Looking to bolster a wide receiver depth chart lacking proven playmakers and veteran experience, the St. Louis Rams have acquired Mark Clayton from the Baltimore Ravens. ESPN reports the Rams gave up a 2011 sixth-round draft pick in exchange for Clayton and the Ravens seventh-round pick in 2011.
Clayton became expendable when the Ravens signed former Seahawk and Bengal receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a one-year contract over the weekend.
The acquisition of Clayton replenishes the talent base at wide receiver for the Rams and provides the team with a solid replacement for Donnie Avery, who suffered a torn ACL and is out for the year. Clayton possesses excellent speed and is a talented player whose production has yet to match his abilities.
In St. Louis, Clayton figures to quickly ascend up the depth chart and should be amongst the team’s top three receivers as soon as he learns the playbook. He will compete for playing time with Laurent Robinson, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. The Rams also have rookie fourth-round pick Mardy Gilyard, Keenan Burton and Dominique Curry on the roster.
While the Rams previously stated that Amendola would replace Avery in the starting line-up, he is better suited to the slot where he can utilize his quickness. Gibson had a disappointing preseason, largely the result of a hamstring injury that caused him to miss significant time.
Clayton enjoyed a breakout season in 2006, catching 67 passes for 939 yards and five touchdowns. However, he failed to build on that season and his reception totals dropped in each of the last three years, from 48 to 41 to 34 in 2009.
In Baltimore, Clayton was cast as a deep threat with Derrick Mason running short and intermediate routes. However, in the Rams version of the west coast offense, Clayton will be used on more short and intermediate routes and his reception totals should increase.
Look for Clayton to earn the starting spot opposite Robinson given the Rams preference to have Amendola play out of the slot and the team’s other options at the position.
Gilyard struggled in the preseason and is also better suited to the slot. Gibson and Burton are best suited to playing outside but neither player has the pedigree or playmaking ability that Clayton possesses.
While it’s hard to get excited about a wide receiver coming to a team that struggled as bad on offense as the Rams did in 2010 and who will be starting a rookie quarterback, Clayton’s fantasy prospects shouldn’t be dismissed.
He has an opportunity to earn significant playing time and the Rams figure to be behind early and often so Clayton will earn garbage time fantasy points in 2010. His fantasy outlook was persona non grata in Baltimore but in St. Louis, he has the potential to be a solid backup for your fantasy squad with decent upside.