In just one offseason, the St. Louis Rams have transitioned from a team with loads of experience and familiarity at wide receiver to a club devoid of a player with over 1,000 career yards receiving. The free agent losses of Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson certainly factored into the team’s decision making process at the 2013 NFL Draft to add two pass catchers to their depth chart, but rookies have a long way to go before they are getting consistent reps like a veteran.
The competition at the receiver position figures to be fierce during training camp as first and second year players will make up the majority of the depth chart at the position. Austin Pettis is now the senior member of the depth chart heading into his third year on the team at 25 years of age. Last year’s crop of receivers in Brian Quick and Chris Givens will figure into the mix in a big way as Givens actually put up the best numbers as a fourth round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. Clearly this past April’s first round selection in Tavon Austin will make an immediate impact by lining up all over the field to wreak havoc on opposing defenses this season.
There is another rookie from the 2013 class that should figure into the equation in some shape or form and that is Austin’s West Virginia teammate Stedman Bailey. The Rams landed Bailey in round three, and at 5’10” 193lbs. he fits the quicker, smaller mold of wideout that is prevailing around the league today. He’s an extremely good route runner with solid 4.52 speed that should win him some reps with the Rams.
Training camp will dictate just how much action Bailey will see on offense this season, but even if he doesn’t get much time as a wide receiver, his role as a gunner on the punt team figures to be critical. Bailey was the punt gunner at WVU and really excelled in that role for the Mountiaineers. It often goes overlooked, but the Rams added some serious impact players in this draft on special teams, especially when Bailey is factored into the equation.
With the weaponry added at tight end in Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks, the time on the field for the wideouts may be scant. Givens, Austin, Quick, and possibly even Pettis will trump Bailey on the receiver depth chart which may relegate his impact to special teams in his rookie campaign. Even if that is the case, just how Bailey works in the game’s third phase on a handful of plays per game will go a long way in dictating his future with the franchise.