Clayton Better Off

The talk of the NFL recently has been about the Baltimore Ravens picking up wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and their potentially high-scoring offense that will take the field this season.

What people aren’t really talking about is the flipside of that acquisition. In order to sign Houshmandzadeh, the Ravens traded wide receiver Mark Clayton to the St. Louis Rams along with a seventh-round draft pick, and got a sixth-round draft pick from the Rams. Though Clayton may not have had all-pro numbers in his time in Baltimore, he was a dependable receiver who consistently put up solid numbers. While Houshmandzadeh can make an impact in Baltimore, Clayton can do the same in St. Louis.

In his five seasons as a Raven, Clayton recorded over 3,100 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Those aren’t impressive numbers, but they show that he’s been a good number two or three receiver for a long time. His best statistical season was in 2006, his second season, when he put up 939 yards and five touchdowns. Those numbers could be considered on the verge of number one receiver status, so he’s shown in the past that he can play a big role in an offense.

Going to St. Louis can be a great opportunity for Clayton to establish himself as a crucial part of the offense, and a good target for rookie quarterback Sam Bradford. With last year’s number one receiver Donnie Avery out for the season after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason, Clayton has a chance to become the main guy in St. Louis. The other Rams wide receivers are an up and coming group, but they’re young, and lack Clayton’s experience. Laurent Robinson is entering his fourth season, and his second as a Ram, and is coming back from a broken leg in 2009. He should be able to compete for a starting spot this year. Danny Amendola had 43 catches for 326 yards in his rookie year last year after bouncing around practice squads, and should also be involved in the competition at wide receiver. Rookie Mardy Gilyard played well during training camp according to reports, and should be in the mix for playing time as well.

Clayton figures to be the early number one among the receivers because of his experience. If he can build chemistry with Bradford, who has impressed in the preseason, Clayton can become the unquestioned number one receiver in St. Louis, and can up his numbers to the 1,000 yard level. Bradford has the intelligence and ability to be a smart quarterback, and having Clayton to throw to should make things easier for him. Elite running back Steven Jackson is in the backfield, and having a great back can be extremely helpful to young quarterbacks by taking the pressure off of them to win games.

Though the Rams are in a rebuilding phase, Clayton seems to be in a great situation. Don’t be surprised if he records big numbers this season.


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