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Thoughts on Rams' need for wide receiver

Wide receiver Mark Clayton ranked tied for third in the NFL with five receptions covering at least 25 yards through Week 4 last season.

Only Antonio Gates (7), DeSean Jackson (6) and the surprising Brandon Lloyd (6) had more to that point in the season.

Clayton would catch only one additional pass all season. His knee gave out against Detroit in Week 5. Reconstructive surgery followed.

While the Rams cannot be sure whether Clayton will return to form -- he isn't even signed for 2011 -- they saw what a receiver with a first-round draft pedigree could do for quarterback Sam Bradford and the offense in general.

The Rams lacked firepower following Clayton's season-ending injury. That is one reason quite a few mock drafts have sent Alabama receiver Julio Jones to the Rams at No. 14.

Two questions:

  • What should the success Clayton enjoyed early in the season tell us about the Rams' situation at receiver? Perhaps the team simply went through an unusual stretch of injuries at the position and all will be fine once players return to health. I tend to think the team needs more talent at the position, regardless. But the situation might not be as dire as it appeared.

  • What about the success Lloyd enjoyed in Denver while playing under Josh McDaniels, the Rams' new offensive coordinator? Lloyd had never finished a season with more than 733 yards receiving before his 1,448-yard performance in 2010. Clayton set a career high with 939 in 2006. Donnie Avery, also coming off a season-ending knee injury, had 674 as a rookie in 2008. Getting more from Clayton and Avery is reasonable, but it's a stretch to think McDaniels can magically turn either into a Pro Bowl-caliber performer.

These were among the thoughts that came to mind Monday morning when I read through a draft-related packet from ESPN Stats & Information. The packet noted that Bradford led the NFL in the number of passes targeting wide receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage. It also featured information for the chart below. I'm seeking context before deciding what to make of the stats.

2010 Sam Bradford Passing: WR vs. RB/TE Targets