The thing that scouts love to do above all else in the time leading up to the NFL Draft is compare an incoming rookie to a current league veteran. With Tavon Austin this past offseason, there really was only one player to compare the speedy, multi-purpose athlete to: Percy Harvin.
Some players buck the idea of being compared to a current NFL star, saying they prefer to blaze their own trail in the league and make their own name. Not Tavon Austin. The St. Louis Rams rookie told NFL.com:
“That’s who I had looked up to when I was in college. He’s a lot older than me and a little bigger than me, but pretty much I think we do the same exact thing. The way he gets open in his routes, the way he sets up one-on-one matches, I think I can pretty much do the same things he can. And just the way he makes plays overall. I feel like that’s how I’m gonna be when I get here.”
Given the personnel that the Rams have accrued during this offseason, it makes sense that Austin would be confident in his ability to make an immediate Pro Bowl level impact on offense. Top free agent acquisitions like offensive tackle Jake Long and tight end Jared Cook figure to make the Rams far more dynamic on offense than their woeful 299 total points through 16 games a season ago.
Austin is a do-it-all type of player who managed to rack up one of the most insane performances of the entire college football season last year when he had 572 all-purpose yards for his West Virginia Mountaineers against the Oklahoma Sooners. A good portion of that (344 yards) came on the ground where Austin swears he barely even saw any reps in practice. According to him:
“Pretty much it’s crazy ’cause they just switched me to running back that Sunday in practice, I probably had a week at running back just in practice. I wasn’t even in the running back meeting rooms or nothing. I only had two plays, full 16 to the right, full 17 to the left, and my natural ability happened.”
When your ‘natural ability happens’ and it results in 344 yards from two, yes two different play calls, that says something about a player’s athleticism. While the NFL is certainly a step up from the Big 12, Austin will still find plenty of open space to work with given his immense skill set.
Whether he’s the next Percy Harvin or not remains to be seen, but there’s no denying the fact that Austin will be an immediate impact player for the Rams offensively. Head Coach Jeff Fisher hinted that his role could be in multiple areas during the 2013 season. For the 31 defensive coordinators in the league, consider this your fair warning.