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Former 1st-round pick Austin savors fresh start with Packers

Thu Dec 3 2:02am ET
AP Sports Writer

Tavon Austin says he still has the same skills he possessed back when his impressive 40-yard dash times helped make him the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

Austin is eager to showcase that as the Green Bay Packers' newest acquisition attempts to revive his career.

''I'm still explosive,'' Austin said Wednesday. ''If anything, I'm still 4.3. If I ain't 4.2 no more, I know I'm 4.3. I felt like my workout spoke for itself how explosive I was and things like that.''

The Packers signed Austin this week to boost a receiving unit that lacks depth beyond three-time Pro Bowl selection Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard. It marks perhaps one final chance for Austin, who has never quite lived up to his lofty draft position.

Austin notes that he's played for several different quarterbacks and in plenty of different offensive systems since joining the NFL. The 5-foot-8 speedster hopes Green Bay offers him a chance for stability.

''Hopefully I just come and add a little more threat to the offense, just free people open and sometimes I get the ball as well and show what I can do,'' Austin said.

The San Francisco 49ers placed Austin on injured reserve before the season and later reached an injury settlement with him as he dealt with a knee problem. Austin said he's been feeling better for about the last three weeks.

He now reunites with Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who was the Rams' offensive coordinator in 2017 when Austin was still with Los Angeles. Austin spent his first five seasons with the Rams, who traded up to take the former West Virginia star with the eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft. Austin played for the Dallas Cowboys from 2018-19.

''He's very explosive,'' LaFleur said. ''I love the way he works and just the energy he brings all the time. We've got to get him kind of acclimated to what we're doing and how we call things. There is a little bit of a difference between what, some of the stuff that we call things here and what we did when we were together in LA, and certainly he's had a couple stops since then. So we'll just see where he's at and kind of evaluate it and take it day by day.''

Austin says he already has noticed a difference in what it's like to work with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He noted how the two-time MVP might ask a question at random points during meetings just to make sure everyone knows the task at hand.

''I always respected him, but now being in the meeting room with him, you can definitely see it's a big difference,'' Austin said. ''I thought I was a big study guy and I knew my stuff, but compared to him, I really don't know anything.''

Austin believes he can help a team in plenty of different ways.

His 15 touchdown catches and 10 touchdown runs show he can fill a variety of roles, whether it's running a pass route or a jet sweep. Austin also has experience returning punts.

''Truly at heart I am a receiver, and to be honest, I am a running back as well,'' Austin said. ''It's just about somebody really giving me the chance and really believing in me and letting me get comfortable and letting Ta do what he do best, how I did my whole life.''

Rodgers says Austin's versatility can make a difference.

''I was a fan of Tavon's in college,'' Rodgers said. ''I remember watching him, just how electric he was.''

Austin believes he can still provide a spark. Now he has a chance to prove it.

''I'm thankful,'' Austin said. ''One thing I can say is I'm thankful. It's been a long road for me through my injuries. It's been a long road for somebody just really trusting in me.''

Top Headlines

Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 13

The Paur Report
Player Notes
Deshaun Watson Dec 3 11:40am ET

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson thinks it's "very important" that the team re-signs wide receiver Will Fuller V, who will be a free agent after this season. Fuller, who was suspended for six games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, is playing this season on his fifth-year option. Houston took trade offers for Fuller before the Nov. 3 deadline, but they ultimately decided to keep him. In 11 games in 2020, the team's top wideout had 53 catches for 879 yards and eight touchdowns. His absence the rest of the season is a huge loss for the Texans and fantasy managers, as Fuller was a top-five fantasy receiver through 12 weeks. Brandin Cooks and Keke Coutee will be the club's top two wideouts in Week 13 with Randall Cobb still nursing an injury. Rookie Isaiah Coulter will also see a boost in playing time in three-receiver sets this weekend against a tough Colts Defense.

From RotoBaller

Saquon Barkley Dec 3 11:40am ET

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (knee) is back in New Jersey and is rehabbing at the team's facility after spending almost a month in Los Angeles after reconstructive surgery on his ACL and meniscus in his right knee. Barkley said that his MCL healed on its own and they were able to do a full repair on his meniscus. He won't put a timetable on his return, but he believes he'll be as good or better when he's fully healthy. Barkley isn't rushing his rehab and will be smart with his body in the early stages. The 23-year-old went down in Week 2 against the Bears and is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of next season. Previously a top-three fantasy selection, Barkley will still go in the early rounds as an RB1 with plenty of upside, but he'll no longer be a consensus top pick after injuries have slowed him in his first couple of seasons.

From RotoBaller

Tua Tagovailoa Dec 3 11:30am ET

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said that rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) will be a game-time decision in Week 13 against the Bengals. "He was limited in practice. We'll take it one day at a time. Both quarterbacks practiced yesterday. We'll see how he progresses throughout the week and make a decision on Sunday," Flores said. Tagovailoa remains the starter when healthy, but he was held out of action in Week 12 with the thumb injured that he suffered in practice. The 22-year-old has looked more like a game manager in his first four starts than a fantasy stud, so he'll be an unattractive low-end QB2 if he plays against Cincinnati at less than 100 percent. Ryan Fitzpatrick would be a QB2 streamer in superflex leagues if he makes a second straight start in a very nice matchup.

From RotoBaller

T.J. Watt Dec 3 11:20am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers pass-rusher Bud Dupree (knee) will in fact miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL in Wednesday's win over the Ravens, according to a source. An MRI exam confirmed the injury. The team's franchise player will now set his eyes on the 2021 season, when he'll be a free agent. The 27-year-old had been a key piece to Pittsburgh's nasty defense this season, so Dupree's injury will be big for this team down the stretch and into the playoffs. He already had eight sacks through 11 games and had formed a dynamic duo with fellow linebacker T.J. Watt. If Watt is double-teamed more often with Dupree no longer on the field, it could lower his production for fantasy managers in IDP leagues. Pittsburgh's D, however, should remain an elite unit for Week 13 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Josh Jones Dec 3 2:03am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars SS Josh Jones (chest) was designated to return from the Reserve/Injured list on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Jacksonville now has 21 days to activate Jones or shut him down for the rest of the season.

From TheHuddle

Bryce Callahan Dec 3 12:53am ET

Denver Broncos CB Bryce Callahan (foot) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

From TheHuddle

Rashaad Penny Dec 3 12:03am ET

Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny (knee) has been on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list all season, and the team is still waiting to get the official word on if Penny will be able to return or is done for the season.

Fantasy Spin: Fantasy owners need not worry about Penny in 2020, as Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde would likely handle a majority of the workload even if he were able to return. His touches would be limited if he can play, so no fantasy appeal.

From TheHuddle

Chris Carson Dec 2 11:53pm ET

Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson (foot) was a little sore after the Week 12 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, according to head coach Pete Carroll on Wednesday, Dec. 2. 'First time he's played in a little while. I'm anxious to see how he feels this week,' Carroll said. 'Should be fine for the ball game (vs. the Giants).'

Fantasy Spin: Carson was more impressive in yards per attempt than Carlos Hyde in Week 13, so he should lead the backfield in touches against the Giants. He is back as a solid RB2 or flex fantasy option against the G-Men.

From TheHuddle

Quinton Dunbar Dec 2 11:53pm ET

Seattle Seahawks CB Quinton Dunbar (knee) remains on the Reserve/Injured list, but he might return when he is eligible in Week 14. 'He's got to wait one more week before he can come back and I think he's gonna be ready to do that,' head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday, Dec. 2. 'From the way things are going, he's got a chance.'

From TheHuddle

Chris Carson Dec 2 11:50pm ET

Seattle Seahawks running backs Chris Carson (foot) and Carlos Hyde (toe) were both limited in practice on Wednesday. Carson returned in Week 12 after missing four games and was substantially out-touched by Hyde, although Carson did score a touchdown. The fact that Carson played just 37 percent of the offensive snaps is concerning, but hopefully he'll see a bigger workload this weekend against the Giants. Consider him an RB2 in a good matchup with the Giants. Hyde played 62 percent of the snaps on Monday night, rushing 15 times for just 22 yards and catching two of three targets for an extra seven yards. Fantasy managers should expect Carson to receive a bigger workload in his second game back, making Hyde a touchdown-dependent RB3/flex in deeper formats.

From RotoBaller

Kyler Murray Dec 2 11:50pm ET

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Murray tweaked his shoulder in the Week 11 loss to the Seahawks and failed to record a touchdown in last week's loss to the Patriots, throwing for just 170 yards. He also ran the ball a season-low five times for 31 yards. After carrying the ball double-digit times in Weeks 6-10, Murray has only 10 rushing attempts in his last two games. Is his injury causing him to run less? It looks like it, and he'll have another tough matchup with the Rams in Week 13. LA's defense has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to QBs in the last five weeks. While the second-year signal-caller shouldn't be benched by his fantasy managers, he might underwhelm again if you're expecting high-end QB1 production.

From RotoBaller

Breshad Perriman Dec 2 11:40pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Breshad Perriman (shoulder) was listed as a limited practice participant on Wednesday. Don't look now, but Perriman has been fantasy relevant the last three weeks while either scoring a touchdown or topping 75 yards receiving. He caught four of his eight targets in Week 12 against the Dolphins for 79 yards. It's still hard to trust anyone on the winless Jets and Perriman has had his fair share of injuries in his career, but he might be the most trustworthy Jets receiver at this point. In deeper league, Perriman is worth considering as a WR4/flex, but don't expect him to put you over the top if you need one more win to get into the fantasy postseason.

From RotoBaller

Cam Newton Dec 2 11:30pm ET

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (abdomen) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Newton's injury doesn't appear to be serious enough to keep him from playing in Week 13 against the Chargers. The 31-year-old former MVP was just 9-for-18 passing for 84 yards and two interceptions in the Week 12 win over the Cardinals. He added nine carries for 46 yards. Newton's rushing ability gives him a little more upside, but he's not running like he used to and has limited weapons in the passing attack, making him a midrange QB2 this Sunday with a limited ceiling. The Los Angeles defense has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to signal-caller this year, including four rushing touchdowns to the position.

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Kalen Ballage Dec 2 11:30pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Kalen Ballage (ankle), linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (chest) and offensive guard Trai Turner (ankle) were all limited in practice on Wednesday. Ballage was inactive in the Week 12 loss to the Bills, but he's on the right track to make his return in Week 13 against the Patriots. The 24-year-old saw double-digit carries from Weeks 9-11 and was also seeing usage in the passing game, putting him in the flex consideration. However, Austin Ekeler returned from Injured Reserve last weekend and should remain as the team's featured back to close out the season. Ballage could still be mixed in here and there alongside Joshua Kelley and Troymaine Pope, but Ekeler's return has all but killed the fleeting fantasy value that he had.

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Luke Willson Dec 2 11:23pm ET

Baltimore Ravens TE Luke Willson was targeted twice in the Week 12 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday, Dec. 2, but he dropped a touchdown in the end zone and did not have a reception.

Fantasy Spin: Willson was getting a golden opportunity with Mark Andrews on the shelf due to COVID-19, but he did nothing with the chance. He will be back to fighting for crumbs in Week 13 against the Dallas Cowboys and is no longer worth a look in seasonal play or DFS.

From TheHuddle

C.J. Prosise Dec 2 11:20pm ET

Houston Texans running back C.J. Prosise (illness) did not take part in practice on Wednesday due to a non-COVID-19-related illness. Prosise had a season-high five carries for 12 yards and caught a two-yard pass for a touchdown in the Thanksgiving win over the Lions last week as the backup to Duke Johnson. He saw some notable work in the red zone in Week 12 and should continue to see a bigger role until David Johnson returns from Injured Reserve, but Prosise still isn't seeing enough touches to be considered a realistic flex option, even in the deepest of leagues. Buddy Howell and rookie Scottie Phillips would be called on to step up behind Johnson if Prosise is unable to play in Week 13 against the Colts.

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David Johnson Dec 2 11:20pm ET

The Houston Texans activated the 21-day practice window for running back David Johnson (concussion) to return from Injured Reserve on Wednesday. It means that Johnson could technically return for the Week 13 matchup with the Colts, but that would be wishful thinking by his fantasy managers. The 28-year-old has been out since Week 9, and the Texans are just hoping that he can return sometime soon. We'd be surprised if Johnson made it back this weekend, but he should be picked up off the waiver wire if he's available. Duke Johnson will continue to have RB2 upside until David Johnson is fully healthy and cleared from the league's concussion protocol.

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D.J. Chark Dec 2 11:10pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. (ribs) was limited in practice on Wednesday after sitting out of the Week 12 loss to the Browns. Chark seems to be on the right track to return this Sunday against the Vikings and their suspect secondary, but can you trust him in fantasy lineups with quarterback Mike Glennon under center for the second straight week? To be honest, Glennon is an upgrade over rookie Jake Luton and could even be an upgrade over Gardner Minshew II. Chark has seen double-digit targets just twice this year and has only one 100-yard game, but the matchup is nice enough that he should be considered a WR3/flex with upside for more if he plays. The Vikings Defense has allowed 18 receiving touchdowns (second-most) and the third-most fantasy points to receivers in 2020. Chark's return would lower the ceilings of Keelan Cole and rookie Laviska Shenault Jr.

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Equanimeous St. Brown Dec 2 11:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receivers Allen Lazard (core) and Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) and safety Darnell Savage (back) were limited practice participants on Wednesday. Lazard saw a bigger role in his second game back from core muscle surgery and found the end zone, but he had just 23 receiving yards. He returned to the game after being banged up, giving him a good chance to play in Week 13 against the Eagles. Green Bay should be able to move the ball against Philadelphia, but Lazard will once again be a touchdown-dependent WR4/flex in his third game back from surgery. St. Brown doubled his reception total in Week 12 against the Bears with two catches for 39 yards. As long as Davante Adams and Lazard are on the field, St. Brown is an afterthought.

From RotoBaller