The St Louis Rams took a chance that no other team in the NFL was willing to, putting in a waiver claim on Titus Young. Young had been released by the Detroit Lions earlier this week for all kinds of conduct detrimental to his team, which raises a huge question: why would Jeff Fisher take in a player that his protege, Jim Schwartz, couldn't handle?
The pat answer is this: it's a "no-risk, high reward" move. Let's question both halves of that statement, shall we?
From an economic standpoint, this is a Patriots-like maneuver. Former high draft picks with huge character flags, like Aqib Talib, can be had on the cheap and can instantly come in and contribute. But on the downside, former high draft picks with huge character flags, like Albert Haynesworth, can fool you just long enough to make the final roster and can ultimately end up costing you wins before you realize your mistake and cut them.
While he wasn't a character risk, Steve Smith essentially did exactly the same thing to the Rams this offseason. He had an up-and-down preseason until making one huge play in the final game, catching a 40-yard pass from Sam Bradford that might have cemented a roster spot. A spot which he held onto and did nothing with, at the expense of keeping it open for a player like Danario Alexander.
Every move carries an opportunity cost, if making this move cancels out another move that might serve you better down the road. The worst case scenario here would be if the Rams decide to pass on the wealth of early-round WR talent in the draft, because they have Titus Young in the fold. (I'm not saying they will, but that is the worst case.)
Already Rams fans that are sick of the lack of production from our WR corps are making the mistake of thinking of Titus Young as an "explosive" player who might "already be the best WR on our roster." This is quite simply wrong on both counts.
Titus Young ran a very pedestrian 4.53 official time at the 2011 NFL Combine. And while I firmly believe speed isn't everything for a wide receiver, as Paul points out, this is not an "explosive" number.
As a slot receiver, though, he is supposed to have the elusiveness to get yards after the catch. Which makes his 2.4 YAC per reception (95th of 104 WRs tracked by Pro Football Focus) a troubling stat. As is his 12.2 career yards-per-catch. As is his career 57% catch rate. These are not explosive numbers.
To his credit, Young has outscored the leading Rams WR in touchdowns over the past two years, with 10 scores in 26 games. It's worth putting that number in context with his targets, though:
If you believe that "scoring touchdowns" is a repeatable skill and not a function of his usage or his offense, then yes, it's possible that the Rams have upgraded here. But the rest of his stats, and the rest of his story, give me plenty of reason to be pessimistic. Particularly if this move ends up costing the Rams in ways that we can't currently see.