One of the biggest surprises from the draft was the Cowboys acquiring Tavon Austin from the Rams for just a sixth-round pick. It sent shockwaves throughout the Dallas media and turned day 3 of the draft upside down. When the Cowboys traded their main return man Ryan Switzer that day, it was clear that Austin was here to be his replacement. The question is if the Cowboys actually got better at the position, or were they fleeced in the trade?
Austin has had an interesting career since being drafted eight overall by the Rams back in the 2013 NFL draft. Initially the young receiver was a breakout star for the Rams and was considered one of the better returners in the league. He was so dangerous; he even faked out the Seattle Seahawks on a punt return in 2014. As he pretended to call a fair catch, the Seahawks all converged on Austin, while the ball was punted on the other side to Austin’s teammate Steadman Bailey. Bailey, who was left wide-open, returned it 90-yards for the touchdown. This shows how dangerous opposing teams think this man is during the return game.
He continued his rise in the NFL in 2015 with is best overall season as a receiver, returner and a runner. He ended the season with 52 catches for 473 yards and five touchdowns, all career highs. He also ran the ball 52 times for 434 yards and four touchdowns. Adding in another punt return for a touchdown, he became the first player since Gale Sayers to have five receiving touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns and a punt return in a single season.
Though the Rams struggled to get into the playoffs, Austin’s career seemed to be bright and one of the bright sports for the young and struggling team. Yet, in the next two seasons, Austin’s productivity dropped considerably, especially last season when he posted career lows in multiple statistical categories.
Under new head coach Sean McVay, Austin was primarily a back-up running back who occasionally was allowed a jet sweep towards the end of games. Then he was removed from all return duties because of a fumbling issue. He managed to have one touchdown the entire 2017 season, on a 27-yard touchdown run.
So which is the real Tavon Austin?
Some would point out that Austin simply didn’t fit into McVay’s plans when he took over as head coach and that might have caused him to get distracted. The problem with that theory is that signs of decreased production were occurring the season before when Jeff Fisher was head coach.
The team says that his primary role would be of a web-back and a returner and that is fine. Then Austin better excel in those positions if he wants to stay on the team. Though he is a dangerous returner, his fumbles are becoming a huge problem. While Switzer had some mistakes, he was young and you say it was just the pains of a rookie. Austin is entering his sixth season as a pro and is now dealing with major mistakes.
The Cowboys already had a dynamic return man in Ryan Switzer. The mystery is still out on why the Cowboys would all of a sudden be out on a player who just had one season of work. You needed to spend more time on Switzer and see what he could have brought to the team.
Instead the Cowboys are making more of a gamble with going with Austin. Yes, he is a known player, but there is proof of a significant drop in production as of late.
Which Austin will the Cowboys get? The Dangerous return man that set the league on fire with his speed and change of direction or another top-ten draft bust to add to the list?
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