tantalizing prospect (or unrealized potential) of Mike Sims-Walker

Mike Sims-Walker stands tall
Mike Sims-Walker stands tall, but not yet head-and-shoulders above the rest of the Rams’ receivers.

A lot of thoughts went through my head when I heard that the Rams had signed former Jaguar and perennial “breakout candidate” Mike Sims-Walker, but all of those thoughts eventually boiled down to a single word.


That simple take provoked a series of reactions, some who agreed with my pessimism, but others who are intrigued by the possibilities:

@RamsHerd 2 years of work 14 TDs. We just couldnt punch it in for 6 at the end of our drives last yr. Coaches wanna presence in the endzone.
@RamsHerd No risk, possible big reward. So the question should be, Why not?

By my thinking, when Devaney and company missed out on the elite targets potentially out there (Vincent Jackson: franchised… Santonio Holmes: re-signed… Sidney Rice: well, you know), that there wasn’t much point in chasing after and overpaying for second-tier guys like Braylon Edwards, Malcolm Floyd and the like. Compared to the as-yet-unknown potential of the group we have, there just wasn’t enough bang for the buck.

But an incentive-laden one-year deal for a guy with size, speed and scoring prowess? I have to say, it does make me willing to at least consider the possibilities.

Sims-Walker is something like the perennial “Quad-A” player in baseball: a highly touted prospect who has a partial breakout, briefly enthralling pundits and making a name for himself, before suffering a regression that causes a massive loss in buyer confidence.

Suddenly everyone is trashing his name, especially those who read (or wrote) columns like this one and pegged MSW in the fantasy drafts ahead of guys like Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, or Hakeem Nicks. Mass perception is a powerful thing, and I admit to getting caught up in it. I also confess to absolutely sucking at fantasy football, but that’s another story.

The Breakout Year, and then…

After a mere 16 catches in his first two seasons, both marred by knee injuries, the big (6’2″, 220lbs) fast (4.35 40) and raw product from UCF finally put together a nice season, catching 63 balls for 869 yards and 7 touchdowns. All of which would have led the Rams in 2009, but that’s neither here nor there.

A camp injury in 2010 set him back, though, and David Garrard found other targets to shower his attentions on: notably, WR Mike Thomas and TE Marcedes Lewis, who both had career years. Garrard’s effectiveness through the season also fluctuated wildly, as it has for most of his career.

Even in a down year, though, Sims-Walker’s 7 touchdowns (on only 45 catches) were second only to Lewis’ 10. But when it came time to make cuts or hold fast, Jacksonville decided to move on.

The potential, and the fit

The knock on Sims-Walker’s production has always been three-fold: his health, his apparently inconsistent work-ethic, and his quarterback. We can’t control his health, only he can control his work ethic, but all worries about his quarterback evaporate in St. Louis with Sam Bradford executing Josh McDaniels’ offense.

This has fantasy prognosticators all a-flutter.

[MSW] Will be the hardest projection I do. There is serious upside if he slides into the Clayton #1 role. Crowded tho.
MSW is in St. Louis to battle a bunch of other receivers in a one-month competition. He could be the No. 1 WR. He could also not make 53.

One advantage he may have is his measurements. ESPN’s Mike Sando has written in the past about Josh McDaniels’ predilection for tall and big-bodied (read: 220 lbs or more) pass-catchers. Another is the team-wide commitment to open competition, fostered by coach Spagnuolo and fed by Billy Devaney’s pipeline to other teams’ practice squads. Nowhere will this competition be more visible, or more intense, than among this very large group of receivers. No one’s job is guaranteed, not even leading pass-catcher Danny Amendola’s. (Though presumably, it would be pretty hard to imagine Amendola not making the team.)

So rather than stay pessimistic, we welcome the big guy for his audition, and we join the pundits in saying the Mike Sims-Walker mantra: If he stays healthy, and if he works hard….