The 5’9” Tavon Austin is not a physical specimen on the surface, but the young man from Baltimore, Maryland is probably the most intriguing prospect in this year’s class. In his time as a Mountaineer, Austin played both running back and wide receiver, both at a pretty high level. Before I really dove into his film, I wasn’t as high on Tavon as some of the analysts seem to be; however, while I was very impressed by what I saw of him, I still have some questions regarding Austin.
Austin has that “special” factor that some scouts really look for in offensive playmakers. Tavon runs unlike anyone I have ever had to privilege of watching before in my life. He runs a sub-4.3 40-yard dash and looks even faster than that on a game field. There is not a person I can think of in the history of sports than stops and starts any better than Austin does; it is amazing some of the plays he made by stopping on a dime, changing direction, and kicking it right back in to gear again.
While at West Virginia, Tavon posted some phenomenal numbers as a receiver. In 2012, Austin had over 100 catches for well over 1000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tavon even had a respectable season as a running back posting 643 yards; of course half of those yards came in an unbelievable performance against Oklahoma.
There are a lot of people that are in love with Tavon Austin, and they have good reason to be. There simply aren’t many human beings with the running ability and agility of Austin. Personally though, I’m not convinced that he will be able to translate his skills into the NFL.
Before I start getting too negative, I do want to add some more positive aspects of Tavon’s game. Austin has some solid hands; I am not too high on Geno Smith so it was good to see Tavon make some great catches with a quarterback that I consider far from elite. Also, from what I can tell, Austin appears to be a good teammate and a hard worker, which will certainly help him in his transition to the next level.
My biggest concern with Austin is that I’m not really sure if he is a great all-around receiver. From what I saw, Tavon didn’t seem like a great route runner; in fact I would call some of his routes downright abysmal. Now this wasn’t a problem for him at West Virginia, from what I watched even when he ran a poor route he was still able to make the catch against bad coverage. His slants weren’t very crisp and he rounded his outs far too often in the film I watched.
I am not saying that Tavon is bound to be a bust because of this, far from it. I am simply curious as to how he will respond when the coverage is tighter and the game is faster. Tavon has all sorts of potential, but if he wants to be great he has to evolve as a route runner so that he can create the separation he needs to make plays. Honestly, I am also curious as to how he will be used in an NFL offense that more often than not requires more precision in route running than Tavon has. I wonder if the team that drafts him will consider giving Austin any snaps at the running back position.
Tavon is going to open a lot of eyes this weekend at the combine in Indy. I expect him to break at least a couple of records in drills and impress a lot of NFL scouts. He will not go any later than the bottom of the first round and probably shouldn’t. I now for a fact there will be at least a dozen head coaches who will be dreaming of how to use someone like this in their offense. Tavon can make a big impact right away if he can work on refining his route running and learn to create separation at the next level.
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