Earlier this week, it was Zac Stacy, the St. Louis Rams newest running back, that was an early favorite to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award for the 2013 season. Now, it's another of Les Snead's draft picks, and this one has the attention of bookmakers in Las Vegas.
SportsBook.com has Tavon Austin with 3/1 odds to win the rookie of the year prize. The next best odds behind him are Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert. DeAndre Hopkins and Eddie Lacy bring up the third place spot with 8/1 odds, and they're followed by a gaggle of rookies with 10/1 odds or higher.
Austin's a fairly easy pick here. He was the top offensive skill player picked in the draft, a year with just one first-round quarterback too. On the other hand, Austin plays at a position that is notoriously difficult for first-year players. Only eight wide receivers have won the OROY award since the Associated Press started giving it out in 1967.
The last receiver to win it? Percy Harvin, 2009. He had 60 receptions for 790 yards and six touchdowns that season. He added another 135 yards on 15 rushing attempts. Harvin picked up most of his yardage on kick returns with 1,156 and two touchdowns.
"Hey," you're thinking, "Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin are an awful lot alike."
They are, but only to an extent. Harvin is 5'11, 200 pounds versus 5'8 180 pounds for Austin. It's an important difference between the two players. NFL pundits like to put things in easily defined silos, so speedy receivers that blur the lines of what the position is "supposed" to look like are all the same, kind of like short white guys that work out of the slot.
That said, Austin's ability as a playmaker speaks for itself. Had the Rams not traded up to get him, some other team would have nabbed him in the top 10 picks. He clearly has the ability to be special. If the Rams offense can figure out how to put as much of that ability to use as possible in his rookie year, the OROY could be a slam dunk.