While St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin's rookie season was not what you would consider a success, especially with the hype bestowed upon him as the No. 8 pick in the 2013 NFL draft, sometimes it takes a period of adjustment for a player to reach his full potential. And in 2014, Austin could be poised to break through and tap some of his raw potential and become a viable fantasy asset in the process.
Look, there is no sugarcoating the fact that Austin's rookie year was a dud. With him learning a new offense and adjusting to being a high draft pick and then ending his season on a down note, missing the last three games with a high ankle sprain, Austin never found a comfort zone last year.
He finished the season with just 40 receptions for 418 receiving yards and four touchdowns. However, there were some glimmers of hope in Austin's rookie season. Such as the games he had in Weeks 10 and 12 against Indianapolis and Chicago, respectively, when he combined to record four receptions for 177 yards receiving and two touchdowns, while also adding two carries for 69 yards and a rushing touchdown.
With Sam Bradford suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 7 last year, Austin never really settled into a groove. He never really clicked with Kellen Clemens behind center.
Although not impressive in any capacity, Austin did record 29 receptions for 198 yards in seven games with Bradford as his quarterback. After the injury to Bradford, though, Austin would only record 11 receptions for 220 yards with Clemens throwing him the ball. So when you combine a rookie receiver learning the intricacies of the game and having to go through that process with a backup quarterback halfway through the season, well, that's not exactly conducive to success.
Austin recently told R.B. Fallstrom of the Associated Press that his introduction to the NFL was foreign to him and that he was overwhelmed at first, but he said he is getting the hang of things as he enters his sophomore campaign.
'I didn't really know what was going on,' Austin said. 'Everything looked like Spanish and sounded like Spanish to me.'
Entering Year 2, the eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft realizes there's more to the job than simply outrunning defenders. He's comfortable with a system that's undergone only minor tweaks, and better prepared to bedevil opposing coordinators.
'I understand the plays, the depth, the routes, the splits and everything,' Austin said. 'I just feel good that I can make some plays. Definitely, the game's slowed down for me.'
Now that Bradford is healthy again—as Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports—expect he and Austin to form a solid rapport with each other. If the Rams are going to have a breakthrough season, especially on offense, they are going to need to get a good season out of Austin.
With jet-quick speed and a high motor, Austin has all the tools to be an elite pass-catcher and possession-receiver extraordinaire. Look for the Rams to try to exploit him in a variety of packages. You shouldn't expect gaudy touchdown numbers from him, but Austin could be good for 60-70 receptions, 750-800 receiving yards and four to six touchdowns.
When selecting Austin, think of him as a No. 4 receiver worthy of being drafted in the double-digit rounds of fantasy drafts. It still may take him some time to break out, but his upside alone makes Austin a very intriguing late-round pick.
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