Bud Sasser comes to St. Louis with plenty to prove

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For most NFL draft prospects with the type of resume that wide receiver Bud Sasser compiled at the University of Missouri, the pre-draft process looks the same.

After a productive college career at an SEC school, the average player would go to the scouting combine in Indianapolis, perhaps after a stop at one of the all-star games, wrap it up with a pro day and then wait for his name to be called. For Sasser, almost none of that came to pass. Almost.

Despite a senior season in which the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Sasser posted 77 catches for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to first-team All-SEC honors, Sasser was mildly surprised not to get an invite to any of the postseason all-star games. But that paled in comparison to his chagrin when the NFL sent out combine invitations and his name wasn't among the 323 on the list.

"The no combine invite was big," Sasser said. "There was a lot of stunning things going on. That was crazy to me but I was able to overcome it and just be able to do what I needed to do at my pro day. And I was able to help myself out with that."

Sasser spent his time working out in Phoenix in an effort to prepare for his pro day at Missouri, knowing full well that would be his best chance to show off for NFL teams. A solid pro day performance combined with his senior season game film garnered Sasser some attention from around the league. He took visits to Kansas City, Houston, Oakland and Green Bay though he acknowledges that he mostly remained under the radar throughout the process.

When the draft finally arrived, Sasser wasn't sure what to expect. Given his limited exposure stemming from the lack of invites to the combine or all-star games, he hoped he would land somewhere but tempered his expectations.

As it turned out, it was the St. Louis Rams, just down Interstate-70 that had taken enough notice to draft him in the sixth round with the 201st overall pick.

“You noticed Sasser this year, obviously they had a lot of wide receivers there in the last few years and then a couple of them that graduated," Rams general manager Les Snead said. "This year with the quarterback that they have you just notice, hey him throwing the ball up and that guy going to get it and high pointing it. He was a big part of their offense. I think the stats show that he probably more than tripled his numbers this year. But long story short, we like the size and if you want to call it the arm length and just catch radius.”

If the Rams have their way, Sasser can be part of a tradition in which the Rams use a sixth-round pick on an accomplished former Tiger who turns into a bigger contributor than expected given his draft status. Last year, it was cornerback E.J. Gaines, who turned into a starter and has the look of a long-time producer for the defense.

Sasser's path to the roster figures to be a bit more complicated, though. The Rams have carried six wideouts in the past and if they do, Sasser would seem to have a good shot. But if they only carry five, it could come down to a battle with fourth-year veteran Chris Givens for the final spot.

"I just have to come out here every day and work," Sasser said. "I believe in my abilities and my skillset and I know this coaching staff, Coach [Ray] Sherman especially, is going to get me right and help me improve each day. There’s a lot of key components to helping me improve my game every day."

The first component will be in getting clearance to actually get on the field. Sasser did not participate in last weekend's rookie orientation because of what he and coach Jeff Fisher termed some physical tests that he still needed to clear. It was just the latest in a line of obstacles tossed in Sasser's path to the NFL.

"It just seems that there’s some type of situation that goes on in every little process I go through so it just creates a bigger and bigger chip each time," Sasser said.