Fantasy Football: The St. Louis Rams and the tale of the Invisible Receiver

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a professional football team by the name of the St. Louis Rams. While the Rams were feisty and generally competitive, their fans quickly grew displeased with the performance of their famed Invisible Receiver. You see, the Invisible Receiver was a young rookie by the name of Tavon Austin and while word of his abilities spread far and wide, he was not all that he appeared to the good people of Missouri. Expected to help save their franchise, he pulled into town standing a mere 5’7” tall and people throughout the Show-Me State quickly questioned how this allegedly-dynamic first-rounder could possibly outperform the other men who seemed twice his size. To this day, those questions remain unanswered in the great city of St. Louis…

Of course, this sort-of-story is completely ridiculous and a bit of an exaggeration based on actual rumblings from Rams fans and NFL executives around the league. It’s true that Tavon Austin was drafted as a dynamic college-playmaker out of the University of West Virginia in the first round. It could also be said that he has yet to live up to the high expectations set forth for him since arriving in St. Louis, though he does lead the Rams with 24 catches.

Unfortunately, Austin is averaging well under seven yards per catch, not to mention the fact he has six drops already this season. For a guy that was drafted for his big-play potential, 6.6 yards per catch could be viewed as a major disappointment. However, the real question here could be, is Austin underachieving or is he simply adjusting to the jump in competition? Evidently, there is one unnamed NFL exec (reportedly from another team) that has a theory on the young rookie’s struggles this season. It seems that at least one person out there feels as though Tavon Austin is just too short to work well with an inaccurate quarterback like Sam Bradford.

It is difficult to tell which player should be more insulted by that particular statement. Clearly that’s a major slight to veteran quarterback Sam Bradford, who has a career completion percentage just over 58%. Of course, Bradford’s supporters may point to his statistics this year which put him on pace for the best season of his short NFL career. While his 2013 completion percentage is still hovering below 60%, Bradford has been much more efficient in the passing game this year posting 13 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. So can Bradford really be the one to blame here?

Another possibility would be that Tavon Austin was simply a product of a high-octane West Virginia offense that led to his inflated college statistics. Doubters may also choose to believe that this receiver was simply over-drafted, but Austin appears to legitimately have the makeup of an NFL playmaker. He runs the 40-yard dash in the low 4.3 second range and has unbelievable short-area quickness as well as excellent run-after-the-catch ability. This likely makes him the perfect slot receiver for any team or any system. It should also be noted that the young man has only been given six weeks to impress Rams fans while also learning the finer intricacies of a complex offensive system. With that being said, should Tavon Austin be blamed for the failed connection between him and Sam Bradford?

These types of pertinent questions will likely continue until Austin either finds his groove in St. Louis or the team moves on from him. The chances of St. Louis getting rid of Bradford or Austin are almost non-existent at this point. Regardless of the Rams’ possibilities, head coach Jeff Fisher seems to have a lot of faith in his quarterback (with good reason based on his 2013 stats) and clearly he thinks a great deal of his most recent first-rounder. In the end, fans are probably just expecting too much of this young man in such a short amount of time. In most cases, receivers simply need time to acclimate to their new offensive system and the sudden upgrade in their opposition’s talent at cornerback. While Austin may not be lighting up the scoreboard just yet, the likelihood of him remaining this quiet for much longer is slim.