Maybe it was a byproduct effect of watching the disastrous Rams-Panthers game. Maybe it was his downward trending use. Maybe it was the lack of product. Or maybe, it was just a culmination of it all. Over On Twitter (follow me, if you don't so already @@iAmEddieP_), I shared my opinion about the Rams 8th overall selection in the 2013 Draft, Tavon Austin:
I'm rooting for Tavon, but he's not validating his 8th pick overall status. #Rams— Eddie P. (@iAmEddieP_) October 20, 2013
As expected, I immediately received responses from the Twittersphere. In a nutshell, some argued that that it is too soon to pass judgment. Some mentioned the nullified touchdowns/returns for touchdowns. Some stated that the coaching staff needs to learn how to use him. These are all reasonable justifications. The season is only going into Week 8. The team has negated some of Austin's big plays. The coaching staff does need to utilize Tavon and his specific tool set more effectively. However, numbers never lie.
Through seven games, Austin has 198 yards on 29 catches and two touchdowns. His 29 receptions lead the team. Austin Pettis is second among the receivers with 25 grabs.
Lets see how Tavon measures up against his fellow rookie receivers:
**The first five wide receivers of the 2013 Draft will be used for comparison.
Austin was the first of three receivers taken in the first round. The two other receivers taken in the first 32 picks were DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans) and Cordarrelle Patterson (Minnesota Vikings). As stated above, Austin has 29 catches, leading all rookie receivers in that aspect. Hopkins is right behind him with 28 catches. Patterson, a player everybody knew would be a developmental guy, has 11 receptions. Justin Hunter of the Tennessee Titans and Robert Woods of the Buffalo Bills (the next two receivers taken in the draft) have 3 and 21 catches, respectfully.
In terms of receiving yards, Austin has 198 – good for 8th among rookie WR. DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins is first with 416 yards. Woods comes in tied at No. 5 with 298. Patterson has 107 receiving yards, and Hunter only has 58 yards
Austin's 6.8 yards-per-catch average is definitely the lowest among the first five WR taken in the draft. DeAndre and Robert are both averaging over 14 yards per catch, 14.9 and 14.2 respectively. Patterson is averaging 9.7 yards per catch and Hunter is averaging 19.3 – both in limited roles.
In fact, out of 145 eligible players, Tavon comes in 137th in terms of yards per catch. Reggie Bush (13.3), LeSean McCoy (12.7), Marshawn Lynch (12.6), Darren Sproles (11.4) and Chris Johnson (11.1) – all running backs – have better yard-per-catch averages than Austin.
These players – Bush, McCoy, and Sproles are prime examples – are great in space. Tavon has the speed to be one of these players but has failed to show enough of this type of play-making ability. The Rams have also failed to put Tavon in situations where he has space to work (this is where the play calling comes in).
Tavon has also struggled holding on to the ball. He leads the Rams with five drops (Brian Quick is second on the team with four drops.). He also has one fumble. Woods has two drops. Patterson has one dropped pass. Hopkins does not have any drops so far. Hunter also has not dropped a pass yet.
In terms of special teams, the only other "top five" that has had opportunities as a returner is Patterson. Cordarrelle has returned 13 kicks for an average of 38.5 yards. He has a long of 105 yards, and that one went for a touchdown. Tavon has not had many chances to return kicks (he has three returns for a 18.3 average, with a long of 32 yards), but he has returned punts. Now, these numbers are very skewed due to special teams penalties (illegal blocks, etc). Austin is averaging 4.3 yards per return with a "long" of 20. Austiin has had a few returns for touchdowns called back because of penalties.
Tavon Austin is the lowest ranked out of the top five WR picks. ProFootballFocus gives him a -4.0 overall grade. He was also given a -4.2 grade on passing plays. Hopkins has a 2.1 overall and a 3.0 pass grades from PFF. Cordarrelle was given a 1.1 overall grade and a 1.2 pass grade. Hunter has a 0.7 grade overall and on pass plays. Woods graded out 0.3 overall and -1.4 pass.
Analyzing Tavon's play is difficult. True, Brian Schottenheimer needs to learn how to use him correctly. They need to call plays where he can use his speed to his advantage (the negated TD against the Panthers is an example). The team has to stop shooting itself on the foot; his overturned TDs on special teams are devastating. Still, Tavon is a top 10 first rounder. One would expect more out of a top 10 selection, especially when other rookie receivers selected lower in the draft are outperforming him.