10 years ago, a player with the skill set of Tavon Austin wouldn’t have enticed NFL general managers into using a first-round pick.
The NFL changed its rules to favor offense and the result is a pass-heavy league where once unattainable passing records like Dan Marino’s single-season mark of 5,084 yards are shattered.
The new pass-happy culture has given birth to a new position in the NFL: the joker. The joker laughs at silly position distinctions like flanker, slot receiver or running back. He can line up anywhere on the field and when he does, he creates matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Percy Harvin is a joker, so is Randall Cobb, and Tavon Austin will be one.
Austin’s potential is so tantalizing because the league hasn’t seen a player like him. Last year, Austin lined up all over the field for the West Virginia Mountaineers. His strongest performance came against the Oklahoma Sooners, as he caught four passes for 82 yards, rushed 21 times for 344 yards and two touchdowns, and added 146 kick return yards.
If Austin does win the award, it will be due in large part to his entertainment value. Long runs and jukes look great on television, and Austin is a miniature human highlight reel.
The one drawback on Austin is his size. At 5-foot-8 174 pounds ,Austin is hardly imposing, but neither is Wes Welker. The St. Louis Rams will use the spread to get Austin on the edge one-on-one against nickel corners and linebackers.
Austin is lethal in space. Anytime he touches the ball, he has the potential to score. This year, Austin will have at least three or four jaw-dropping highlights. They may come in the return game, the passing game or the running game — who knows? That’s why Austin is so dangerous and a strong contender for offensive rookie of the year.