Eagles Sign Miles Austin
Former Cowboys and Browns receiver Miles Austin signed a one-year, $2.3 million contract to join the Eagles. The contract also features incentives that could escalate the salary to $3 million. For those like myself who think that 2009 wasn’t that long ago, that contract puts Austin in a similar range of guaranteed money to players like Louis Murphy and Andre Caldwell. In other words, Austin is a lottery ticket for Chip Kelly and should be considered that in fantasy only in deeper formats.
One could argue that Austin really hasn’t been relevant since 2009, when he had his breakout 81-catch, 1,320-yard, 11-touchdown season that featured only nine starts. Even in his productive years since then, in 2010 and 2012, he was more of the 1,000-6 order. He hasn’t even reached those meager totals over the last two seasons combined, the latter of which was with the Cleveland Browns.
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Health has probably been the biggest contributor to Austin’s steep decline in production. He missed substantial time between 2011 and 2013 with hamstring injuries and ended the 2014 season in early December with a kidney injury. Now past his 30th birthday, it’s unlikely Austin will ever regain his peak form, and the threat of injuries makes him impossible to rely on as an important piece of a fantasy roster.
With that said, I can’t help but be a little interested in Austin because of the situation he finds himself in. Chip Kelly plays at a high tempo that favors offensive production, and after allowing Jeremy Maclin to walk, the Eagles are thin at receiver. Next to sophomore Jordan Matthews, their current depth chart features another one-season wonder, Riley Cooper, and an untested second-year player, Josh Huff.
After the news broke, I couldn’t stop thinking about how similar Austin is to Matthews. For comparison:
|Miles Austin||Jordan Matthews|
|Weight||215 lbs.||212 lbs.|
|40 Time||4.47 sec||4.46 sec|
|Vertical||40.5 inches||35.5 inches|
|2014 YPRR||1.81 yards||1.81 yards|
They have similar size and speed and were similarly productive on a rate basis in 2014. Austin actually has the edge in leaping ability, a skill that served him well between 2009 and 2012 when he scored 31 touchdowns. Meanwhile, that 1.81 yards per route run teases the fact that Austin’s decline in production has been more the result of declining health than it has declining ability, at least as measured by his productivity per snap.
Austin shouldn’t be expected to start, but he really couldn’t have landed anywhere more favorable to his potential fantasy success. When on the field, he’s had decent numbers even in recent seasons. Injuries will continue to be the No. 1 concern for him, but Austin is worth a flier in deep formats.
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Scott Spratt is a Sloan Analytics Conference Research Paper Competition and Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. He also writes for RotoGraphs and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt