GM profiling: Devaney and the receivers

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams could certainly use a starting-caliber wide receiver. Donnie Avery and perhaps the newly acquired Laurent Robinson join Keenan Burton as the Rams' top three receivers. None has proved himsel
f as a consistent starter to this point.

For that reason, I expect the Rams to strongly consider drafting a receiver in the first three rounds. If Michael Crabtree isn't a consideration at No. 2, the Rams might need to hope one of the more talented wideouts falls to them in the second round.

What will the Rams do? Let's start by looking at which receivers their general manager's teams have selected during the 2000s. We see right away from looking at the chart that Billy Devaney's teams -- the Chargers, 49ers, Falcons and Rams -- haven't used first-round choices for the position.

The pattern holds even if we expand the range to 1990, when Devaney broke into the NFL with the Chargers under GM Bobby Beathard (Devaney was there from 1990 through 2000).

Avery still stands as the only receiver Devaney's teams have drafted among the top 40 overall choices. From 1990 to 1996, the Chargers did draft five receivers in the second and third rounds (picks 41 through 70). Throw in Burton's selection at No. 75 last year and we see where Devaney might strike for a receiver in 2009.

I ran this information past Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and asked him to share his thoughts on what the Rams might do at the position. Some of his thoughts:

  • "This is interesting. Really interesting. They need a receiver, but it doesn't look like they would take a risk on [Michael] Crabtree early. [Devaney] thinks he can find that position in the third or fourth round, but on the flip side, I'm not sure his teams have had that much success. There are two ways of looking at this. They hit on Donnie Avery a little bit last year. I think there's a good chance they would do it at pick 35."

  • "Who would it be at 35? A guy we have slipping into the third that I really like that I would take that early is Brian Robiskie. A lot of people do not agree with me. I think he is NFL-ready and can come in and develop into a 2 [No. 2 receiver]. Some people think he's a 3 and that is the debate."

  • "Does Percy Harvin slip into the second round? If he is there, do you take him? I think that is a possibility. Last year, we were convinced three or four wide receivers would go in the first round. That was not the case. If someone slides to you, that could be an option. If Harvin gets past the Colts, he could slip to the Rams. I see Avery as more of a vertical threat and Harvin as more of an after-the-catch guy."

  • "Hakeem Nicks could sneak out of the first round. If you are the Rams, you might be hoping for that. Also, if the Braylon Edwards deal goes through with the Giants, that changes a lot, I think. That could help a receiver get past the Giants."

Devaney's background isn't the only relevant one in assessing how the Rams might approach the position. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur came from the Eagles, who once acquired Terrell Owens and later took a chance on DeSean Jackson. Harvin could fit the profile as a talented player with potential prima donna tendencies, Muench said.

"He has been so talented, he has been used to being the center of attention," Muench said. "The kid is tough. He just has certain expectations that he should not have. He might need to be coddled at times to get him to reach his full potential? Is that enough to knock him off their board?"
Note: The Eagles drafted three receivers among the top 40 overall choices when Shurmur was with the team. All three were disappointments (Freddie Mitchell, Todd Pinkston and Reggie Brown). Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo was not yet with the Giants when the team added Plaxico Burress.