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Making the Leap, No. 24: Rams WR Chris Givens

Around The League will profile the top 40 players we see Making the Leap in 2013. No. 24 on the list: St. Louis Rams wide receiver Chris Givens.

Why Givens is on the list


There's track speed and there's football speed. Givens has football speed. The fourth-round draft pick out of Wake Forest opened eyes early last season after breaking a rookie record with a catch of more than 50 yards in five consecutive games. I watched all of Givens' 78 targets from last season on Game Rewind: His speed continually surprised deep safeties, who took bad angles when trying to cover him. Even some of the best safeties in the game.

It doesn't get much better than beating Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman off the line and then getting behind Earl Thomas deep. More than 30 percent of Givens' targets came on throws 20 or more yards down the field, which is an exceptionally high number. That caused defenses to back off Givens, and he often made them pay with his after-catch ability.

Making the Leap

Around The League will profile the top 40 players or coaches we see Making the Leap in 2013.

40. Isaiah Pead, Rams
39. Zach Brown, Titans
38. Michael Floyd, Cardinals
37. Jordan Cameron, Browns
36. Jarvis Jenkins, Redskins
35. Chase Daniel, Chiefs
34. Falcons' offensive line
33. Bernard Pierce, Ravens
32. Dennis Allen, Raiders
31. Golden Tate, Seahawks
30. Brad Jones, Packers
29. Julian Edelman, Patriots
28. Da'Quan Bowers, Buccaneers
27. Rob Ryan, Saints
26. Kendall Wright, Titans
25. Whitney Mercilus, Texans
24. Chris Givens, Rams
23. Chris Harris, Broncos
22. D.Rodgers-Cromartie, Broncos
21. Jimmy Smith, Ravens
20. Lamar Miller, Dolphins
19. Bryan Bulaga, Packers
18. Carlos Dunlap, Bengals
17. Alshon Jeffery, Bears
16. Greg Hardy, Panthers
15. Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers

I expected Givens to be a one-trick pony because of his reputation, but his versatility was impressive. So many of his yards came after making defenders miss following short grabs. He ran a lot of double moves. He lined up in a variety of places, including the slot. He ran the football on occasion and was willing to take on defenders despite his size, showing some toughness. He was an effective kick returner. Givens combines good hands and great straight-line speed with the choppy steps and change of direction skills of a return man. That's a dangerous combination.

When Danny Amendola was out of the lineup because of injury, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer started to treat Givens like a No. 1 receiver. The Rams found ways for him to get the ball. He responded very well before a late season rookie fade.

Obstacles


Sam Bradford told Fox Sports during the season that he just throws the ball as far as he can when he throws it to Givens. But even Givens couldn't catch up with too many Bradford passes. A lot of targets thrown to Givens missed by a big margin. There were miscommunications on option routes, but the misfires were more about Bradford's inconsistency problems. Givens and Bradford need to grow together, and Bradford needs time to set up and deliver those deep balls.

The Rams say they will use Givens at both the "Y" and the "X" position more this year. Bradford talked up Givens' intelligence in handling a variety of roles. There is a risk that Givens could take a step back because too much is being thrown at him. Rookie Tavon Austin will have a big role, as will free-agent pickup Jared Cook. The Rams have a lot of numbers at wide receiver, making it tougher for Givens to post big numbers.

2013 expectations


I'm past my fantasy football advice dispensing prime, but it's fair to say Givens would be near the top of my "undervalued" list. Austin is going to be a dynamic player, but Givens has better size and a big head start in his development. They aren't such different players in terms of explosiveness.

It wasn't hard to find highlights of Givens because he had so many big plays, but I choose to wrap up this piece with a 6-yard reception because it typified what didn't show up in the highlight reels. The play to the right shows Givens reaching back for a poorly thrown Bradford pass to keep a drive going. The Rams finished off their biggest win of the season over the San Francisco 49ers just a few plays later.

These are the plays that win games. Givens made plenty of them as a rookie; he absolutely can top 1,000 yards as the Rams' No. 1 receiver in his second season.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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