West Virginia's Tavon Austin is the most explosive offensive weapon in the 2013 NFL draft class, and the St. Louis Rams decided they could not risk missing out on the opportunity to draft him to address their need for a slot receiver and impact player on their offense. The Rams traded their second-round pick (No. 46 overall), their seventh-round pick (No. 222 overall) to the Buffalo Bills, and also swapped third-round picks, in order to move up eight spots from the No. 16 overall pick to the No. 8 overall pick and select Austin.
Austin should add an immediate spark to the St. Louis Rams' offense. With both exceptional straight-line speed and open-field quickness, Austin is a threat to turn any play into a big play by running past defenders and making them miss.
At only 5'8" and 174 pounds, Austin may be limited to playing in the slot as a receiver because of his size, but he can also be used a runner out of the backfield, and as a kickoff and punt returner. He should be able to make a similar impact and play a similar role as Darren Sproles does as a running back/receiver/returner for the New Orleans Saints—and with his route-running ability, he is a more skilled receiver who could be even more productive.
Austin has a very good chance to be the top fantasy football player out of the 2013 rookie class. Not only will he become an immediate go-to weapon for quarterback Sam Bradford in the passing offense, he will also be a threat to pick up additional yardage and score additional touchdowns as a running back and returner.
Considering the Rams' lack of impact players on their roster, the Rams should be creative and use Austin in as many ways as possible. If so, he should put up big numbers, and be a great mid-round addition to any fantasy football roster.
Austin will be an immediate replacement for Danny Amendola, who left the team as an unrestricted free agent, at slot receiver. Amendola led the Rams in receptions, but Austin will likely get even more touches because of his big-play ability, as well as the wide variety of ways he can be used in an NFL offense.
The Rams could also use Austin situationally at running back, as they have two solid backs in Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson but lack an impact player at the position. Expect him to take an immediate role in the lineup, and possibly as a kickoff and punt returner on special teams as well, and make the Rams' offense better.
The Rams paid a big price to move up and have the opportunity to select Austin. For a player who may be limited to the slot as a receiver, and a team that has numerous needs on both sides of the ball, they may have been better off staying put at the No. 16 overall pick and used one of their two first-round picks to select another receiver from a talented draft pool, such as Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson.
That said, Austin has a unique skill set, and he was unlikely to still be available at the No. 16 overall pick. He is a perfect fit to replace Amendola at slot receiver, and should immediately make the Rams' offense more explosive and dynamic. For an offense that has struggled to find its ground in the Sam Bradford era, Austin could add a much-needed spark and give Bradford a reliable option both for completions and to make game-changing plays.
Given his size limitations, Austin may have been more appropriate value as a mid-first-round pick, but the board dictated the Rams needing to move up to select him, and they made the move to get their guy.