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How Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey Are the Weapons Sam Bradford Needs

Tavon AustinSince Sam Bradford was drafted in 2009, he's been ranked 19th, 23rd, and 18th in league-wide yards per game, despite ranking 7th, 25th, and 13th in pass attempts in those seasons. It's obvious that the Rams are committed to Bradford, as they traded the #2 overall pick in 2012 which could have been used to take Robert Griffin.

Point blank, the Rams don't have a great passing game, and they don't think their quarterback is the problem. The solution? Weapons. Lots of weapons.

A quick rundown Bradford-Era receiver selections isn't a pretty sight, though. In 2010, they took Mardy Gilyard, who lasted one season with the Rams. In 2011, they took Austin Pettis and Greg Salas. Like Gilyard, Salas only played one season in St. Louis. In 2012, the Rams took Brian Quick with the first pick in the second round of the draft.  He only had 11 catches. The rookie receiver who stole the show was Chris Givens, the Day 3 selection from Wake Forest who started more games than Quick had catches, with 12.

Combine all of those less-than-stellar picks with the fact that the number one and two targets for Sam Bradford in 2012 are no longer on the Rams roster (Danny Amendola is now playing for New England and Brandon Gibson is playing for Miami), and you have a “draft need”. Outside of Givens, Pettis was the number two returning receiver in targets with 30 receptions, 8 less than Steven Jackson, the running back who left for Atlanta this off-season. 

When Radio City went to sleep after three days of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Rams had landed with a wide receiver tandem from West Virginia. Tavon Austin, the 9th overall pick and first offensive skill player off the board, was the all-around athelte for the Mountaineer offense, while Stedman Bailey, the 92nd overall pick, was the all-around receiver and redzone target.

The Rams traded up (notably past the Jets) to get Tavon Austin, who had 2,375 receiving yards, 825 rushing yards, and 24 total offensive touchdowns in his last two years at WVU. His running ability should be noted due to the Rams leading rusher, Steven Jackson, leaving for Atlanta, causing a weak running back stable for St. Louis. To put it into perspective, Sam Bradford, not typically noted as a mobile quarterback, is second on the returning rushing yard list from last year's Rams team with 127 yards, and he had the only non-Jackson rushing score in 2012. Tavon Austin is slated to start in the slot/playmaker position, which was left vacant by Danny Amendola. He's also already taken some snaps at running back, hinting that the staff might want to use him on jets and fly sweeps like the Mountaineers did.

Unlike Austin, Stedman Bailey lined up more as an outside receiver than a slot, which likely means that's what he's going to do in the Rams offense. On top of tallying up 186 receptions for 2901 yards and 37 toucdowns the past two years, Bailey also lead the 2013 receiver class in “clutch receptions”. Bailey will do a little bit of everything for the Rams, like he did at WVU. Seeing him block for a screen play, catch a screen pass, run a deep route, and then run a jet motion sweep wouldn't be a surprising four consecutive plays from the former-Mountaineer. Bailey will likely enter camping battling with Givens, Quick, and Pettis for one of the two outside roles in the Rams offense. Givens, a 2012 starter, likely already has a large enough lead earning him one of the spots, leaving Bailey, Quick, and Pettis fighting for the number two, three, and four outside spots, with Austin firmly slated as the slot man.

Due to the lack of production on the St. Louis Rams roster coming into the 2013 season, it would not surprise anyone if both of the receivers made big contributions to the team.


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