“There goes Tavon Austin making another big play, putting the Rams in prime position to win this game.”
Ok, so you haven’t heard that in a very long time. It’s quite possible you’ve never heard it.
Hello there, I’m Brandon Bate. I may very well be the world’s biggest - potentially only - Tavon Austin fan.
I remember the days leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft when I pounded the table for Rams to draft Tay Awesome — the most electric player in college football. That’s just what they needed at the time: A spark. A player that could turn a simple play into a spectacular one. Hell, they needed a player that could turn a simple play into a first down.
Cordarrelle Patterson? No way, José. I wasn’t having any of that. I enjoyed the draft-season banter. And I’ll admit, it felt good winning the epic TA vs. CP battle. I mean, what good are my mock drafts if not for their accuracy?
But at this point, I’m not sure I, nor the Rams, won anything.
Fast forward to 2017. Austin’s one of the highest paid wide receivers in the NFL and no one, save for him, thinks he’s earned the checks including the rookies he’s reportedly learning from in camp.
I don’t specifically remember requesting to do a roster preview for Tavon Austin, whose jersey currently hangs in my closet, but thank you for joining me.
Without further ado, I present The Gift and The Curse:
You know it. I know it. He knows it.
2017 NFL Draft third-round pick and current NFL Network darling WR Cooper Kupp is knockin’ on the door, and if there’s any player on the roster Tay needs to worry about outperforming this summer, it’s the rookie out of Eastern Washington.
All has been quiet on the Tavon front this offseason, aside from chatter related to the size of his contract, after having undergone arthroscopic surgery on his wrist in May. But he’s expected to make a return in training camp and, given the circumstances, the hope is that he’s hungrier to earn playing time more so than in his rookie year.
Regardless, there’s no player on the Rams’ roster that poses more of a threat to his playing time in Los Angeles - in 2017 and beyond - than Sean McVay’s second ever pick as the Rams’ head coach.
I think Tavon owns the starting spot at slot receiver. But time will tell if he earns it.
Make no mistake about it, Tavon Austin will be on the field in 2017. And I fully expect that Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, and the offensive staff will try to incorporate Austin into the offense.
What I do NOT expect? To see DeSean Jackson. Please stop that.
“Salvage” might be a more appropriate word for what they’ll need to do in order for him to remain a Ram beyond this year.
Austin (still) has the abilities to turn an ordinary play into an extraordinary one. He also has a propensity to run 45 yards for a 2-yard loss...and squander a potential first down on a simple throw-and-catch by dropping the ball.
Was it Jeff Fisher and Rob Boras (along with his predecessors) who were unable to adequately turn Austin into the offensive weapon he was destined to be? Or is it that the most electric player in college football was never destined to be an NFL star?
Fans are ready to move on, but the organization is granting him another chance...if only for financial reasons. It’s not a contract year, but here’s to hoping Austin treats it like one.
Chances of Making the Final Roster (10/10)
You can talk about his contract all you want. You can mention how Aaron Donald isn’t signed or how the Rams signed Jeff Fisher to an extension before firing him.
None of that matters. Tavon will be on the field in 2017.
Root for him. Yeah, he’s getting paid. But maybe...just maybe...a new culture, a new coach, and a little competition, push the eighth overall pick from 2013 to be something more than he’s shown in recent years.