Even compared to the most athletic offensive players in the West Virginia Mountaineers pantheon, Tavon Austin was something special. Pat White, Steve Slaton, Noel Devine and Olympic Gold-Medalist James Jett donned the Gold n’ Blue (yes, there are many others who could fall into this discussion, but for brevity’s sake, we name just these four). All had the ability to break a game open with a single, stunning play.
Now, Austin has the opportunity to take his special talents to the NFL. In the current landscape of NFL offenses, he finds himself in a position to be a game-changer for an NFL team.
Last month, we showed you how high Geno Smith could go in this draft if not selected by Kansas City with the first overall pick. It is somewhat easier to predict the first ten or so selections in most drafts because of needs and talent available. After that, the picture gets cloudy when trades and surprise selections occur. It’s a little more difficult to pin down where a player will go when they are projected outside of the top-10 picks. However, in the case of Tavon Austin, there is one overwhelming favorite at the end of the first round who many believe has their collective eyes on him.
Before his record-breaking game against Oklahoma last season, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper considered Austin “a very good to great, second round draft choice in late April”. For most of Austin’s career at WVU, he lined up as a receiver, mostly in the slot.
Then, in the game against Oklahoma, he showed another facet to his game when he lined up at running back and shredded Oklahoma’s defense to the tune of 572 total yards, which nearly broke the NCAA single-game record. He had 344 yards rushing, 82 receiving yards and 146 yards on kick returns. His two touchdowns came in the running game.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops called it “Maybe the best performance I’ve ever seen.”
After that, his name started to creep up the Draft boards, rising into the end of the first round. According to several mock drafts, the New England Patriots look like a team who could select Austin with the 29th overall selection as a potential Wes Welker replacement. If you Google the search terms ‘”Tavon Austin” Patriots’, you get over 63,000 results. Foxboro, MA seems like the popular choice for Austin and a good fit.
If he falls past New England, we’d be surprised, but, there are other teams before the Patriots who could select the talented Austin.
Russ Lande of the National Football Post sees Austin joining Adam Pacman Jones and Robert Sands on the Bengals roster at #21. Matthew Fairburn of SBNation has Austin going one spot ahead of the Patriots selection at #27 to the Texans.
With less than three months until the Draft, and the Combine and WVU Pro Day before that, these projections could change. We will have a full scouting report on Austin in the coming months and will continue to give you the latest updates on Austin, Smith, Stedman Bailey, Terrence Garvin and the other Mountaineers eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft.