Fantasy Football Today

Why Tavon Austin is a value pick

By Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com

Tavon Austin's stock has dropped enough to make him a value pick. (USATSI)
Tavon Austin's stock has dropped enough to make him a value pick. (USATSI)

Tavon Austin's Fantasy owners spent last season groaning. Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer couldn't figure out how to get this electric talent the ball in space. We saw a ton of bubble screens, with multiple defenders swarming Austin as soon as he caught it.

Rookie receivers often disappoint; Austin proved the rule. He was taken on average as the 32nd WR and finished 54th in standard leagues. His four receiving touchdowns came in two big games.

With his stock in the tank -- Austin is going mid-9th round in early drafts as the No. 42 WR and just went early-9th in our most recent CBSSports.com mock --- Austin has become a value pick.

1. Austin played a mere 434 offensive snaps last season (six games with 30 or fewer) as the Rams wrestled with how to use him. He missed three games with an ankle injury. Look for at least 650 snaps if he stays healthy.

Austin was more productive, on a per-snap basis, than one might think. He tied for 18th in Fantasy Points Per Snap, averaging 0.18 along with Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, Vincent Jackson and T.Y. Hilton, per Pro Football Focus.

"I think another year in the program, in the offense, OTAs, training camp, you'll see more production," coach Jeff Fisher told ESPN.com. "I think we'll do a better job of using him now that we know what he's capable of doing. Kind of looking forward to see him improve from year one to year two."

2. The Rams passed on Sammy Watkins and did not draft a receiver. Wideout Stedman Bailey, who came on at the end of last season, is suspended four games. Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Jared Cook are Austin's biggest competition for targets. St. Louis signed Kenny Britt, but he's Kenny Britt.

The Rams drafted Austin No. 8 overall and the pressure is on them to justify that pick.

3. Austin played just seven games with Sam Bradford, then got stuck with Kellen Clemens. A healthy Bradford will pay dividends for the entire offense.

4. Austin produced four rushing or receiving plays of 50-plus yards in his last four games, so perhaps the Rams were figuring out how to use him when he got hurt.

Dave Richard ranks Austin 38th and Jamey Eisenberg has him 42nd among receivers. Unless your league counts return yardage, you don't want Austin as one of your top three WRs. But with his huge upside he's a WR4 worth gambling on.

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