Posted by Anthony Stalter
Sunday, July 31, 2016 - 12:24pm
Tavon Austin is coming off his best season as a pro. He caught more passes (52) for more yards (473) and scored more touchdowns (5) in 2015 than at any point his career. He also rushed for more yards (434),and more touchdowns (4) on more carries (52) than at any point in his career. Austin finished as fantasy's WR25 in 2015 after ranking as the WR87 a year prior. Why the sudden success? Some will point to Austin maturing in his third season, but the biggest reason for the bump in production came from a change at offensive coordinator. Frank Cignetti replaced Brian Schottenheimer, who left to become the OC at the University of Georgia before the season. Schottenheimer struggled with how to best utilize Austin, who at times was foolishly asked to run between the tackles as a running back. Cignetti did a better job of creating opportunities for Austin to flash his speed and athleticism by designing ways to get the receiver into open space. Cignetti was fired in December and replaced by current OC Rob Boras, who continued to get Austin involved as both a runner and receiver. Along with Todd Gurley, Austin is one of only a few weapons in L.A.'s offense. The Rams will once again be forced to design ways to get Austin the ball and thus, his targets and carries should mirror the overall touches he had in 2015. He should also benefit from an upgrade at quarterback, as rookie Jared Goff is expected to start over Case Keenum.
Despite posting career numbers in 2015, Austin remains limited in fantasy. He isn't the type of player who can transcend any offense; he needs play-callers to manufacture touches for him given his inability to use his body to create separation from defenders. If L.A. had better receiving options than Kenny Britt, Lance Kendricks and Brian Quick, maybe Austin would be more dangerous because defenses couldn't key on him in coverage. But opponents know they can stack the box to defend against Gurley and bracket Austin in coverage because those two players are all the Rams have offensively.
2016 Bottom Line
Jeff Fisher believes Austin can double his catches in 2016 after the receiver caught 52 passes a year ago. That's a major stretch given the Rams run-dominated attack. Another 50-plus catches seems reasonable, with 8-10 total touchdowns mixed into his final stat line. Austin ranks as our WR46 heading into training camp, which would make him a WR4/5. While he does have some upside, it would be wise not to draft Austin until the later rounds. He's worth a late-round flier, but counting on him to be anything more than receiver depth would be a gamble.