NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: West Virginia WR Tavon Austin
|03.01.13 at 12:25 pm ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.
Position: Wide receiver
School: West Virginia
Weight: 174 pounds
Achievements: 2012 Paul Hornung Award Winner (most versatile player), 2012 All-America first team (all-purpose player), tied for second in FBS in receptions (114) and all-purpose yards (230 per game) in 2012
What he brings: If Austin falls to the Patriots, he has the potential to be an absolute demon in their offense. The speedster, who NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk referred to as ‘Percy Harvin and Wes Welker wrapped into one,’ enters the draft coming out of one of college football’s premiere spread offenses and has everything NFL teams are looking for — except prototypical height, something that will lead some teams to balk at him early in the draft.
However, NFL teams have seen enough players like Carolina’s Steve Smith, Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson and Welker providing great examples players 5-foot-10 or under that are worth a look in the first round. Add to that Austin’s abilities in the return game, and you have exactly what the Patriots have been looking for in one player — again, except for size.
Austin has been vocal about how Welker’s play has inspired him as a player so much that he models much of his game after his and has watched hours of tape on him. However, the West Virginia product is faster — much faster — clocking in with a 4.34-second 40 time at the scouting combine.
What Austin lacks in size, he definitely makes up in confidence, claiming that was “the all-around best player in the draft” during the combine. He also has shown that he can take the hits for a player his size, never missing a game during his time at West Virginia.
Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1
Notes: It’s important to really understand what Austin’s height limits, which is his ability to go vertical down the sideline, battle for jump balls, beat press coverage and block larger opponents. What it does not affect is his versatility, which was on display during his historic performance against then-No. 12 Oklahoma this past season.
When injuries left the Mountaineers depleted at running back, Austin filled the role. Initially recruited as a running back before settling into his role as a receiver, Austin racked up 344 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the night. He added 82 receiving yards and 146 kick return yards to give him a total of 572 all purpose yards, which is the second most in NCAA history.
Austin blew away scouts on Sunday with his 40-yard dash. However, he did not participate in the 3-cone drill, in which he was expected to have a stellar performance. While the Patriots are known to put great emphasis on that particular drill, they still can use Austin’s pro day and hours of tape to establish whether his agility is as good as advertised.
Related articles: Charleston Daily Mail: WVU’s Austin a triple threat as WR, returner
Video: Here’s a compilation of highlights from Austin’s senior season at West Virginia.