Saturday, April 11, 2009

Is Miles Austin worth it?


Miles Austin visited Florham Park on Friday with no offer on the table, but the Star Ledger is reporting that the Jets informed the 24 year-old receiver that an offer was forthcoming. The first thing that comes to most fans heads has to be:

Who is Miles Austin?


Austin is a 6-3, 216 pound receiver and kick returner for the Dallas Cowboys. He went to school at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ (for all you Monmouth County readers out there), and he dominated the lower level of competition.

What has he proven in the NFL?

Absolutely nothing. 13 catches last year for 278 yards and three touchdowns and the year before he caught just five balls for 76 yards. Some of his highlights can be found on NFL.com. He's also been a solid return man, capped by a touchdown return against Seattle in the 2006 playoffs, the game that Tony Romo fumbled the snap.

He's big, athletic, and Dallas is said to be high on him. That being said...

Is this guy really worth a 2nd round pick?

This is the million dollar question. He's got all the physical tools to be a star, and on paper, he looks better than any receiver available at #52. Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kenny Britt, and Hakeem Nicks all could be gone by that point, and after them, there is a drop in talent at that position. Physically, he compares most to Britt, as they are both about 6'3" with good speed and ball skills, and you could definitely make the case that someone with his size-speed combination and three years to get ready for NFL action is much more ready to contribute than any of those rookies and may end up being a better player in the long run as well. He is only 24 years old.

The few times I've seen Austin play, he's made some nice plays, which made me wonder why the Cowboys would go out and get Roy Williams midseason. Still, their offseason release of Terrel Owens serves as one explanation.

But the Jets have been down the road of taking receivers with supposed physical tools and lack of production.

So what makes Miles Austin different than Justin McCareins or Matthew Hatchette?

Austin: 6'3", 216 pounds, 24 years old, 13 catches, 278 yards, 3 touchdowns in 2008.
McCareins: 6'2", 220 pounds, 25 years old, 47 catches, 813 yards, 7 touchdowns in 2003.
Hatchette: 6'3", 200 pounds, 27 years old, 16 catches, 190 yards, 2 touchdowns in 2000.

Looking at the numbers, it's hard to say there is much of a difference in terms of on-field prowess. McCareins had proven more, but he had also had an extra year in the league and in life. And in fairness to JMac, he had two 700+ yard seasons with the Jets. Was he worth the 2nd round pick? Absolutely not, but he's at least an NFL receiver.

Hatchette was a bust in every sense of the word. No compensation was needed to get him except for money, but at 27 years old with no production to that point, he was just a shot in the dark, and like most shots in the dark, the target was missed completely.

Austin is the youngest and most physically gifted. He's also been in the NFL just three years, and it's worth noting that he missed the last four games of the season last year preventing him from accumulating any more stats.

It's a matter of faith. Do you trust Mike Tannenbaum? If the answer is yes, then you would have faith in his decision-making abilities and the team's scouts and be in favor of acquiring the local product. There's a lot to like with Austin, but there's just as much unknown.

Quite frankly, I think a 2nd round pick is just a little too high for someone with Austin's lack of track record. A 3rd round pick would be fair value, but I doubt Dallas is willing to negotiate. I don't like trading high picks for players typically, but if Tannenbaum signs him and Dallas doesn't match the offer (they would have seven days to match), I'll root my heart out for Austin to reach his full potential. Another McCareins/Hatchette debacle, and the team will not look good.

It's worth noting that the Jets haven't drafted a receiver in the first two rounds since Keyshawn Johnson and Alex Van Dyke in 1996, so a trade would fit the Jets' MO of not trusting rookie receivers.

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