General Manager Les Snead said way back in February that this past April’s 2013 NFL Draft was about wants rather than needs. For many teams that proclamation could take on plenty of different meanings, but for the St. Louis Rams, being one of just eight teams last season that failed to reach the 300-point plateau during the 16-game season, that meant finding an explosive playmaker on offense. Hello Tavon Austin.
It’s easy to see the appeal of having a slippery, do-it-all player in today’s NFL. With teams economizing in many aspects on both sides of the football, speed trumps size on nearly every occasion in today’s pass-happy league. Even though he’s labeled as a wide receiver, there’s no doubt Austin will do more than simply catch passes for the Rams during his career.
While at West Virginia, the speedster made a real impact lining up in the backfield and on special teams which speaks to his versatility. The Rams will find plenty of uses for Austin especially now that the wide receiver depth chart has completely turned over a new, younger leaf.
With both Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson leaving for the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins respectively in free agency, the Rams will have a slew of youngsters competing for playing time. Last year’s fourth rounder Chris Givens will likely be on top of the depth chart, but he is more of a deep threat than a short passing game weapon. Brian Quick figures to have a larger role in 2013 as well, and his game is as a possession receiver over the middle as well as a big-bodied red zone target.
The main hurdles for Austin to clear in training camp will be to prove that his diminutive 5’8” 174lbs. frame can handle the rigors of the NFL. Corners like Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins will test the rookie’s mettle early and often in one-on-one drills during camp. Those battles will be intriguing to see if Austin can persevere despite his lack of size.
It may not take the Rams’ rookie long to live up to the comparisons to Percy Harvin once he hits the field. Many believe Austin’s background from college mirrors that of Harvin’s where he was the primary ball carrier with the Florida Gators before transforming into a dangerous all-purpose offensive weapon at the next level.
Time will tell if those lofty assessments prove to be true, but don’t expect Austin to struggle for touches in year one with the Rams. Training camp will show just how many different ways the team plans to use the multitalented athlete.