INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 24: Tavon Austin of West Virginia runs the 40-yard dash during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 24, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin is perhaps the most electrifying player in the 2013 NFL Draft. Austin caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards in 2012, adding another 643 rushing yards on the ground.
Austin is a do-it-all receiver capable of taking any touch to the house. He averaged an amazing 9.5 yards-per-carry on 109 career rushes at West Virginia. He also scored five touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns.
Austin had elite change-of-direction and lateral quickness—probably the best of each for any player in this draft. He accelerates to full speed in the blink of an eye and, more important, he can cut on a dime. Austin is also unusually strong for his size, regularly breaking tackles to give him yet another way to provide elite run-after-catch ability.
The biggest issue with Austin is obviously his 5-9, 174-pound frame. It speaks to Austin’s immense talent that he’s considered a surefire first-round pick despite that size, but it’s a real concern. Take a look at the top 10 wide receivers in the NFL last year. They’re all at least 6-1 and over 200 pounds.
Austin can and will add a new dimension to any offense, but it’s fair to question whether or not he can do what offenses ultimately need to do—score touchdowns. His touchdown rate as a receiver was just above 10 percent—good but not outstanding—and he’s unlikely to improve upon that mark against bigger, faster competition. Austin’s hands are also very small at just over nine inches, which is why he’s not a totally natural catcher.
NFL Comparison: Percy Harvin
Harvin is the obvious comparison because there aren’t too many Austin-like players out there. The biggest difference is that Harvin stands two inches taller than Austin, and that can make a difference inside.
Austin will be a first-round pick, perhaps in the top 15. The St. Louis Rams—with two first-round selections and a desperate need for a play-making receiver—look like a great fit.
Fit In Dallas
The big question is whether or not the Cowboys would really consider Austin—who they’d need to grab with the No. 18 overall selection—with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant already in town. While many people consider Austin to be a legitimate option for Dallas, the only way they’ll pull the trigger is if they have him rated as a top 10 talent. Despite his obvious skills, I don’t think you can rank any receiver who stands 5-9 in your top 10.
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Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.