If the preseason was a network sitcom, St. Louis Rams rookie Tavon Austin would be wearing those fake disguise glasses with the big nose attached and oversized mustache, trying to be inconspicuous. After being selected eighth overall in the 2013 NFL draft, Austin’s preseason was somewhere between vanilla and cardboard. He is listed on the Rams official depth chart as the backup for the second receiver spot behind Austin Pettis.
It appears that the Rams were keeping the lid on Austin on purpose. Like a poker player not wanting to reveal their hand, Austin only played on three-wide sets, where he caught eight passes for only 66 yards during the preseason. Rams coach Jeff Fisher is, in my opinion, one of the best coaches in the NFL and his underuse of the explosive rookie means one of two things.
Either he doesn’t trust or like what he sees from Austin, or Fisher thinks that the rookie can be an integral part of the Rams offense, and wanted to keep that quiet around the league. I believe it’s the latter. After all, you don’t break out your secret weapon until you actually need to go to war.
Austin will have competition for targets with Chris Givens, Pettis and Jared Cook. Givens is an explosive deep threat, and Cook has underperformed the majority of his career. Austin could easily finish the season as the top receiving option in St. Louis. He is quick, has great lateral ability, and is not scared to go to the middle of the field.
He won’t be limited to just receiving either. Expect some wildcat formations, running back duties and return duties for the agile rookie. Think of a player in the mold of Percy Harvin. Austin played all those positions in college and has the speed, agility and sense to do it all at the pro level. As long as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can find ways to get Austin the ball, he will be effective.
This weekend against the Arizona Cardinals has one of the matchups I’m really looking forward to watching as Austin should square off against either Tyrann Mathieu or Patrick Peterson. I’m personally hoping for the rookies to face each other, but both defensive backs are solid and prove to provide an entertaining display.
It might not be today, but it is only a matter of time before Austin breaks out and becomes a hot commodity. Currently owned in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues landing him could be a challenge, but if he is available now, the ceiling is high enough to justify dropping one of your lower level players. If you are eyeing him in a trade, you need to make the play sooner rather than later.
As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.
Read more from Dustin here.