Rams Rookie Receivers: Who are the Hyenas?

Just as Simba gazes down upon the pride lands, so does Jared Goff, the new king of Los Angeles, survey his new kingdom of receivers and tight ends. Which before the draft was more mammoth graveyard-y than thriving savannah-y. The Los Angeles Rams are hoping their 2016 haul of receivers and tight ends can help help their passing game take flight.

Rams Rookie Receivers: Who are the Hyenas?

Before we go any further I must sadly inform you that this is where the Lion King theme ends. Perhaps you would have loved to read about how Tyler Higbee is Pumbaa, Pharoh Cooper is Timon, Kenny Britt is Rafiki, and Tavon Austin is the bird. And I surely could disturb you with who Nala would be (some grotesque personification of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead‘s futures which are now dependent on the success of Jared Goff, clearly). But who would be the hyenas? Obviously Nick Foles is Scar, but who would Bradley Marquez be? And how many needless similes, metaphors, and other literary devices can one man jam into an article about football? Honestly answering those questions would be beyond tedious, so I’m not going to do it. Go ahead and have some Tyler Higbee already.

 While that last paragraph ended with some attitude it doesn’t come anywhere close to the ferocity Tyler Higbee brings to the football field. He’s a more than capable blocker and an excellent athlete that could give the Rams the best tight end they’ve had since, I can remember. In at least two decades for sure. I mean it’s been longer than Justin Beiber’s lifetime since the Rams have had a star tight end is the point. Higbee has the ability to burn teams on intermediate and deep routes. If he stays out of trouble the Rams could have the next Vernon Davis on their hands.

Fellow rookie tight end Temarrick Hemingway, on the other hand, is more reminiscent of Jimmy Graham because both players operate primarily out of the slot. And every slot receiver needs acceleration, which Hemingway has in spades. Which for a 6’5” 244 pound tight end is borderline inconceivable (the word means what I think it means, Inigo). His astounding acceleration makes it difficult for linebackers to match up in coverage. He could quickly become the security blanket that Jared Goff comes to rely on. Goff’s quick release compliments Hemingway’s skill set wonderfully, and I can’t shake the gut feeling that Temarrick Hemingway will have the biggest impact of the rookie Ram pass catchers in 2016.

Catching passes is something that Pharoh Cooper definitely does not struggle with. He hangs onto the ball even when he gets clobbered. I found him harder to evaluate than some wide receivers because so much of South Carolina‘s offense was dedicated to feeding him the ball. He lined up at running back, wildcat quarterback, split out wide or in the slot for the Gamecocks. Tavon Austin and Pharoh Cooper have similar skill sets, and putting the two of them on the field together could create a lot of mismatches for opposing defenses. My initial pro comparison for Pharoh Cooper was Terry Glenn, but Glenn was faster and far more dominant coming out of college.

Dominant was supposed to be the moniker for former Tennessee Volunteers receiver Marquez North. After his freshman season in 2013 he looked like a budding super-star. His size, speed, athleticism, and catching ability were everything a team could ask from a number one receiver. Sadly college was not kind to Mr. North. Injuries cut his next two seasons short, culminating in a 2015 that limited him to just six catches. After foregoing his senior season, and avoiding further injuries without being paid for his work, he must now fight his way onto the team as an undrafted free agent first. Marquez North has the potential to become the best receiver on the roster, and the Rams would love for that future to come true. A future certainly aided by the Rams’ uncertainty at the wide receiver position.

Uncertainty plagues all of us, myself included. I have no way of knowing if calling Tavon Austin the Zazu of the Los Angeles Rams will bring me fame and fortune (doubtful), if I’ll one day be invited to the White House to receive some special honor (very doubtful), win the Nobel Prize (impossible), be hauled away to the looney bin (appropriately likely). But I don’t know for sure. And no one is sure what to expect from undrafted wide receiver D’haquille Williams. After the 2014 season the former Auburn Tigers star was regarded as one of the best college receivers in the country. As good as he was on the field the inverse was true off the field, and h was dismissed from the team in the summer of 2015. Since his dismissal Mr. Williams has been contrite and upfront about his past, and has stayed out of trouble. Trouble the City of Angels will be all to provide. The hope is he has found the focus that eluded him in college and will be the strong possession receiver the Rams dreamed Kenny Britt or Brian Quick becoming.

 Lots of attention is being payed to the Rams’ quarterbacks, and with good reason. They have the number one pick Jared Goff, scrappy veteran Case Keenum, highest paid third string quarterback in the league Nick Foles, and red-headed-step-child-who-lives-in-a-cupboard-under-the-sink-and-who-you-forgot-about-until-just-now Sean Mannion. However the 2016 rookie wide receiver and tight ends shouldn’t be forgotten in all the quarterback hoopla, because they will wind up shaping how well the Rams’ aerial assault gets off the ground.

Main Photo: CLEMSON, SC – NOVEMBER 29: Pharoh Cooper #11 of the South Carolina Gamecocks rushes for a touchdown during their game against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium on November 29, 2014 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)