Entering the 2013 NFL combine, West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin was slapped with the "tweener" tag. In other words, the general consensus was that Austin was an exceptional athlete without an every down position.
After his performance at the combine, however, Austin has proven to be a lethal slot weapon.
For those unfamiliar with Austin, he finished his college career with 288 receptions for 3,413 yards and 29 touchdowns. Austin also tallied six rushing touchdowns and five returning touchdowns.
In other words, he was one of the most dynamic playmakers of his generation.
The issue for Austin, however, is that he stands at just 5'8" and 174 pounds. Due to this issue of size, some have questioned Austin's ability to be an every down player at the next level.
With the rise of the slot receiver, however, Austin's skill set appears to be tailor made for today's game.
It's this type of work ethic and tenacity that makes Austin such a valuable commodity.
Austin displayed great hands during the on-field drills, further solidifying his status as a player who can catch passes on a consistent basis. The key for Austin, however, is not how he performed in any individual drill.
It's the fact that he showed his well-versed skill set throughout the duration of the combine.
Open Field Elusiveness
If an NFL franchise is looking for a playmaker in the open field, they can't find one much better than Tavon Austin. That isn't an opinion, but instead a fact that is backed up by statistical and video evidence.
Just check the numbers.
At the NFL combine, Austin ran a 4.34 40-yard dash. That number ranked second at his position and displayed how much of a terror Austin can be once he gets behind the defensive backs.
As for how he'd fare in the slot, Austin completed the 20-yard shuttle in 4.01 seconds—again the second fastest at his position.
This is what has made Austin one of the most dangerous players in the nation for four years at West Virginia. Not only can he beat you over the top, but Austin moves laterally and finds his way into gaps.
Once he has the ball in his hands, don't bet on being able to drag him down.
For those in need of evidence of Austin's open field ability, take notice that he hauled in 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012-13. As for his durability, don't fool yourself into thinking his small frame can't take a hit.
Austin took 186 plays from scrimmage as a senior.
If you're not sold on Austin's ability to work specifically out of the slot, go ahead and turn him loose in other areas. The best comparison for this do-it-all burner is Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings.
Line him up anywhere on the field and Austin is going to make an impact.
From his return skills to his ability to come out of the backfield, Austin is a defensive coordinator's nightmare. He possesses excellent field vision and anticipates gaps better than the average receiver.
At the NFL level, this could lead Austin to putting up similar numbers to what Harvin has.
Concerns will remain about Austin's size, regardless of what scouts see on tape. The fact of the matter is, in this case, the smallest man on the field can make the biggest impact.
Taking Austin would be a brilliant decision for a team in need of a lethal slot weapon.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.