Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins and Probable Outcomes

hopkins

DeAndre Hopkins fits the mold of an elite NFL WR. He is big enough, strong enough, fast enough, and had enough college production to already be considered an elite dynasty fantasy football prospect. As a rookie, he is currently being selected as the 41st wide receiver off the board, right at the tail end of the 9th round (per FFCalc).

Tavon Austin does not have the body of the prototypical #1 wide receiver. Austin is a new part of the game, a chess piece that can utilized in the backfield, in the slot, and even at the X and Y positions. Rather than following in the footsteps of Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall, Austin is much more physically comparable to players like Dexter McCluster and Armanti Edwards (Percy Harvin is a full 20 pounds heavier than Austin). While I  think Austin is going to have more Harvin-like career than a McCluster-esque one, history doesn’t support his 6th round ADP as a rookie.

This table represents all rookie WR’s seasons under 5’10 (Tavon is 5’9) and under 170 pounds (Tavon is 169).

Ht & Wt Receiving
Player Draft Tm Ht Wt Rec Yds Y/R TD Y/G
Andrew Hawkins CIN 5-7 175 23 263 11.43 0 20.2
Dexter McCluster 2-36 KAN 5-9 165 21 209 9.95 1 19.0
Damaris Johnson PHI 5-8 175 19 256 13.47 0 18.3
Travis Benjamin 4-100 CLE 5-10 172 18 298 16.56 2 21.3
Deon Butler 3-91 SEA 5-10 170 15 175 11.67 0 10.9
Roscoe Parrish 2-55 BUF 5-10 168 15 148 9.87 1 14.8
Kelly Campbell MIN 5-10 173 13 176 13.54 3 29.3
Devale Ellis DET 5-10 174 4 41 10.25 0 4.6
Brandon Banks WAS 5-7 150 2 10 5.00 0 0.8
Keenan Howry 7-221 MIN 5-10 172 2 15 7.50 0 0.9
Troy Walters 5-165 MIN 5-7 172 1 5 5.00 0 0.4
Antonio Brown BUF 5-10 175 0 0 0 0.0
Trindon Holliday 6-197 HOU 5-5 166 0 0 0 0.0
Michael Lewis NOR 5-8 165 0 0 0 0.0
Derrick Townsel HOU 5-9 170 0 0 0 0.0
Brandon Williams 3-84 SFO 5-10 175 0 0 0 0.0
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/7/2013.

Not one fantasy relevant season among them. None of these players were selected as highly as Austin, but they are all pretty damning comps. Given that the higher ups in the organization believe that the Rams will be better served by having 4 or 5 players catch 40-50 balls, and that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch believes that Austin’s largest contributions will come as a punt returner, his 6th round ADP makes no sense. Smaller wide receivers need to rely more on deception, route-running and intelligent play calling. Coaches probably need to learn how to use these players more than a Hopkins-type player that has been a prototype in the game for 20 years. How many 4.34 wide receivers has Jeff Fischer coached in his career? I know that Austin looks electric on film and that he was great fun to watch in college, but that does not make a fantasy super star.

On the other hand, Hopkins’ comps test out a bit better, but still not amazing.

Ht & Wt Receiving
Player Age Draft Ht Wt Rec Yds Y/R TD Y/G
Michael Crabtree 22 1-10 6-2 215 48 625 13.02 2 56.8
Rod Gardner 24 1-15 6-2 213 46 741 16.11 4 46.3
Bryant Johnson 22 1-17 6-2 214 35 438 12.51 1 29.2
Reche Caldwell 23 2-48 6-0 215 22 208 9.45 3 13.0
Donald Jones 23 6-0 214 18 213 11.83 1 14.2
Devin Thomas 22 2-34 6-2 215 15 120 8.00 0 7.5
Chastin West 24 6-1 216 13 163 12.54 2 13.6
Robert Meachem 24 1-27 6-2 214 12 289 24.08 3 20.6
Rishard Matthews 23 7-227 6-0 212 11 151 13.73 0 18.9
Dez White 21 3-69 6-1 215 10 87 8.70 1 5.8
David Givens 22 7-253 6-0 212 9 92 10.22 1 7.7
Paris Warren 24 7-225 6-0 213 5 63 12.60 0 7.9
Justin McCareins 23 4-124 6-2 215 3 88 29.33 0 22.0
Devard Darling 22 3-82 6-1 213 2 5 2.50 0 1.7
Doug Gabriel 23 5-167 6-2 215 1 17 17.00 0 1.4
Charly Martin 25 6-1 212 1 6 6.00 0 0.9
Kamar Aiken 22 6-2 212 0 0 0 0.0
Arnaz Battle 23 6-197 6-1 217 0 0 0 0.0
Darrius Blevins 24 6-2 216 0 0 0 0.0
Chris Brooks 23 6-2 215 0 0 0 0.0
Player Age Draft Ht Wt Rec Yds Y/R TD Y/G
Kenny Clark 25 6-1 217 0 0 0 0.0
Carlyle Holiday 24 6-2 217 0 0 0 0.0
Jesse Holley 26 6-2 213 0 0 0 0.0
Jamal Jones 24 6-0 214 0 0 0 0.0
Marcus Smith 23 4-106 6-1 214 0 0 0 0.0
Marcus Vick 22 6-0 216 0 0 0 0.0
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/7/2013.

While none of those numbers blow anyone out of the water, they at least represent more upside potential. At the very top of the graph are 3 players all selected in the first round, around where Hopkins was chosen. Crabtree and Gardner’s rookie year probably represent the top half of Hopkins’ range of outcomes as a rookie. The overall lesson here remains the same: rookie wide receivers are a risky proposition.

I’ve written this about 20 times the last 2 weeks but it bears repeating: there is basically no upside to chasing rookie wide receivers. Over the last decade, only 5 have finished in the top 24 of their position and while Hopkins certainly has the high pedigree and physical profile of a rookie WR who could succeed, I don’t see him getting the targets and the redzone looks needed to crack the top 24. Austin, however, is complete waste of a draft selection in the 6th round. Rather than being drafted as a very late round flier as his comparables would suggest, he is being taken ahead of much more valuable players, including Cecil Shorts, Kenny Britt, Golden Tate, and and Lance Moore.

About Davis Mattek

20 Year old student of English at Kansas State University. Writer for Sports Wunderkind, The Fake Football and Hockey, and various other media outlets. Fan of the Cowboys, Thunder, Avalanche and Royals

About Davis Mattek

20 Year old student of English at Kansas State University. Writer for Sports Wunderkind, The Fake Football and Hockey, and various other media outlets. Fan of the Cowboys, Thunder, Avalanche and Royals
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