Tavon Austin – West Virginia
Age when drafted: 22
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Collegiate Number: 1
Combine notables: 4.34 40 with 1.45 10 split, 14 bench reps, 4.01 short shuttle, 10’ broad jump, 32” vertical
Games Viewed: 2012 – Maryland, Texas, Baylor, Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, TCU, Syracuse 2011 – LSU, Clemson
Tavon Austin attended Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland. As a senior he rushed for 2,660 yards and scored 34 touchdowns. Austin led Dunbar to three consecutive Class 1A state titles. He set Maryland records for points, touchdowns, total offensive yards, and rushing yards.
Austin was converted to wide receiver when he stepped on campus in 2009. He saw action as a true freshman as he accounted for 15 receptions for 151 yards and a TD. In addition he rushed for a TD and returned a kickoff for a TD as a true freshman. Austin broke out as a sophomore with 58 receptions for 787 yards and a team leading 8 TD’s. As a junior, Austin caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and 8 TD’s and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Austin’s senior season saw him grab 114 receptions for 1,289 and 12 TD’s. Austin proved his versatility as a senior, lining up at running back and toting the ball 72 times for 643 yards and 3 TD’s.
Tavon Austin’s size, or lack thereof, is the major knock on his game. At slightly over 5-foot-8 and 174 pounds, durability at the next level is a major question mark. It’s his lack of size that will keep him from ever producing on the outside as he a slot-receiver only at the next level. His lack of bulk will make it tough for him to disengage at the LOS.
Austin’s size isn’t indicative of his strength. He plays with more power than one would expect from someone checking in at 174 pounds. He possesses solid musculature and plus strength in the upper and lower body.
As an athlete, there may be none better in the draft. Quick-twitch athlete with elite agility, burst, and long speed. His ability as a running back shows in the open field with excellent vision and is aware of blockers in front of him. From a pure speed perspective he should outrun most anyone in the open field and will be threat to take it the distance with each touch.
Rarely saw instances of dropped balls but very few of his catches were contested at WVU. Austin is going to have to work the middle of the field at the next level and catches will rarely come uncontested. It will be interesting to see how he holds up when defenders are draped on him.
Austin’s ability to snap routes off makes it tough on defenders. His speed will keep them honest and pretty much took short gains whenever he wanted due to defenders playing off for fear of him running by them. West Virginia doesn’t run a typical NFL route tree but he shouldn’t have a problem with transitioning to the next level. Worry about his ability to beat press coverage but teams will be creative in lining him up in the slot and in motion to avoid press coverage.
YARDS AFTER CATCH/BLOCKING:
Austin is one of the most dangerous players in the open field that I’ve ever evaluated. With the ball in his hands in open grass he’s a weapon that we haven’t seen. His ability to vary speeds, cut on a dime, and decisiveness as a runner are unique. Austin doesn’t waste movement in the open field and sets up his blocks like a patient running back. This is a guy that will keep defensive coordinators up at night trying to think of ways to keep the ball out of his hands. Austin isn’t a great blocker but he isn’t a liability. He will get in the way of defenders and has the strength to be effective.
Austin shows an awareness of the sideline and good general spatial awareness. He doesn’t have great leaping ability but he can contort his body mid-air to make difficult catches. This is an elite athlete and it shows in every aspect of his game. His body control goes further than just as a receiver. As a runner, Austin has an ability to get “skinny” through contact and you rarely see him taking big shots. That will be important at the next level as teams will look to be physical with him to take him out of his game.
None. Majored in multidisciplinary studies and made Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll.
Tavon Austin may bring more intrigue and versatility than any player in the draft. He isn’t going to be a fit for all 32 offenses but there will be a handful of teams that value his skillset very highly. He’s a unique playmaker that is special with the ball in his hands. A creative offensive coordinator will have a field day trying to scheme ways to get Austin the ball in space. Initially, I was concerned with his confinement to the slot but the creativity of today’s offenses makes me feel a team will jump very high in taking Austin. This fact makes it difficult to determine his ceiling in the draft. I do know his floor will be in the early 20’s as I can’t see him falling past St. Louis’ second first-round pick.
POSSIBLE LANDING SPOTS: Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings