A lot of eyes will be on the NFL Combine workouts on Sunday, when the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers go through drills. Many big-name prospects will have their 40-yard dash times, bench press reps and the like judged by analysts and scouts, and rightly or wrongly those results will lead to players going up or down draft boards across the league.
Wide receiver is considered a fairly deep position in this year’s draft class, which is good news for the Minnesota Vikings. They clearly need to overhaul what has been a dismal group of wide receivers over the last couple seasons, so the opportunity to add a couple young pass catchers will be welcome come April.
West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin has already made headlines at the Combine by saying he is the best all-around player in this year’s draft, and that bold statement is likely to make him one of the most heavily scrutinized players on Sunday. Austin led the Big 12 and finished second in the country with 2,910 all-purpose yards last season, including 1,289 receiving yards (114 receptions), 643 rushing yards with 17 total touchdowns (12 receiving, three rushing, two return). Not surprisingly, he took home the 2012 Paul Hornung Award, given each year to the nation’s most versatile player.
Austin is gaining buzz as a potential first-round pick, and plenty of teams in need of an explosive weapon at wide receiver will be intrigued by his potential. Should the Vikings be among the teams with Austin on their radar?
Let’s take a closer look at him.
Weight: 174 lbs.
– Has excellent athleticism
– Has excellent lateral agility and explosion; shows excellent change of direction
– Exhibits excellent acceleration as a runner; changes gears well
– Is very good in space; shows good balance and strength through contact
– Runs with good patience and sets up blocks well
– Shows good body control; is fearless and confident when going up for the ball
– Is tough and gutsy all-around; fights for every yard
– Lacks ideal size, creating durability concerns at the next level
– Will occasionally look for the home run play and dance too much
– Has small hands, leading to some double-catches and drops
– Sometimes looks to create after the catch before securing the reception
– Is limited as a blocker
Austin is a player with clear-cut strengths and weaknesses, and he looks likely to be strictly a slot receiver at the NFL level due to his lack of size. He could make an impact as a return man immediately as a rookie, while refining his skills as a wide receiver as he transitions to a more traditional role. It would be a mistake for whichever team that drafts him to completely disregard his ability as a runner, but the 72 carries Austin had as a senior will not be repeated as a pro.
As for his potential fit with the Vikings, Austin looks like a redundant player in the context of the team’s current group of wide receivers. Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright are comparable players to him in terms of size and skills, though Harvin’s uncertain future in Minnesota may open a spot for Austin if a trade is made as the draft gets closer.
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Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.