HOUSTON -- When the Texans drafted receiver DeAndre Hopkins, they did so without ever meeting with him. The St. Louis Rams, however, met with Hopkins twice shortly before the draft. He thought he would wind up there.
Instead, the Rams took Tavon Austin out of West Virginia.
"He was the talk of the draft going in, saying he was going to be the top receiver," Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "He’s a young player and it takes a little while, but you can see the talent he has.”
Our Rams reporter Nick Wagoner touched on some of Austin's struggles in our double coverage this week. It's a combination of factors within and outside Austin's control. He has 156 receiving yards, ranking him ninth among rookies. Troubling so far, though, is that Austin leads the league, among all players, in drops. He has six so far.
“I think if you ask him he’s probably frustrated right now," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said this week. "I know that his role in this offense is probably a little bit different than what he had pictured or what he’s used to at West Virginia. But, I’ve been impressed with him. I think he continues to try to get better each week on the practice field. I’ve seen it. I think as long he keeps pushing, eventually he will grow into that role that he probably expected to be in."
Hopkins, on the other hand, started at a tremendous pace, catching passes for 243 yards in the first three games of the season. At the time he was 113 yards ahead of the next rookie receiver.
Hopkins' pace has since slowed, as has the Texans' offense. He caught four passes for 50 yards in the past two games.
The Texans have had Hopkins on the field quite a bit more than the Rams have had Austin; Hopkins has run 48 more routes than Austin this season. But Austin's targets per route are about 10 percent higher than Hopkins'. And while Austin has seven more targets than Hopkins, Austin has only one more catch than Hopkins.
Hopkins wins the early returns. But this early in their careers it's impossible to tell what this all means.