Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks casts West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin to New England in his Feb. 6 mock draft.
Brooks, a former NFL player and scout, sees the 5'9", 173-pound speedster as a long-term answer waiting in the wings:
Austin could be the versatile receiver who eventually replaces Wes Welker as the key playmaker in the slot.
Austin is a do-it-all athlete and just what Coach Belichick wants in his players.
Over his four seasons with the Mountaineers, Austin amassed 3,413 receiving yards, 1,031 rushing yards and 2,407 kickoff return yards. With a resume like that, it's safe to say that Austin was the most dynamic college football player of his time.
The Patriots are in need of a spark at wideout, especially with Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Donte' Stallworth and Deion Branch all hitting free agency in March. Beyond those four names, Greg A. Bedard of The Boston Globe points out that Brandon Lloyd is due a $3 million option that the Patriots don't have to pay.
Sooner or later, New England will have to draft another receiver. The organization has struggled to groom route runners since Branch and David Givens were taken in the 2002 draft. But Austin should develop faster than most because he can work underneath.
Austin does come with one significant question mark: his size. It remains to be seen how Austin's frame will hold up against NFL contact. He's shown no durability problems to this point, but he hasn't encountered the heightened physicality yet.
Due to his small football stature, Austin won't win many jump balls on the NFL circuit. But he will keep the chains moving with his outstanding abilities after the catch, and that's why he fits New England's offense.