When the Los Angeles Rams made the surprise trade for former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the Rams receiving corps shifted. That’s what adding a true number one is supposed to do — change the makeup of your team.
The Rams starting trio of wideouts appear to be set. Watkins will be the Rams number one receiver. Robert Woods, who can play in the slot and the outside, figures to be a solid number two. Also, there’s rookie Cooper Kupp who seems to found a home as the big slot receiver. With the Rams adding three new starters at receiver, where does that leave the Rams highest paid weapon Tavon Austin. Will he fade into the sunset or is there a role for him on the team?
It seems highly unlikely the Rams would not play Austin as much this season, given the commitment the team has made to him over the past few seasons. Austin has teased fans with his potential; he’s scored as a receiver, running the ball, and as a returner, so it makes sense to keep the same formula going for Austin.
The Rams couldn’t afford to do this in the past but they can finally make Austin a Darren Sproles or most recently a Ty Montgomery type of player. Treated as a running back, I believe that Austin will be able to do what he does best: make plays with the ball in his hands.
Tavon Austin has forced 34 missed tackles on 125 career carries. Here's how he had graded as a runner since entering the league. pic.twitter.com/NJNAO2IsuU— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 15, 2017
Austin could prove to be a really good chess piece, since he’s proven he can make plays when he is carrying the ball. The Rams can still use him as a receiver, and since he’s not a top two option in the passing game, should allow him to get open easier and potentially make more plays. The Rams can play him all over the formation now that they have legit threats around him, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s played all over the offense in the past.
Although Austin is currently being overpaid, having him on the roster is a good problem to have. Opposing defenses still know that he’s fast and that he’s a playmaker. It’s just harder to define when he’s not the top player the opposition has to gameplan against.