The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player (rookies don’t count) for the 2013 NFL season on each NFL team. For the St. Louis Rams, that player is wide receiver Chris Givens.
The Rams’ #1 goal of this off-season was clearly to help 4th year quarterback Sam Bradford, who has been working with a mediocre offensive line and receiving corps since day 1. While the signing of Jake Long to play left tackle was their biggest splash and best quality addition, they certainly added more quantity in the receiving corps. They added Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in the 1st and 3rd round of the draft respectively and signed athletic tight end Jared Cook to a big time contract in free agency. They also have 2nd year wide receiver Brian Quick, a 2012 2nd round pick out of Appalachian State, who has plenty of potential still after a down rookie year and who has been impressing in practice.
However, the one player I am most excited to watch and the player I think will be the leading receiver of the bunch is another 2nd year receiver, Chris Givens. While Quick was a 2nd round pick last year, Givens was more overlooked, going in the 4th round. However, I had a borderline 2nd round grade on him coming out of Wake Forest, ahead of Quick and ahead of 49er 1st round pick AJ Jenkins. After Kendall Wright, I thought he was the best speed receiver in the class, after a junior season in which he averaged 16.0 yards per catch on 83 catches for 1330 yards and 9 touchdowns. He has adequate size at 5-11 198 with steady hands, great route running ability, and recorded a 4.41 40 at The Combine.
As a rookie, he led the Rams nondescript receiving corps with 698 yards and caught 42 passes and 3 touchdowns. What he did as a rookie was not only above average for a rookie receiver, but above average when compared to rookie receivers drafted in the 1st round. Since 2005, 28 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 40 catches for 557 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. I don’t have the numbers for the descending rounds, but they are almost definitely lower. Givens, a 4th round rookie, exceeded these first round numbers. In his 2nd year in the league, he should be able to improve on them as he’s another year matured and another year more comfortable with the offense and Sam Bradford, especially since he figures to play more snaps.
Givens didn’t see significant action until week 4 and only played in 386 of the team’s 641 pass snaps, which was 113 less than Brandon Gibson, who led the team. He averaged 1.90 yards per route run, 25th in the league out of 82 eligible wide receivers. This year, with Brandon Gibson and the oft injured Danny Amendola gone, Givens is by far the team’s leading returning receiver. Unlike the new batch of receivers, he has a year of experience in the offense and with Sam Bradford.
Cook is still a relatively unproven tight end. Quick is still completely unproven. Tavon Austin, as explosive as he is, is still just a rookie and you saw how rookie receivers tend to struggle. Austin and Givens figure to start with Brian Quick coming in on 3 receiver sets and moving Austin to the slot. I expect Givens to lead the bunch in receiving and push for 1000 yards. He’d just need to average 2 yards per route run over 500 routes to do so and I think that’s achievable for him. He’d be the first Rams receiver with 1000 yards in a season since Torry Holt in 2007.