Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin played all 16 games last season, and he had a solid start to the season with at least four catches in five of the first six games and four touchdowns over that span. But lingering hamstring issues along with hip and ankle problems caught up with him as the season went on, and led to fairly dismal numbers overall (66 receptions for 943 yards and six touchdowns).
Austin emerged as a force for the Cowboys, and fantasy football owners, with a breakout season in 2009 (81 catches for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns). He followed that up with a 1,000-yard season in 2010 (69 receptions for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns), but over the last two seasons injuries and the emergence of Dez Bryant have reduced Austin’s role even on the rare occasion he has been fully healthy.
What should fantasy owners expect from Austin in 2013?
Bryant (92 receptions last season) and tight end Jason Witten (110 receptions) are clearly the top two options in the Cowboys’ passing game, but quarterback Tony Romo had the third-most pass attempts in the league last season (648) and he should be throwing the ball plenty again this year despite any effort that is made to run the ball more. If Romo’s interception total drops (a tied for league-high 19 in 2012), the Dallas offense should be more efficient and productive even with the possibility of fewer pass attempts.
Austin is unlikely to completely recapture his 2009 form, but at age 29 he should still have some productive years left. He reportedly focused on strengthening his troublesome hamstrings during the offseason, and all indications are he made it through training camp and the preseason without issue.
Austin is clearly not a top-tier fantasy wide receiver heading into the season, and betting on him making it through all 16 games of a season unscathed is surely a risky proposition. But he is in line to benefit from the attention Bryant and Witten get from opposing defenses, and I think Austin is a legit WR3 with upside in 12-team leagues until further notice.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.