There's a common theme in early grades of the Rams' draft: taking risks on big talent with big question marks.
The media - locally and at large - has already made Janoris Jenkins the poster child of this draft and Jeff Fisher / Les Snead's risk/reward approach to adding talent. Jenkins' extensively documented rap sheet and just as extensively documented skillset make this an easy storyline to pick up on. Throw in some dramatic contrast against the "Four Pillars" philosophy of the previous regime, and you've got the makings of a nice little script.
But perhaps the biggest risk in the draft went six picks before Jenkins, as the Rams took little-seen wide receiver Brian Quick from Appalachian State University. To hear Ray Sherman tell it, the Rams may have acquired the next Terrell Owens. It's hard to get an endorsement any better than that without invoking the Almighty ... Jerry Rice, I mean.
The Rams coaches obviously liked what they saw in their hush-hush in-person scouting session, an all-essential component of their evaluation of a player with little to no game-tape against the kind of NFL-caliber competition that power-conference players like Rueben Randle or Julio Jones faced in school. But at least one avid tape-grinder whose opinion I respect is not as sanguine about the pick.
I discovered this while asking Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) about a shared personal favorite of ours at the top of Day 3: Cal receiver Marvin Jones. Waldman's immediate answer opened the door for a philosophical approach to the draft that goes 180 degrees from that of the new Rams front office. Here is our exchange, with additional input added via email after the fact.
I began by asking if Waldman was surprised by how far a pure technician like Marvin Jones had dropped.
Nope. Many teams that picked WRs so far in [rounds] 2-3 displaying their ignorance. Blunt, but true. Many of those teams probably enamored with physical upside and they overlooked guys, particularly those with less than impressive senior tape due to quarterbacking situations (Jones) or lacked the prototypical, plus-size.
WR is tough to scout well. If the NFL had it down to a science, they wouldn't draft so many of them every year.
Who would be an egregious example of this? (And by the way, what did you think of the Quick pick?)
Quick is an egregious example. I see the logic that he can develop, but hate the pick at top of 2nd. Top of 4th, 5th? Sure. Stephen Hill, Devier Posey, TJ Graham all fit that too. But teams value that possibility of striking big with speed (Hill and Graham) and believe they can teach everything else.
I also tend to like taking finished or near-finished products, especially with young quarterbacks. But can also see the logic of betting big on frame and talent. The Rams scouted him personally, hopefully they know what they're getting.
I think teams usually lose when they bet like that. "Talent" is a questionable word for him compared to guys still left. I don't see explosiveness with Quick and believe team way too enamored with potential.
However, I come from a school of thought that once a player has a strong baseline of physical skills needed to play in the NFL, what's more important is technical skill and aptitude for the game at the position. Rams receiver Steve Smith (9th WR drafted in 2007) was my No.3 overall WR prospect when he was drafted by the Giants because he displayed those skills (hands, routes, catching the ball against physical play, etc.).
This is true enough in general, but if you don't bet at all, you lose out on the Terrell Owenses out there. Handcuff the pick with Marvin Jones (or the like) and wait.
I disagree. Loved TO coming out. Hands were inconsistent but 10x better with the ball than Quick and far more athletic.
This is where I'm going to trust Ray Sherman. He made the TO comparison. I wouldn't go out on that limb on my own.
The key is knowing what type of potential to take, and I may be wrong but I don't see it with Quick.
Just minutes after we finished this conversation, the Rams opened the fourth round with yet another bookend pick - Trumaine Johnson paired with Janoris Jenkins was the first - selecting an accomplished route-runner in Chris Givens out of Wake Forest. Already engaged, Waldman was quick to offer this:
I do like the Chris Givens pick better than Quick ;)
I love this kind of back-and-forth, especially with those who have spent dozens and dozens of hours watching tape to build an informed opinion. That doesn't mean that he is more right than Ray Sherman or the Rams' scouting staff, just that his take is worth considering. For those who want more, Waldman teams up with with Sigmund Bloom and Cecil Lammey on a Football Guys podcast to go in more depth on Quick as part of their 2012 post-draft analysis.
Part of the difference in the way folks like Waldman see a player like Quick, and the way the Rams' coaching staff does, may come down to a philosophical difference in receiver types. "Explosiveness" as a positive attribute isn't straight-line speed, it's the quick-step ability and subtlety in body positioning and route-running craft that creates separation regardless of timed speed. As Waldman has documented, Marvin Jones is already extremely accomplished in these traits. However, Quick has size, strength and athletic traits of his own that were well-displayed at the Senior Bowl, and should be an immediate deep threat.
Because Quick is a developmental player, we can't rush to judgement one way or the other. But as Jeff Fisher's first major investment in his quarterback and his passing game, Quick may serve as the template for dissecting their offensive progress this season and beyond.
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