[dropcap]T[/dropcap]avon Austin is the worst kept secret in fantasy football. After watching loads of tape on this kid, he quickly became my WR3 pipe dream for 2013. With his draft stock rising faster than Jim Harbaugh’s blood pressure after a bad call, that pipe dream is looking more and more like just a dream after all. There’s no hiding Tavon Austin has talent. It’s impossible to keep him under the radar at this point. He landed on the perfect team to showcase his skills and it’s almost a certainty he’ll have an instant impact on the field. Thank your lucky stars St. Louis, the greatest show on turf might be back. And this time, it’s a one man show.
Austin’s speed is blazing. It’s hard to even describe it on paper, it’s something you need to see to believe. He ran a 4.34 40 time at the combine, but I’m pretty sure he’s even faster with a defender on his tail and the end zone in sights. Austin can stretch the field vertically, but he thrives in the slot. He’s very effective in the running game as well. It wasn’t uncommon for West Virginia to line him up in the back field, much like the Vikings like to do with Percy Harvin.
Speaking of Harvin, there’s no greater NFL comparison for Tavon Austin than Harvin. Percy might have four inches on him and is a little stronger, but what Austin lacks in those categories, he makes up in his speed, quickness and elusiveness. If I was Jeff Fisher I would literally take the Vikings playbook for Percy Harvin and use it as the blueprint for how I want to use Tavon Austin. He’s an offensive weapon in every sense of the word – electrifying in the open field.
What makes the former West Virginia all round threat even more intriguing is the recent acquisition of 4-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long. With Long on the blind side, and Rodger Saffold over at right tackle, the Rams offensive line is starting to look pretty good. Quarterback Sam Bradford has struggled for years with a weak offensive line and little talent around him. With better protection and new playmakers, Bradford can’t make excuses anymore. The organization finally gave their QB the pieces to succeed and I expect him to look to Austin early and often, much like he did Amendola.
There is cause for concern about Austin’s durability. Rightfully so, the way we see players drop like flies in the NFL each week. But I think there’s reason to be optimistic about his health. His speed makes it hard to tackle and when defenders do get their paws on him, it’s especially difficult to make impact hits. Austin stayed all four years at West Virginia never once missing a game. The way the NFL is shaping its rules to protect wide receivers and favor a more pass-happy league, I think it becomes even more likely Austin could stay free from harm.
Does the incessant admiration of Tavon worry me a little? Of course. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Like in gambling, any time the majority is passionate about the outcome of a game or the expectations of a player, the majority often tends to be wrong. It’s not like we haven’t seen electrifying college players fail to replicate that electricity in the pros (I’m looking at you Reggie Bush). Even so, I don’t see Austin falling victim to that fate. Unlike Reggie, Tavon is primarily a wide receiver. The Rams will look to get him the ball in open space where he’s free to showcase his quickness and explosiveness. Bush didn’t have that luxury, he got the ball in the backfield opting to rely on his speed rather than the holes laid out in front of him. At the pro level, that doesn’t work. You can’t bounce around behind the line of scrimmage moving east to west. You’ve got to hit the holes hard during the small glimpses they’re open and move north to south. Reggie is learning that now, and it’s beginning to show. Because The St. Louis Rams rookie is so versatile, the team should be able to keep defenders guessing. If Sam Bradford can find Austin in open space, defenders will have fits tracking him down.
Tavon Austin Stats
In the past, Austin would be an afterthought in the draft. There’s no way he would have been a first round pick. But as the NFL evolves, the Tavon Austin’s of the world are becoming a hot commodity. Percy Harvin blazed the trail for this guy, and I expect Austin to follow that path with just as strong a blaze.
I’m all in on Austin. I anticipate he’ll go in the sixth or seventh round of most standard scoring league drafts. If he turns out to be anything like Harvin, that’s a value pick and a half. I’ll set the bar at WR3 for this guy. I’d be disappointed if he didn’t turn out to be ranked even higher by season’s end though. Like many slot receivers, Austin will be a stud in PPR leagues. He’s a must-have in dynasty and keeper leagues and in my opinion, a near must-have in standard scoring leagues. To all the naysayers out there that say Bradford isn’t good enough to make this guy a star, I say, he did a pretty damn good job of making Amendola a stud when healthy.
NFL defenses will soon fear the Mountaineer.