Tavon Austin: 2013 NFL Draft Scouting Report

By Curt Popejoy
Tavon Austin
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Tavon Austin

Wide Receiver

West Virginia

Height: 5-9

Weight: 175 pounds

What I like-There might not have been a more dynamic or exciting player in all of college football in 2012 than Austin. There also might not have been a more productive player in college football last either. His entire game is predicated on his speed, quickness and agility. His ability to get to full speed quickly, stick his foot in the ground and make a cut like that is unprecedented. Most wide outs need to ease back and slow down to make those cuts or risk rounding off routes to maintain their speed. These are both things that limit their ability to be dynamic. Austin can do both. He has full speed in and out of breaks, active hands to go out and get the football and once the catch is made it’s as hard to tackle as the best running back in this draft.

Along those lines, for a small wide out Austin has a nice vertical and isn’t afraid to go get the football. At times, quarterback Geno Smith‘s throws floated or seemed to get low and away, but Austin was very good at making adjustments and finding the football. I know this sounds cliché but he really looks like the model for what an NFL slot receiver should be.

What I don’t like-Austin isn’t a physically imposing player. And in the games where Austin struggled it was because of physical play. I can appreciate that he’s willing to go over the middle, but he doesn’t handle physical play very well. Lined up outside wide against big, strong corners Austin could get eaten up. If he gets a jam and knocked off his route he becomes much more human. Another quibble I have with Austin’s game is that he is quick to go to the ground. A player who is as dynamic and explosive as he is should be able to extend plays even better than he does at times, but make no mistake he’s not going to break a lot of tackles.

What it all means-Austin is all boom or bust. He’s either going to be 80 catches a year in the slot, Pro Bowls as a kick returner and even part of a team’s run game, or he’s going to become a novelty with 40 catches a year, struggles to get open and makes just enough big plays to keep people interested. I really don’t see a lot of middle ground for him. A team is going to want him because of all the great things he can do. As mentioned, his agility, speed and quickness are unmatched. But he’s not a player who is simply going to be plug and play. The right scheme will matter, and a quarterback to can deliver the football to him will matter just as much.

I look forward to seeing Austin in the NFL, because his potential is limitless if things go right. Also, Austin appears to be a player that feeds off rhythm. So it will be important to get him the football early. If that’s on a slip screen or a jet sweep, getting Austin on track early and putting the defense on notice will be key. One part of Austin’s game I am very curious to see in the NFL is in the run game. Late in the season, the West Virginia offense used Austin much more in the rushing game, and so this can only enhance his value. Using Austin as a back allows him in many cases to have a free look at the defense and allows him to stay clean while he gets up to speed. He’s decisive and shows excellent vision with the football in his hands and can simply run away from the defense. Some critics of Austin have said that he amassed too many yards based on the offense he played in and through trick plays. I would contend those types of plays will work in the NFL sparingly and could be the very best way for Austin to win at the pro level. Some team is going to snatch Austin up in the first round in hopes of capturing what Austin was able to do in college in the NFL.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft, and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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