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PROS AND CONS – WR TAVON AUSTIN
PROS and CONS – TAVON AUSTIN
Tavon Austin is hands down the most electrifying player in this year’s draft class, his pre-draft buzz reminds me of when Reggie Bush and Percy Harvin were coming into the league. What really makes Austin an intriguing prospect, much like Reggie Bush, is that he not only has blazing speed but he has phenomenal college production to back up his hype.
Austin is as good as any slot receiver prospect that I have ever seen, he has elite “everything” except for size. His speed, explosiveness, lateral agility, hands, acceleration, vision, footwork and route running are all on an exceptional level.
|PLAYER||HT||WT||ARMS||HANDS||BENCH||BROAD||VERT||10Y T||40Y T|
|Tavon Austin||5-08||174||30||9 1/8||14||10.00||32||1.45||4.34|
Austin’s big play potential is unreal; his skill to make defenders miss in space and his run after the catch speed will provide QB Tannehill with an effective hot-read target that can turn simple 5 yard check downs into massive gains and six points.What I like most about Austin, is his ability to win his routes very early in the pattern, much like Wes Welker and very much the opposite of Brian Hartline.
<span style=”font-family: verdana, geneva;”>Austin’s ability to create separation early in the route will be beneficial for the Dolphins offense to consistently sustain drives and will make him a candidate to lead his team in receptions. But a coach will have to find a way to involve him in 70-80% of the plays on offense.
It should help that Austin is a versatile offensive play-maker at various positions, he is capable of contributing in the run game as a change of pace back and as an elusive player-maker in the return game.
If the Miami Dolphins were to select Austin at #12 they will not only have the straight line speed of Mike Wallace to stretch defenses vertically but they will have the lateral quickness underneath with Austin to stretch defenses horizontally.
The combination of Wallace and Austin is a mouth-watering concept for a pass oriented offensive coordinator. The combination should also help to create space at the second level of the defense that will benefit the Tight End and Running Back.
The presence of both Wallace and Austin should limit how aggressive opposing defenses can be with their Safety and Outside-Linebacker schemes. Austin in the slot will effectively force defenses out of their base alignments and into their Nickel packages very early on, which should help out the run game.
This brings me to an important point, for the Dolphins offense to be extremely potent, they must have balance, they must get production from their Running Backs out of their various Single Set Back formations without a lead blocking fullback. In the Singleback spread set theoretically the Running Back should have more favorable inside lanes to exploit as the defense is stretched across the field. Austin’s college team WVU excelled at exploiting weakness in the defense using this spread concept. This task is easier said than done, and is made even more difficult considering the question marks the Dolphins have along the O-Line.
In my opinion, Tavon Austin can be better than Wes Welker ever was! For a team like the New England Patriots where the slot receiver is their #1 target in the scheme, Austin is a TOP 5 player in this draft. If Sherman can get Austin on the field for 900+ snaps I want him! But Miami isn’t the New England Patriots and Mike Sherman isn’t running their version of the spread offense. This leads us to the CONS.
A major issue with Tavon Austin is his size, at 5’8” 174lbs, there are concerns with his durability at the NFL level. This is a justified concern, but for me it is tempered a bit because I don’t believe that Austin should be used at the running back position as much as he was in college.
Although, I do fully agree that Austin can be effective in that role as a speed-back when healthy, with an emphasis on healthy. I just don’t see a player at his size taking the physical pounding out of the back-field, even if only on a part-time basis. I don’t care how talented a player is, I have never seen a player score a touchdown from the doctor’s office.
Austin at 5’8” armed only with a 32in vertical and 30in arms certainly does not project as an outside receiver who can win the battle in the air. He will be challenged at the line with press coverage due to his lack of size. His lack of length and leaping ability will cause him to be out muscled in the air by safety coverage down-field. Austin is much more effective in motion and having a free release from the LOS. He is dangerous from the slot position where he can catch the ball underneath and look for YAC with his elusiveness and speed.
Austin will present a major challenge for a lot of coaches who don’t predominantly run 3 and 4 WR sets. How do they get Austin on the field, how do they get him enough touches to justify a high draft choice? Do they risk over using him on running plays, do they risk assigning him to kick return and punt return duties? Or do they simply keep him as fresh as possible at the slot WR position.
Personally, I would limit his touches out of the back field except for the occasional end-around and screen pass, where he has the benefit of sideline protection. I would rather keep Austin strictly as a slot WR much like Wes Welker, than to subject him to hits where defenders are coming downhill at him.
For a team like the Patriots these deliberations are null and void because of their scheme. The Patriots don’t have to worry about how they will get Austin the ball and there is no need to put him in precarious positions out of the back-field for him to make an impact.
In 2012, the Patriots slot receiver Wes Welker played 1074 snaps or 87% of their offensive plays which far exceeds the league average of 461 snaps for slot receivers. Therefore, Austin’s value to a scheme like the Patriots will be very high, as compared to the majority of other teams where his role will be reduced.
|Player||Team||Position||Off Snaps||Off Snap Pct|
|NFL SLOT WR AVG.||NFL||WR||461||43%|
It would be much simpler if Austin could have also been projected as a flanker receiver but his lack of height, size and leaping ability is a hindrance. He is a pure slot receiver that needs to catch the ball in stride and make plays with his feet on the ground not in the air. The Dolphins at 12 maybe be better off with a WR who can easily fit into the #2 WR spot to compliment Mike Wallace, someone like Cordarrelle Patterson or Justin Hunter who will play in excess of 900 snaps easily.
If Sherman does not intend to implement Austin in the way that Wes Welker or Victor Cruz has been utilized in NE or NYG, it may be best for Miami to wait till later in the draft for WR Markus Wheaton and WR Marquise Goodwin.
Many project Markus Wheaton as a third rounder, but he will be gone in the 2nd round from my estimation. Wheaton unlike Austin, has the ability to play both in the slot and at the flanker position. While WR Marquise Goodwin brings everything that Tavon Austin brings to the table except for great college production. The ex-Olympian Goodwin, who shined at the Senior Bowl, is a player I absolutely love and his 3rd/4th round projection is exactly where I believe a pure slot receiver should be taken.
Everyone tends to get caught up in Wes Welker’s production and automatically assumes their team can replicate that production from the slot with a plug and play solution like Austin without really thinking about their scheme.
Here are some interesting stats from 2012 season:
Of the TOP 50 pass catchers in terms of yardage, only 4 were slot receivers; Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, TY Hilton and Devone Bess.
Of the TOP 50 pass catchers in terms of touchdowns, only 6 were slot receivers; Victor Cruz, Randall Cobb, Golden Tate, TY Hilton, Wes Welker and Brandon Stokley.
Of the TOP 50 pass catchers in term of receptions, only 7 were slot receivers; Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, Randall Cobb, Kendall Wright, Danny Amendola, Percy Harvin and Devone Bess.
Of those names listed above it can be argued the Devone Bess was not a pure slot receiver last year and thus benefited from being the #2 receiver in Miami. Also it is important to point out that Wes Welker, Golden Tate, Victor Cruz and Percy Harvin all function as their teams #2 and sometimes #1 receiver in standard 2 wide formations.
It’s clear that the majority of NFL offenses are geared toward generating production from the split-end and flanker receivers. For a slot receiver to have great production they must be able to double as a #2 receiver. This is something I don’t believe Tavon Austin can do consistently. I just don’t see him as being a go-to flanker. He will be jammed at the line, out jumped and out muscled in the air. Trust me I would love to get Brian Hartline off the field, but as much as it pains me to admit it, Hartline is a better #2 option on the outside than Austin.
So unless Miami intends to go with an extremely pass heavy 3 WR set formation in the 2013, then drafting Tavon at 12 maybe be too much of an investment for the amount of snaps he is actually going to play. Tavon makes sense for a team like the Patriots, or a Team that has the outside receiver positions locked up with elite talent like the Atlanta Falcons or the Dallas Cowboys. Miami has bigger fish to fry at #12 and should look towards round 3 or 4 for WR Marquise Goodwin.
Alternatives at Slot WR
|Tavon Austin||5-08||174||30||9 1/8||14||10.00||32||DNP||1.45||4.34||1|
|Markus Wheaton||5-11||189||32.75||9 1/8||20||10.00||37||6.80||1.52||4.45||2|
|Marquise Goodwin||5-09||183||31.5||8 5/8||13||11.00||42||6.66||1.43||4.27||3|
|Stedman Bailey||5-10||193||32.75||9 7/8||11||9.75||34.5||6.81||1.58||4.52||4|
|Josh Boyce||5-11||206||31.25||9 1/4||22||10.92||34||6.68||1.56||4.38||5|
My Favorite Alternative: Marquise Goodwin
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