San Diego Chargers 2013 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Tavon Austin

By Kevin Chan
Tavon Austin - 2013 NFL Draft
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Chargers’ 31st ranked offense needs a spark to get it going. Aside from Danny Woodhead, no one was brought in through free agency to help make plays for this team, and the Bolts now have to look to the NFL Draft to fill some of these voids.

Philip Rivers needs more than just a competent offensive line to return to his glory days as a top-five quarterback in this league; he needs weapons. The Chargers have lost playmakers like Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles to free agency in recent years and haven’t adequately replaced the talent lost.

San Diego lacks that explosive playmaker who can take it to the house at any given moment. Tavon Austin would be just that for the Chargers.

Austin, who has drawn comparisons to Percy Harvin, did it all for at West Virginia. He lined up at wide receiver, in the slot and in the backfield. Austin would give the Bolts a versatile playmaker, who offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt can design plays around, and give Rivers a explosive do-it-all weapon that he’s missed since Sproles left for the New Orleans Saints.

Much like a good offensive line can buy time to help receivers get open downfield, a good receiver can help take pressure off of a poor offensive line. Defenses playing against the Chargers would think twice about bringing blitzes with Austin on the field. If the offensive line can hold up just long enough for Rivers to get the ball to Austin, Austin has the speed, the moves and the vision to navigate the secondary all the way to the endzone. His presence on the field would help hide the deficiencies of the offensive line and protect the immobile Rivers from blitzes.

The question is whether the Chargers can make such a luxury pick. Though the three elite offensive tackles in this draft very well could be gone when the Chargers pick 11th overall, at least one of the two elite offensive guards will likely be available. Though picking Austin would help the offensive line, picking a guard would obviously help even more. Considering how bad the offensive line looks right now, the Chargers can’t get too cute and overthink how to fix their offensive woes, which start with the guys up front.

Also, at just 5-foot-8, 174 pounds, Austin is very undersized and not the typical receiver drafted in the top half of the first round. Whichever team drafts him may need to watch his snap count to protect him from injuries. That would, however, defeat the purpose of him being a do-it-all playmaker.

The Chargers already have injury-prone skill players on the team to worry about like Ryan Mathews, Malcom Floyd, and even Antonio Gates, who haven’t gotten through an entire season without injury over the last three seasons. If San Diego were to draft a receiver in the first round, it might be better to at least get someone more reliable. The Chargers also have high hopes for Vincent Brown, who’s coming back from injury and likely to man the slot.

Still, there’s no doubt Austin would be a huge asset to San Diego’s struggling offense and could still be the pick when the Chargers are on the clock.

Kevin Chan is a San Diego Chargers writer for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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