Two years ago the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
With their next selection, the team took receiver Marqise Lee, a move many lauded given the team’s investment in Bortles a round earlier.
Twenty-two picks later, some of the draft pundits that were praising the Jaguars were now questioning their decision-making. That’s because they took another receiver, Allen Robinson from Penn State, in the same second round that they took Lee.
The strategy went against conventional wisdom, but coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell knew the team needed to invest in the position if that spot was going to improve.
Gene Smith, the man that Caldwell replaced in 2013, had whiffed on 2012 first-rounder Justin Blackmon and got little return on investment after shelling out big money to free agents Torry Holt and Laurent Robinson.
There was no quick fix available for the Jaguars. They flat out needed to devote multiple draft picks to the skill positions on offense and hope those players panned out. It’s a situation that Jeff Fisher and Les Snead are familiar with as the Rams head into their offseason.
The Jaguars only won five games this season, so they’re hardly the model team. But, the Rams can nevertheless take a page out of Jacksonville’s offseason playbook.
Not only did the Jags invest those second-round picks in Robinson and Lee, but they also found a gem in undrafted free agent Allen Hurns that same year. They were relentless when it came to acquiring talent at that position.
This past season, Robinson finished sixth in the NFL in receiving yards (1,400) while Hurns racked up 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. Either one of those players would have been the No. 1 receiver on the Rams in 2015.
Granted, Bortles is a bigger playmaker at quarterback than what the Rams had under center, which factored into Hurns and Robinson’s production.
But given the limited options on the free agent market and where the Rams will be picking in next year’s draft, there’s a chance they won’t be able to find a franchise quarterback this offseason.
If they’re forced to ride with Case Keenum, Nick Foles, and Sean Mannion again next year, that’s even more reason to upgrade the skill position talent around the quarterback this offseason.
When it comes to adding defensive talent, the Rams are never satisfied. Despite possessing three former first-round picks along their defensive line in Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Michael Brockers, Fisher and Co. selected Aaron Donald with their second first-round pick in 2014.
Last offseason they even added to their growing stable of defensive line talent by signing Nick Fairley, plus signed linebacker Akeem Ayers.
Some questioned why the Rams would draft another pass-rusher when they took Donald, but they recognized his talent and didn’t hesitate to add to their defensive line. They did the same thing when they traded for Mark Barron in 2014: The last thing the Rams needed was another in-the-box safety, but they acquired the talent first and worried how to use him later.
There’s plenty of time to discuss which specific receivers and tight ends the Rams could target in this year’s draft.
We’ll save that for another column, especially with many college players still deciding whether or not they’ll forego their senior seasons and enter the draft.
The big-picture point is this: The Rams need to adopt that same relentless approach that they have when it comes to adding talent on defense and apply it to the other side of the ball.
It’s not as if they’ve ignored the offense: Greg Robinson, Tavon Austin and Todd Gurley were all first-round picks under Fisher and Snead, while Brian Quick, Isaiah Pead, Chris Givens and Tre Mason came in the middle rounds.
But Givens and Pead didn’t pan out and it doesn’t appear as if Quick will either. It happens. Not every draft pick will turn into Donald or Gurley.
That said, the reality is the Rams are talent-deficient outside of Gurley and Austin at the skill positions. They need an overhaul at receiver, but before that can happen they need to change their offseason approach when it comes to adding talent at that position, just like the Jaguars did two years ago.
If they don’t, the Rams will likely wind up with the same offensive and defensive imbalance they had this past season. Worse yet, they’ll once again find themselves watching the playoffs from home.
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