ORLANDO, FLA. • Make no mistake, Rams coach Jeff Fisher likes Sammy Watkins, the gifted wide receiver from Clemson.
“He’s very, very explosive,” Fisher said. “I mean, he’s good with the ball. He’s good without the ball. He’s one of those guys that can pluck a ball at his ankles running full speed. He’s gonna be a very, very good pro.”
The question is: Does Fisher like Watkins enough to pluck him at No. 2 overall in the draft? It could be a smokescreen, but it doesn’t sound like it.
“I think with what we have on the roster right now, we can provide (quarterback) Sam (Bradford) with the talent to where we can win a lot of games,” Fisher said. “We’re expecting improvement. We’re still seeing improvement from (receivers), for example, Brian Quick, Chris Givens who are going into their third year.
“We expect significant improvement and more contribution from Tavon (Austin) and Stedman (Bailey). And I’m not disappointed in any way in what Austin Pettis has done in a backup role.”
The vibe all along from Rams Park this offseason has been that offensive line and the secondary are higher priorities than wide receiver. And Fisher’s comments seem to fit in with that premise.
The Rams have taken four receivers in the their two drafts under Fisher and general manager Les Snead, picking one in each of the first four rounds: Austin in the first (2013), Quick in the second (2012), Bailey in the third (2013), and Givens in the fourth (2012).
Perhaps the thinking is that that’s enough investment in one position over the short term, and that continued patience is needed. If you throw in Pettis, who was taken in the third round in 2011 during the Steve Spagnuolo-Billy Devaney regime, that’s five wideouts. And if the Rams end up signing Tennessee Titans wideout Kenny Britt, that’s six. The team might think it has enough at the position.
Then again, if the team passes on Watkins and he turns out to be the best wide receiver to come out in several years as some draftniks have proclaimed, the Rams might regret the decision.
Either way, there are plenty of options at No. 2 overall, and Fisher spoke freely about them at the NFC coaches breakfast Wednesday.
For starters, he didn’t dismiss the possibility of taking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney at No. 2, even though the team is stacked at defensive end.
“I’ve learned over the years that you never have enough pass rushers,” Fisher said. “And I think not only us, but other teams that are in our situation, are creative enough to find ways to get (Clowney) on the field and put him in position to make plays.”
Fisher didn’t regard Clowney’s lack of sack production last season (three) as a red flag.
“Not if you watch the games, it’s not,” Fisher said. “Because the effort’s there. You’ve got to give offenses credit, too. I mean they were aware of where he was. They turned the center towards him. When the ball came out, they’d check out with backs just like we do in our league with good rushers.
“So no, you see a lot of other really big plays throughout the year. Consistent big plays, whether they’re chase plays down the field or plays against the run.”
The Rams certainly are taking a long look at the top three offensive tackles in the draft: Greg Robinson of Auburn, Jake Matthews of Texas A&M and Taylor Lewan of Michigan. Lewan is more likely under consideration at No. 13 overall — the second of the Rams’ two first-round picks — although he might not last to 13.
A lot of the media mock drafts have Robinson as the Rams’ pick at No. 2.
“He’s young. I believe he’s got tremendous upside,” Fisher said. “Probably has not taken as many snaps in a pro-style offense as Lewan, the Michigan tackle. But he’s very athletic and he has flexibility — he could move in, play guard or the other tackle as well. Probably gonna take him a little more time.”
But don’t forget about Matthews, the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews — who once played for Fisher. Fisher thinks Jake is as competitive as his father and will be as durable and versatile in the pros.
But is Jake as athletic as his father?
“I’ll have to tell you after the private workout,” Fisher said. “Don’t know. I would assume so.”
Besides the upcoming private workout, the Rams held a formal, or “suite” interview with him last month at the NFL scouting combine. Both the private workout and suite visit are indicators of strong interest by a team in a player.
As for Lewan, Fisher said: “Very well-coached. Very consistent. Finishes plays. What you see on tape, that’s what everybody would look for — that type of tackle.”
Lewan currently has some legal issues — he faces an arraignment April 8 on three charges related to a fight outside an Ann Arbor, Mich., restaurant last Dec. 1.
“It certainly is gonna require that you do a little bit more background and research on him,” Fisher said.
Of course, when draft day rolls around, some of these options might be out of play if the team trades down from No. 2. So far it’s quiet on that front.
‘We’ve not really had any discussion with anybody,” Fisher said. “That doesn’t mean to say we won’t.”