Fantasy Football: Miles Austin The Forgotten Lone Star

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin
Aug 24 2013 Arlington TX USA Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin 19 runs with the ball after catching a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second quarter at ATT Stadium Tim Heitman USA TODAY Sports

Miles Austin has officially become last year’s model. It seems like nobody wants him anymore since the luxurious superstud with all of the features, Dez Bryant, is featured on the Dallas showroom floor.

With drafts finishing up over the next week, Austin needs to be on your radar because the price is right, and the time to buy is now. He is currently being selected as the thirty-second wide receiver in drafts, after players such as DeSean Jackson, Anquan Boldin and the other Austin, Tavon.

Over the past four seasons, Austin has finished in the top twenty-four at his position three times in points per reception leagues. In two of those years, he posted top 13 seasons. The only year he failed to qualify as a starter, 2011, he played in only ten games, but still averaged 14.3 points per game when he was active. Fun with extrapolation says he would’ve finished as WR14 if he maintained that output over the full campaign.

TD REC. SINCE 2009

PLAYER

TD

CALVIN JOHNSON

38

RODDY WHITE

36

MARQUES COLSTON

34

MIKE WALLACE

32

MILES AUSTIN

31

LARRY FITZGERALD

31

JAMES JONES

31

BRANDON MARSHALL

30

Austin has been a touchdown machine over that timeframe as well,  despite missing six games (and parts of others) only four other wide receivers have scored more touchdowns than he has since 2009. He has reached the end zone on 12 percent of his receptions over the past four seasons, to put in perspective just how good that number really is, Jimmy Graham has scored a touchdown on 11 percent of his receptions over his career.

His 14.9 yards per receptions also rank 18th best over the same time, ahead of players like Andre Johnson, Fitzgerald and Marshall. That’s not weighed down by one season either; he has averaged over 13.5 yards per reception in each of those seasons.

Austin is also attached to a very strong quarterback for providing a plethora of fantasy points for his pass catchers. Tony Romo has thrown more than 25 touchdown passes in every season since 2006 except for 2010 when he only played in six contests. He’s also thrown for more than 4,000 yards in four of his past five full campaigns. Even if the Cowboys become more balanced in 2013, there will be plenty of opportunity for the Dallas aerial attack.

The elephant in the room is obviously the fact that Austin’s hamstrings are presumably made up of duct tape and chewing gum at this point, causing him to miss six games in 2011 and miss time in three others in 2012 despite being active for the full season. Head coach Jason Garrett has stated that they have toned down his offseason work, in preparation of keeping him fresh all season long. He believes that Austin is primed for a big season due to that lighter workload.

“Some of your greatest strengths can be your greatest weakness,” Garrett said. “Miles’ greatest strength is that he seems himself as a free agent from Monmouth University and that’s how he works every single day. It’s really important to him and that’s the mindset and perspective that he has when he goes to work. Sometimes you’ve got to protect those guys from themselves.

“We have tried to do that really formally over last few years in a lot of different ways. But then you give him a day off, and he’s running sprint behind you. And it’s like, ‘Miles, we are trying to dial you back a little bit to keep you fresh and ready to go.’ And I think he’s understanding that more and more. He’s lighter, he’s quicker and he’s had a good training camp.”

“He’s monitored himself to make sure he doesn’t drive himself into the ground,” Garrett said. “So, he looks fresher, he looks quicker to me and he’s a hard match-up player for people because he’s so big.”

The fact that Bryant is so dynamic only helps Austin in regard to Garrett putting him in a position to succeed. Last season Austin was still targeted at nearly the same pace as Bryant was, seeing a target once every five snaps in route as opposed to Bryant’s once every 4.7.

Bryant is a complete receiver that requires the defenses full attention at all times, affording Austin to do what he does so well. That is allowing him to work the middle of the field from the slot and use that size advantage that Garrett described in his quotes.

MILES AUSTIN SLOT USAGE

YEAR

ROUTES

TARGETS

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

2009

114

27

18

301

1

54.1

2010

329

50

29

413

2

82.3

2011

245

42

27

336

4

84.6

2012

395

54

35

465

2

93.5

*10 games played in 2011 *Per ProFootballFocus

Austin uses his 6’3; 215 pound frame to dominate smaller defenders from the slot. His 395 routes from the slot were the third highest of all NFL receivers in 2012, trailing only Reggie Wayne (421) and Wes Welker (508). Nine of his 31 career receiving TD have also come from the slot, which is where he caught his touchdown in this past weekend’s dress rehearsal game versus the Bengals.

So far in preseason action, per the folks over at Pro Football Focus, Austin has run 28 of his 39 snaps in route from the slot. He has seven receptions for 94 yards while lining up in the slot. Those receptions are good for the fourth best out of all receivers, while the yardage is good for third highest from all wideouts in the slot through three weeks of preseason action.While you can take the raw statistics that come from the preseason with a grain of salt, the fact is that this is a precursor to how the Cowboys plan on deploying him all season long in three wide receiver sets.

The Cowboys also play in a fantastic division to exploit the passing game. Last season the Giants and Redskins ranked 28th and 30th in passing yards per game allowed. Although the Eagles ranked ninth in passing yardage allowed per game, they allowed a league worst 33 touchdown passes through the air. The fact that Philadelphia ranked so well yardage wise was due to teams already handedly beating them in second half.  Washington also allowed over 30 scores (31) through the air, ranking the tied for the second worse unit.

Looking at long term strength of schedule based on prior season statistics has its pitfalls, but there’s nothing that those teams did in the offseason that leads for me to believe that they will be markedly improved defending the pass in 2013. In a game of matchups, Austin is going to have at least six very favorable ones in his own division.

If you’re still waiting for your draft to take place and you’re looking for even more mid round receiver value, you are almost locked into WR2 scoring from Austin at the price of a WR3. I view his injury concerns as already being factored into his current cost, allowing you an opportunity to obtain a player that can return more than enough value at his cost.

*Stats used were provided from ProFootballFocus, Pro-Football-Reference, NFLData.com, ADP Data Provided by FantasyFootballCalculator

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