VanRam at TurfShowTimes, master of the rhetorical question, asked into the wind: How many receivers will the Rams keep on the active roster?
My guess, based on the Rams' increased use of four-wide formations in camp so far, is at least five, and probably six. Which means that of the eleven receivers in camp, five or six are going to be pretty disappointed. And we can argue about who falls on which side of the line. (For example, I see Brandon Gibson on the far side of that line right now, just based on his lack of reps as he fights off a tweaked hamstring. And I see Brandon McRae as the guy most likely to step in to that slot.)
But it's short sighted to focus only on the question of "who gets cut," because I also expect the Rams to keep an additional set of players from this group either on their practice squad, or on their speed dial, as easy callups in case of injury.
(What? Rams receivers get injured? Never heard of that.)
While we may not have an obvious #1 on this roster, what the Rams have now in their wide receiver corps is a luxury that most other NFL teams can be envious of: a stable of young, hungry and talented players who are all being drilled with the team's offense. In the business world, these are known as "fungible resources" -- something of value that can be replaced with something of nearly equal value.
And the Rams should stop messing around and add Danario Alexander to that stable, and get him into camp as quickly as they can.
Why? Here are just a few reasons:
- The Rams still lack height. Only the 6'3" McRae measures as a plus in that category, and is getting any time with the first team. (Jordan Kent is 6'4", but appears relegated to second- and third-team duties for the second camp in a row, raising an obvious question about the team's view of his ceiling.) Alexander's 6'5" frame and nearly 35" arms make him an instant mismatch against nearly every cornerback in the league.
The Rams don't have enough depth at WR1. Laurent Robinson is arguably the team's only WR1, though Keenan Burton is making that conversation more interesting with a consistently strong camp. Avery's speed and increased strength makes him potentially lethal, but his size is still smaller than you want going up against other team's top corners. He needs a strong complementary partner to draw coverage away.
Alexander is a project, and even if signed today would be a long shot to make the team's roster by opening week. But his ceiling is very high if his raw talent can be harnessed.
- He needs reps. Arguably, all the Rams' current young receivers also need reps, including Brooks Foster, last year's pick whose pro career has been star-crossed so far. But Alexander is not refined as a route-runner. And the Rams' offense is predicated on precision and timing, and getting open quickly to allow Bradford to make quick decisions. Alexander will have to learn how to read pro defensive sets, to be able to make sight reads and route adjustments. It's no use being tall and fast if you're in the wrong part of the field.
- His production in a shotgun-friendly offense is nothing short of amazing. This should have been the first point, right? But Alexander's scouting report make it clear that there are many holes in his game that need to be coached up for him to find equal success at the pro level.
- The Rams can get a head start on next year's draft. With so many "foundation" pieces now in place, the Rams are likely to be ready to draft playmakers next season, with a complementary runner/ successor to Steven Jackson likely to be high on their list. But by signing and coaching up Alexander now, and having him ready to go full-bore in 2011, the Rams would be one step ahead of the game.
Is he an injury risk? Yes. But based on their track record, so are Robinson, Burton and Brooks Foster. To my mind, if you're building a foundation on this kind of risk, you have all the more reason to acquire more resources that can step in and play a role. And few players still out there offer the potential for rewards, especially compared to the low risk involved. The Rams don't need to give up anything to get him, except a fraction of playing time.
To me, this is a no-brainer. I hope the Rams come to this realization soon as well.