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Tavon Austin v. Cordarelle Patterson: Missing the Point

Two of the NFL's most dynamic young playmakers squared off in week 1. While one player made a huge impact, the other player was hardly noticeable. The natural reaction to lament the selection of one player over the other is understandable, but is it missing the real issue entirely?

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Rams traded up in the 2013 NFL Draft to select Tavon Austin with the #8 overall selection, a player many draft "experts" were raving about following his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.  As a Rams fan I had my reservations regarding his size and durability at the NFL level, but there was no question his athletic ability made him a big play waiting to happen.  The Minnesota Vikings traded up to take Cordarrelle Patterson with the 29th overall selection (their third choice of the first round), a player of similar ilk to Austin with a larger frame but deemed by many as "raw".

During their rookie seasons each player had their share of struggles as well as tantalizing displays of their playmaker potential.  Tavon Austin had his rookie season cut short by an injury just as it seemed he was getting comfortable in the offense, while Patterson played a full 16 game schedule and really seemed to be coming on in the second half of 2013.  When looking at each players rookie statistics they are actually very similar.



Rec Yds



Rec TD

Rush Att




Rush TD

Tavon Austin












Cordarrelle Patterson












Considering the last play of Austin's rookie season was the 56 yard rush at the end of the third quarter in Arizona, it is reasonable to assume if he hadn't been hurt on the play his numbers may have been slightly better than Patterson's as a rookie.

Flash forward to the aftermath of the season opening debacle in the Edward Jones Dome, and Rams fans everywhere are clamoring for Jeff Fisher and Les Snead's head for the colossal mistake of drafting Austin over Patterson. There is no two ways about it, Patterson had a great day running the football against the Rams.  His 3 carries for 102 yards, and of course the electric 67 yd TD run, certainly helped to highlight his big play ability.  His 3 catches for 26 yards on 5 targets was much less awe inspiring.  By comparison Austin's 3 rushes for 5 yards (all between the tackles), and 3 catches for 34 yards on 3 targets certainly invites criticism.  Clearly the biggest difference between the two players week 1 performances is in the running game, while one player was running sweeps to utilize his speed and open field quickness the other player was lined up as a traditional running back and heading straight up the gut.

I realize the Rams traded up to get Austin at #8 instead of potentially staying put and grabbing Patterson later, but to simplify the argument lets forget about the draft and focus on the players and their respective teams. Each of these players has shown the ability to create the highlight reel play if given the right opportunity.  Austin put on a dazzling display in his rookie season against the playoff bound Indianapolis Colts.  Patterson also had a breakout game his rookie season with a 141 yard 1 TD performance against the Baltimore Ravens.  Each player has made big plays on special teams as well, Patterson with 2 KO returns for TD and Austin with the unforgettable punt return TD against the Colts.

It seems clear to me that each player has demonstrated the ability to translate their unique skills to production at the NFL level.  With that being said it is also clear neither of these players is the next Calvin Johnson, their production is more reliant on their abilities in open space.

Since I have about 13 followers on Twitter I figured I would share a tweet (bottom of page) for all the loyal TST folks out there.  The argument I would make in support of Austin is one of usage, and in this case improper use.  It isn't Tavon's fault he was lined up in the backfield and handed the ball off tackle.  There have been plenty of people clamoring for the head of the Rams Offensive Coordinator, and if the way Austin was used against the Vikings is the plan moving forward in 2014 I imagine it will pick up more steam.  When Norv Turner had the ball handed off to Patterson it was with the threat of a run by Adrian Peterson, when Brian Schottenheimer called runs for Austin there was no other run threat in the backfield.  Aside from the fact Adrian Peterson makes the league's best decoy between the tackles, the point is no attempt was even made to catch the defense guessing on the Austin runs.  If the Rams had been mauling the Vikings at the line of scrimmage, pushing them 5 yards up the field and providing cutback lanes for the backs the strategy may have made a little more sense.

To me the criticism of the franchise for trading up to draft Austin with the 8th overall selection should begin and end with the fact they didn't have anyone on their staff capable of utilizing him.  Thanks for reading and as always, Go Rams!!!