The St. Louis Rams decided to trade up to take Tavon Austin with the 9th pick in this year’s draft, and the bullish move hasn’t paid off through six games. Drafting a player is definitely all about the long-term returns and Austin definitely has talent, but his poor play so far this year has to be of concern as well. Austin is averaging just 6.6 yards per reception with 24 catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns, and those numbers are significantly less than what most of us projected from the West Virginia product.
An executive told the USA Today’s Tom Pelissero that Tavon Austin is struggling because of Sam Bradford, ”Little receivers don’t work with inaccurate quarterbacks.”
He then made a statement that I really take issue with, ”You can get away with those guys if you have (Drew) Brees or (Tom) Brady. Of course, you can get away with a lot with those guys.”
That’s a pretty scathing statement of smaller receivers. Guess he’s never seen Steve Smith. Or watched Wes Welker catch 67 passes in Miami with quarterbacks with half the talent of Sam Bradford throwing him the rock. More to the point, I respectfully and totally disagree with his first statement. I usually never make these kinds of strong statements against an exec’s opinions since, you know, they know a lot more than I do about the game, but I clearly think this guy is off.
First off, if it’s Sam Bradford’s fault, then why on earth did Danny Amendola manage to have sustained success in St. Louis when he was healthy? Why was he a favorite target of Bradford’s instead of somebody who is losing playing time? It’s simple, Amendola is far more reliable than Austin (well, when Amendola is actually on the field), and he never dropped passes at anywhere near the rate Tavon Austin is dropping passes. So far this season in 34 targets, he has already dropped six passes; that’s awful.
But there are a few things I want to note here. First off, the Rams use slot receivers way too close to the line of scrimmage, and Amendola also averaged an incredibly low yards per reception total. I’m not a fan of Bradford as a quarterback, but Austin’s numbers aren’t bad because of him; he’s just played very poorly through six games. Look, Bradford is averaging a below-average 6.2 yards per attempt, but Austin deserves some blame for averaging just 3.8 yards per pass play too. Despite averaging a meager 8.8 yards per reception, his catch rate is about seven percentage points lower than Bradford’s completion percentage.
If you are trying to absolve Austin of significant blame and instead prefer to heap it on Bradford’s shoulders, then you need to take a closer look at Austin’s numbers and also refresh your memory on Amendola’s place in the Rams offense.