NFL Draft’s Justifiable Jets: Tavon Austin

With the 2013 NFL Draft less than a month away, TJB will offer some daily insight on players in this year’s draft class.  Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Jets to make a selection.

tavon-austinTAVON AUSTIN
Position: Wide receiver
School: West Virginia
Height: 5’8″ Weight: 174 pounds

Achievements:
2012 Paul Hornung Award Winner (NCAA’s most versatile player)
2012 All-America first team (all-purpose)
Second in FBS in receptions with 114 (tied)
Second in all-purpose yards with 230 per game in 2012

Where the Jets could get him: Round 1, but drafting him at nine will be considered a reach/risk.  Austin might be plucked by another team early, but many teams will feel more comfortable drafting a player like Austin in the teens or maybe even early twenties.

Explaining his game:Austin is hailed as this year’s Percy Harvin type of player.  A small but explosive playmaker that when in the open field has an incredible knack for making plays.  He can take the ball out of the backfield, line up as a receiver and create major yardage in the return game.  In addition, Austin comes out of one of the NCAA’s most prolific spread offenses and has everything that teams will want from in a playmaker, except for his size, which will make him an concern as teams worry about his durability and physicality.

Even so, the NFL has proven that players like Austin can be successful in the right scheme.  The New England’s Wes Welker, Carolina’s Steve Smith, Philly’s DeSean Jackson all are examples of players who are smaller but still can be extremely effective in stretching the field and as valuable additions to offenses or special teams because of their unique skillsets.

Austin knows that size will be a factor for many teams, but still thinks that he is the “all-around best player in the draft” — in his own words from the NFL Combine.  Austin might be small, but he’s never missed a game during his time with WVU.  Of course, part of that is that he’s so fast it’s hard for opponents to get a good lick on him, as Austin proved by clocking in with a 4.34-second 40 yard dash time time at the NFL Combine.

Notes: While Austin’s speed is world-class, his height will make it hard for teams to use him in straight vertical routes down the sideline and expect him to battle for jump balls.  Shorter arms also mean that it will make it difficult to beat press coverage and or block expertly on running plays. What it does not limit is his versatility, which was in evidence against the then-No. 12 Oklahoma in 2012.

During the game against Oklahoma, the Mountaineers were depleted by injuries at running back and Austin filled in. Austin was originally recruited as a running back at WVU, but Austin racked up 344 rushing yards and two TDs against the Sooners. Austin also had 82 receiving yards and 146 kick return yards — a total of 572 all purpose yards, the second most in NCAA history.

The Jets have drafted two receivers in the last two drafts (Kerley & Hill) but still need a dynamic playmaker for this offense.  Hill started to turn the corner at the end of the season before his injury and his size and speed will allow him to run the deep routes, Kerley proved last year he can handle a larger offensive role when more attention focuses on him and still beat coverages.  Austin could flank or play in the slot, or motion into the Jets backfield.  Austin’s skills fit well with the spread, but his skillset could translate to a WCO where the ability to play in space would work well with a quick-throwing offense and allow him to gain some yards after the catch.  Morhinweg is used to a player with similar skillsets with DeSean Jackson that Austin woul be a plug-and-play piece of a Jets offense.  Add in Austin’s ability to make a major difference on special teams and he’d be an instant upgrade for the Jets who are desperate to gain more all-purpose yards in 2013.

Articles on Austin:

CBS Sports: Tavon Austin: Despite his size, he will be an NFL star

NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Marquise Goodwin, revive NFL tweener questions

NFL.com: Mike Mayock: Tavon Austin is a ‘matchup nightmare’

Charleston Daily Mail: WVU’s Austin a triple threat as WR, returner

Video: A compilation of Tavon Austin’s highlights during his 2012 season as a Mountaineer.

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