Former West Virginia star receiver Tavon Austin should have put to rest any doubts that he is a surefire first-round prospect in April's draft with his electrifying performance at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine
Sometimes players with incredible physical ability don't put up big numbers in school, while others who post gaudy collegiate numbers don't quite have the talent to cut it in the NFL.
But Austin has both of those elements working in his favor.
Arguably no one is as laterally quick and effortlessly fluid in motion as Austin amongst this crop of skills players, and that was on display in his 20-yard shuttle drill, where he posted a time of 4.01 seconds.
Only Texas' Marquise Goodwin bested Austin's official 40-yard dash time of 4.34 amongst receivers, but he did not have the same success in college as Austin had.
Austin's performance compelled ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required) to place Austin at No. 16 on his latest big board. That's one spot ahead of most evaluators' No. 1 wideout, Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee.
Not only does Austin have the elite athleticism required to compete in the NFL, but he was also an outstandingly durable and consistent player for the Mountaineers. In his last two seasons in Morgantown, Austin caught 101 passes as a junior and a whopping 114 in his final year.
As a senior, he also ran for 683 yards and three touchdowns, including an electrifying game against the Oklahoma Sooners in which he gained 344 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns.
If that doesn't warrant first-round consideration, what does?
To be fair, there is some concern about Austin due to his size at 5'8" and 174 pounds. As hinted at before, though, durability is not an issue despite his extremely heavy workload at West Virginia as a receiver, runner and returner.
Circling back around to the combine, it was surprising and impressive that someone of Austin's stature was able to put up 14 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. That sort of upper-body strength combined with the agility he possesses should allow him to beat press coverage at the next level.
The best spot for Austin would be as a slot receiver, where he would create matchup nightmares against nickelbacks and some unfortunate linebackers.
Matt Bowen of the Chicago Tribune broke down a particularly effective route that Austin should gash NFL opponents with.
Matt Bowen @MattBowen41
WR Tavon Austin (WVU): matchup player in the slot. Here's a quick look vs. Texas on the Shake/Nod route. Too easy: http://t.co/s6AEB9l0TV2/25/2013, 3:55:12 PM
Austin has the straight line speed and acceleration to throw defenders into an off-balance backpedal, which will help set up his cut to the outside. Once Austin crosses his man's face or hits the soft spot in zone coverage, it should be easy money for whichever quarterback delivers him the ball on Sundays.
Few players are as special after the catch or in the open field as Austin in this 2013 class—if anyone.
Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk recently said that Austin is Percy Harvin and Wes Welker rolled into one. Talk about some seriously high praise.
If Austin is anywhere close to a combination of Harvin and Welker—and if he gets anywhere near the statistics he put up for the Mountaineers—he is certainly worthy of a first-round selection.
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