The NFL Scouting Combine allows players with elite athleticism to move up draft boards with great workouts. Few prospects took advantage of this event more than Tavon Austin.
After four impressive years at West Virginia, the talented wide receiver was certainly on NFL teams' radar. However, most believed he would be a Day 2 selection due mostly to his small stature at only 5'8" tall.
Still, he came into Indianapolis with a mission to turn heads and he accomplished that in his first day of workouts.
In the 40-yard dash, he finished with a time of 4.34 seconds. This tied for second among every position prospect that ran on Sunday, behind only Marquise Goodwin of Texas, who ran a 4.27.
There also does not seem to be much separation between him and Goodwin when the two runs are put side by side.
While anyone who has ever watched Austin play knew that he was fast, this elite speed will go a long way at the next level. In addition, he also performed well in other drills.
In the 20-yard shuttle run, he finished second behind Missouri's T.J. Moe with a time of 4.01 seconds. This drill does a great job of measuring quickness and ability to change direction, something that is very important for receivers.
The little man even did well at the bench press, lifting the 225-pound bar 14 times. This is not too shabby for a player who weighs only 174 pounds.
By the end of the day, Austin might have changed the mindset of scouts more than anyone else at the combine.
He certainly was proud of his performance, according to NFL Network:
Tavon Austin: 'I'm a small guy. But I definitely played big today.' #NFLCombine— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 24, 2013
Throughout the year, the West Virginia star showed the nation what he could do. He finished tied for second in the nation with 114 receptions, always seeming to be where Geno Smith needed him to be.
He also seemed to make things happen every time he touched the ball. He not only totaled 1,289 receiving yards, but he also rushed for 643 yards at 8.9 yards per carry.
Austin simply showed that he was able to do anything his coaches asked of him.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock had some high praise on Sunday concerning the receiver:
In the NFL, it's all about matchups, and this young man is a matchup nightmare. What I love about (Austin), he's got good hands. We already know he can run, we know how quick he is. I know he's tough. And he's a game-changer.
After his recent performance, it is hard to imagine any NFL GM not thinking the same way. There is little chance that all 32 teams picking in the first round will pass on a "game-changer."
Even Wesley Woodyard of the Denver Broncos thinks he will be taken in the first round:
If Tavon Austin doesn't go 1st round!!!!— Wesley Woodyard (@WoodDro52) February 24, 2013
Teams are likely to be hesitant taking Austin. His small stature does not fit the description of the prototypical wide receiver as well as Keenan Allen or Cordarrelle Patterson. They will be concerned that he will not be able to survive in the NFL.
However, smaller players have done well over the years. Receivers Steve Smith and Santana Moss have made multiple Pro Bowls standing shorter than 6' tall, and Austin has more speed than either of them.
Will Brinson of CBS Sports also made a good point concerning the receiver's size:
If you're knocking on Tavon Austin, remember this line: "If Russell Wilson was two inches taller he'd be a top 10 pick"— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 24, 2013
As you probably know, Russell Wilson was a third-round pick who ended up starting at quarterback in Week 1 for the Seattle Seahawks. He continued to amaze all year long and led the team to the second round of the playoffs.
Due to his size and speed, Austin draws a lot of comparisons to slot receivers like Percy Harvin and Wes Welker. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compares the prospect to DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, Austin is truly in a class of his own. His unique ability to make plays in space will make him a valuable prospect for any team in the NFL.
Scouts can watch film and realize that he has great hands and is a solid route-runner. In Indianapolis, those same people were able to see his elite speed and quickness as well as that he is strong enough to handle the NFL grind.
While Austin was a borderline first-round draft pick heading into the week, he likely solidified his status as a top selection after the combine.
Whichever team is lucky enough to grab the young man will get one seriously talented player.