Tavon Austin was traded from the Rams to the Cowboys, and he will compete for a role as a reserve running back and receiver in Dallas. While the Cowboys need help at receiver after moving on from Dez Bryant this offseason, Austin is more likely to be a backup running back behind Ezekiel Elliott. In 2017 with the Rams, Austin had a career-low 22 targets, which resulted in just 13 catches for 47 yards. But he saw the most involvement in the running game in his career with a career-high 59 carries. Keep an eye on his role in Dallas, but Austin has minimal Fantasy value in the majority of leagues and should not be drafted in most formats.
Austin spent a lot of time at wide receiver with the first-team offense Thursday during the first practice of training camp, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal reports. The Cowboys have sent mixed signals since trading for Austin in April, with owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones both saying they envision their new acquisition as a pass-catching running back, while offensive coordinator Scott Linehan viewing the speedy 27-year-old as a wide receiver first and foremost. Linehan's vision seems to be taking precedence so far, but Austin could spend more time in the backfield once Terrance Williams (foot) is healthy and rookie wideouts Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson have a better feel for the playbook. If nothing else, Austin at least figures to earn a role on punt returns and gadget plays.
Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said he primarily views Austin as a receiver, Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News reports. "We'll use [Austin] for a lot of things, but he's a receiver first." said Linehan. "He's really in a lot of ways, some of his skill set is as an outside receiver, which is really unique, but he can move around, the slot." Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones both suggested Austin would get most of his playing time as a running back, but Linehan seems to have a slightly different vision. The 2013 first-round pick filled a variety of roles during his time with the Rams, serving as an outside receiver, slot receiver, passing-down back, punt returner and kick returner. He never truly thrived outside of the return game, and things even fell apart on that front last season when he struggled with ball security. Austin's best trick was his proficiency on jet sweeps, which helped atone for his lackluster receiving efforts as a slot man. Jerry Jones mentioned finding "a dozen or two dozen" touches per game for Austin, but something in the range of 5-to-10 (including special teams) would make a lot more sense. Austin had a personal best of 141 touches (8.8 per game) in 2015, tallying 52 catches, 52 carries, 34 punt returns and three kickoff returns.
Austin will be used as a "web back" in Dallas, a role similar to the one Lance Dunbar previously held with the team, Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. While Jerry Jones, with his usual panache, suggested that Austin could see "a dozen to 20 times, two dozen" touches a game, the 28-year-old is likely to have a much smaller workload in 2018 playing behind Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and Cole Beasley in the slot. If Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is able to create some mismatches with Austin, however, the 28-year-old could rebound from last season's disappointing total of 317 yards from scrimmage in 16 games. It's worth noting that Linehan did help Reggie Bush to his last productive season in 2013 with the Lions.
The Rams have traded Austin to the Cowboys for a sixth-round draft pick, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports. Austin, a 2013 first-rounder, will look to rejuvenate his career in Dallas. The 28-year-old spent his first five seasons with the Rams, but is coming off his least productive one. He tallied just 47 receiving yards on 13 receptions, while also providing 270 yards and a touchdown through the ground on a career high 59 carries. Dallas figures to be an advantageous situation for him, as nothing is set in stone with the receiving depth chart at this point. He will presumably battle with Cole Beasley for reps in the slot, while also potentially seeing some rushing and return opportunities.
Austin restructured his contract and will remain with the Rams, Gary Klein of The Los Angeles Times reports. It was rumored that Austin would either seek a trade or release at the beginning of the new league year, but the 2013 first-rounder will remain in Los Angeles for at least the immediate future on what amounts to a prove-it deal. The 28-year-old saw a major drop in pass-catching production in Sean McVay's offense last season, recording 13 receptions for 47 yards. However, Austin did see a career-high 59 rushing attempts for 270 yards and one score. Looking ahead, the free agent departure of Sammy Watkins could open up some possibilities for Austin to emerge as as a vertical threat for the Rams, and at a minimum he should see more volume in 2018.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/17||New York Giants||25||20.75|
|13||11/30||New Orleans Saints||20||20.00|
|16||12/23||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||31||23.75|
|17||12/30||@New York Giants||25||20.75|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||46||288||2||41||343||3||88|