Tavon Austin, WR
Tavon Austin wasn’t the only player to impress at the NFL combine. The St. Louis Rams are paying attention to plenty of guys, but Austin’s combine performance may be enough to entice St. Louis to select him with one of its two first-round draft choices.
Wide receiver and O-line are two offensive positions that the Rams could stand to address in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft. General managers will have more than one round of decisions to make in April—and the defense could use a little love, too—so some prospects who should be around in the middle rounds will also be covered.
Combine stats courtesy of NFL.com.
One of the more frequent NFL comparisons for West Vriginia’s Tavon Austin is Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin. It’s high praise to associate an MVP-caliber name with an incoming rookie, but Austin is a promising all-purpose playmaker at the next level.
Austin concluded his collegiate career with consecutive 100-catch/1,000-yard receiving campaigns. As a senior, he got more involved in the running game, accumulating 72 rushing attempts in 2012 after totaling 37 in the three years prior. He totaled 17 touchdowns in that season.
With 1,289 receiving yards, 643 rushing yards and 978 return yards, Austin topped 1,900 scrimmage yards and 2,900 total yards. He averaged 11.0 yards per punt return and 24.6 yards per kickoff return. The Rams haven’t recently seen many big plays in the return game.
The offensive line needs the most help, but St. Louis could certainly target the speedy Austin at No. 16 to work in the slot if the team parts ways with Danny Amendola and no other options surface in the free-agent process.
Austin ran an official 4.34 40-yard dash at the combine.
Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden kind of lit up the NFL combine, placing in the top five among backers in the 40-yard dash (4.47 seconds; first), bench reps (27; fourth), broad jump (131.0 inches; second), three-cone drill (6.71 seconds; first), 20-yard shuttle (4.18 seconds, first) and 60-yard shuttle (11.28 seconds, first).
He added a 34-inch vertical jump—good for sixth among LBs.
He’s an obvious athlete, a former safety and a Mizzou graduate. He may not be the best linebacker in his class as a rookie, but he should have a ton of upside as he learns more about playing the position at the next level. The St. Louis Rams have an immediate need of some speed at outside linebacker.
Despite his workout, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has Gooden tumbling to the Rams in the fifth round of his latest mock.
That’s pretty good value for a potential starter.
The St. Louis Rams already have the left and right cornerback spots locked down with Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. They have depth at the position that was one of the team’s weakest just two seasons ago, but the consensus is that you can’t have too many good corners in this pass-happy NFL.
St. Louis could use a Honey Badger in the third round.
Tyrann Mathieu wouldn’t be the Rams’ worst option at the nickel position. He didn’t post particularly thrilling numbers at the combine—he ran a 4.5 40 and had just four bench reps—which is why his stock may not have risen much in February.
He still showed up to compete, though. A Heisman candidate for LSU in 2011, Mathieu showcased an ability to force turnovers that should not be overlooked. The NFL’s leader in interceptions last year was Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, who stands 5’8”.
Mathieu is 5’9”.
T.J. Moe was the third-fastest man in the entire NFL combine to complete the 20-yard shuttle drill (3.96 seconds) and the fastest to run the 60-yard shuttle (10.87). He was also second in the three-cone drill (6.53), as the best wide receiver in all three drills.
Moe was tops at his position in the bench press with 26 reps, too—so he’s quick and strong. His hands measured out to be 9-7/8”, which is large for a 5’11” guy. Despite the “slow” 40 time of 4.74, Moe could be set up to succeed with the St. Louis Rams.
Danny Amendola is a 4.7-type guy from the slot anyway, and Moe will have an opportunity to quickly become a fan favorite as a product of the University of Missouri. If St. Louis takes a shot at Moe with a late-round pick, he may make the 53-man roster and contribute to the wideout-needy team as a rookie in 2013.
A 5’9”, 213-pound package moving at a 4.42-second 40-yard dash pace has to pack quite a wallop. Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas may be best known for the 43rd yard of his 40, but he was also the fastest safety at the combine.
Thomas isn’t expected to be drafted until the mid-to-late stages of the NFL draft. The St. Louis Rams could use a speedy thumper on the back end of the defense, but whether they can entrust the task of regularly covering NFL tight ends downfield to a 5’9” guy remains to be seen.
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