– ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. held a conference call with NFL reporters all over the country on Wednesday afternoon and graciously answered questions for nearly two hours.
– Kiper currently has the Rams taking West Virginia WR Tavon Austin with the 16th pick in the NFL Draft and S Kenny Vaccaro with the 22nd pick. Kiper spoke in glowing terms about Austin when asked about him and the Rams’ need for help at the position.
“I think Austin would be perfect because he fits that mold of being somebody who can come right in and play,” Kiper said. “This guy has played football forever. I saw him in high school at Dunbar here in Baltimore, he’s been unbelievable. The kid is a touchdown maker. He’s a scoreboard changer in a variety of ways. You can get him the ball in terms of the running game, you can get him the ball on reverses, wide receiver screens, get him in space, the return game. He is dynamic.”
– Indeed, Austin has earned quite a reputation in the buildup to the draft. Clearly, the Rams have interest in adding play makers, something GM Les Snead has made no secret of in recent months. And they clearly have interest in Austin, who is expected to visit next week as one of the Rams’ “Top 30” pre-draft visitors. Of course, if the Rams see Austin in such a favorable light, it’s likely other teams do as well. Kiper said he believed that the Rams pick at 16 would likely be the furthest he could see Austin falling and noted the strong possibility he could go before that.
– In the event that were to happen, Kiper discussed some of the other Rams’ options at receiver in this draft. While acknowledging that the Rams took a somewhat raw wideout in Brian Quick in last year’s second round, Kiper pointed to the possibility that they might want a more polished player who could help out right away.
“Brian Quick last year when he was selected, I had him on my sleeper list,” Kiper said. “I talked about him a lot. I debated other people about him but I was a little surprised he went as early as he did considering he was a developmental receiver and for a team that needed an immediate guy, I knew it would take him some time to develop.”
– In some ways, Cordarrelle Patterson, another highly touted WR, is similar to Quick, according to Kiper which might not make him the ideal plug and play wideout despite his tremendous upside.
“Patterson is a JUCO kid,” Kiper said. “He didn’t set the world on fire this past year, had his inconsistencies. He has freakish talent but he’s still going to be a guy that’s a work in progress. I don’t think you go back to that route again.”
– Of course, maybe the Rams would go with Patterson if they believe he’s the best player available when they come on the clock and they are comfortable with him as a person as much as they are the player.
– Kiper followed that analysis by breaking down some other options he believes would be able to contribute right away.
“A kid who is interesting is Justin Hunter from Tennessee because he’s not as raw and he’s now going to be two years removed from the knee injury,” Kiper said. “This year he was only a year removed which meant he was going to have some issues and not necessarily play as well as he will this coming season.
“Robert Woods is very polished coming out of USC. Quinton Patton from Louisiana Tech is another kid in the second round area. Markus Wheaton (Oregon State) is an excellent route runner. (Washington CB) Desmond Trufant came on ESPN radio with us last week and I asked him who was the receiver that gave him the most trouble and he said it was Wheaton because he’s so quick out of his break and so impactful in that area which makes it tough for a quarterback…And as a slot guy, you have to believe Ryan Swope comes in from Texas A&M and has an immediate impact with the way he ran in the 4.3s and as many clutch receptions as he made from Johnny Manziel and A&M this past year. He’s going to be a big factor, I think, right away.”
– Of course, that all is just Kiper’s opinion and the Rams will again due their own diligence on the receiver class and break it down how they see fit. Remember, last year the Rams were the team that brought in plenty of wideouts for visits, Quick included, and then went on a whirlwind tour around the country with all of the big decision makers to see Quick, Justin Blackmon, A.J. Jenkins, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright do private workouts.
– It would not surprise if the Rams again dug into the wideout group in a similar fashion. In fact, they have visits lined up with at least a half dozen wideouts and it’s entirely possible they’ll again go out and do some private workouts. In their on going pursuit to add weapons and play makers to the offense, the Rams will leave no stone unturned.
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