Every new season means new players.
Each year, the league sees a handful of exciting, explosive young athletes who have the opportunity to make immediate impacts. From a fantasy football perspective, fantasy owners often tend to target these guys because of that very excitement. It’s a lot like fantasy baseball players targeting a top prospect, even though he hasn’t been called up to the big leagues yet. In 2013, there may not be any more excitement surrounding a rookie than speedy wideout Tavon Austin.
Whenever a guy with sub-4.4 speed and versatility enters the league, fantasy owners take notice. Austin will immediately be one of, if not the focal point of the Rams offense this season. St. Louis will find different ways to get this guy the football, whether it be through the air or on the ground, he can do it all. However, despite the talent this kid has, if you are grabbing him as anything more than your third fantasy wideout, you’re doing yourself an injustice. The wide receiver position is very deep in 2013, so why would you target an unproven rookie over some more trustworthy guys?
According to Fantasy Calculator, Austin is going ahead of guys I like such as Stevie Johnson and Mike Williams. Others might disagree, but I’d much rather have these guys ahead of Austin, who does have his fair share of question marks. First, we still don’t know if Sam Bradford will ever take that next step in his career. He’s showcased some awful decision-making over the years, and an atrocious offensive line has failed to keep him upright. Over the last 26 games, Bradford has been sacked a whopping 71 times. If Bradford can’t stay upright to deliver the football, Austin can’t make plays. However, the team did go out and acquire Jake Long, a big lineman who will help wonders. Also, this team has a ton of question marks in the running game, and until that changes, opposing defenses won’t have to respect it. And of course, the guys is a rookie. It’s not very often we see a rookie wide receiver step in and dominate like A.J. Green did back in 2011.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate this kid. Watching tape of Austin back at West Virginia, I often found myself wiping drool from my face. Seriously. The kid can do it all. During his senior year in college, Austin scored 17 total touchdowns, posted almost 2,000 total yards from scrimmage and caught 114 balls. I do think he will be used in boatloads by the Rams. I mean, they didn’t trade up the the number eight overall pick to get him for nothing, right? Austin was an absolute monster out of the slot in his collegiate career, and it appears that the rookie will man that area in St. Louis. Seeing as Bradford has had a tendency to favor targeting receivers out of the slot (see Danny Amendola’s 224 targets in 2010 and 2012), Austin will see a ton of looks in his rookie year. Also, reports out of St. Louis indicate that Austin may be the favorite to serve as the team’s main punt returner, which, depending on your league’s scoring settings, could give him even added fantasy value. The guy draws similar comparisons to players like Randall Cobb and Percy Harvin, being able to do a little bit of everything. In my eyes, those two are pretty darn good players, and Austin has the talent to become one too.
Austin is obviously a tremendous talent, and in dynasty leagues, I love him even more. However, for this season at least, there is no way this guy can be more than your third or fourth wideout. There are simply too many better options out there at the wide receiver position, and even some of the lower ranked guys are better in my eyes.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.