Madden NFL 16 Primer: Why 'Draft Champions' Matters

Fantasy Fighter: Tavon Austin

Not my worst photoshop ever, believe it or not.
Not my worst photoshop ever, believe it or not.

By far the most explosive playmaker in the 2013 NFL draft, there was bound to be a team that felt they absolutely had to have Tavon Austin. That team turned out to be the receiver-deficient Rams, who jumped up eight spots to acquire his services.

From day one, Austin will slide into the starting lineup and be the focal point of a new-look Rams offense that lost both Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola to free agency. Amendola, Sam Bradford’s previous slot weapon, accrued fantasy value through sheer volume of targets and catches; the Rams’ version of Wes Welker.

Austin is a bit of a different breed. He’s more of an all-purpose dynamo with elements of Percy Harvin (who Austin was oft compared to throughout the pre-draft process), Randall Cobb, and even DeSean Jackson. He’ll line up in the slot regularly, but will also see frequent snaps out wide to take advantage of his killer straight-line speed, and also in the backfield to help fill the void Jackson left.

He’s In The Fantasy Running

With a player like Austin, it’s important to not overlook how much added value rushing attempts can provide. In standard (non-PPR) fractional scoring leagues, rushing yards are every bit as good as receiving yards. 800 receiving yards and 200 rushing yards is the equivalent of 1000 receiving yards, although the common fantasy player tends to prefer the latter.

To illustrate this point, take a look at Percy Harvin in 2011, his last full season healthy. Harvin didn’t even hit the 1000 receiving yard plateau (he finished at 967), yet was the #7 wideout in total fantasy points. His 345 rushing yards put him at 1312 from scrimmage, just edging out #8 WR Roddy White’s 1296 receiving yards.

As much as we like Austin’s skill set, there are some factors working against him, starting with his supporting cast. From top to bottom, the Rams’ offensive unit is among the youngest and most unproven in the NFL. Of their projected top four receivers for 2013 (which includes Austin and fellow rookie Stedman Bailey), not one of them is older than 23, and they total 53 career NFL receptions. The team did sign Jared Cook at tight end, but this is a group that will initially struggle to keep defensive heat off of Austin.

Quarterback play also has to be a concern for Austin, both short- and long-term. Since his impressive rookie season, Bradford has not taken the steps forward the organization had hoped for, and his continued development will be tied to Austin’s success. That is not to say that Austin can’t be a fantasy force with Bradford, but he may not be able to reach his full statistical potential without a top-flight trigger man.

Don’t Swing Too Big

As always, expectations should be hedged with rookie receivers as they adjust to the pro game. In the past five years, not one rookie receiver broke into the top 10 in fantasy scoring. That includes the standout rookie seasons of A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Mike Williams, and Percy Harvin himself. Only two finished in the top 15 during that time span (Green and Williams), and those are certainly exceptions and not the rule.

Austin should immediately garner flex appeal in fantasy drafts as a top 30-35 WR with his 2013 ceiling reaching the back-end of the top 20. If you believe in his ability as we do, then it would be wise to find a way to get St. Louis Rams receiver Tavon Austin on your fantasy football roster this year, but be very cautious of where and how you select him in your drafts. The last thing you want to do is overdraft a player like Austin, who should be the highest-valued rookie receiver.

The lack of first round talent at the skill positions in this year’s draft could mean a bloated cost for Austin, so find a value for him that’s right for you, and don’t get caught in a bidding war for what is still a rookie receiver, no matter how many highlights you watch on YouTube.

Where do YOU think Tavon Austin should be drafted in Fantasy Football?

daily fantasy football league
  • JesusMyles

    In my leagues, I think I’d be comfortable taking him somewhere around
    the 9th or 10th round, maybe 8th at the earliest. Exciting young player,
    but have to keep perspective.

    • GoMadden

      Hrm. I think I’d take a flier on him in the 6th. I think 8/9/10 might be too late considering his rushing potential. Imo anyway.