After a magical season at West Virginia in which they both solidified themselves as surefire first-round locks in the 2013 NFL draft, Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Tavon Austin could end up together again in the pros.
Jason La Canfora recently reported that, with the ongoing trade talks between the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers regarding a potential swap centered around cornerback Darrelle Revis for Tampa Bay's 13th-overall pick, executives are taking guesses on who New York could choose with their first two picks.
Should both sides end up pulling off the trade, the Jets would hold the ninth and 13th picks in the draft.
La Canfora's report indicates that West Virginia's Geno Smith and Tavon Austin could go to the Jets with those picks, kickstarting a new era in New York with a quarterback-receiver combination from one of the most prolific offenses in college football last season.
New York struggled offensively last season, but not due to its offensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, in 2012, the Jets ranked 10th in the NFL in pass-blocking and 11th in run-blocking (subscription required for all Pro Football Focus data).
Despite this, per Pro Football Focus, the Jets ranked in the bottom half of the league offensively.
Of 38 quarterbacks, USC alum Mark Sanchez came in as the 37th-best in the NFL per Pro Football Focus' data (Brandon Weeden finished last). Also, the Jets didn't even have a receiver rank in the top 60 in the league.
A mediocre effort from the running game also contributed to an ugly year on the offensive side of the ball, but the Jets have made a concerted effort to fix their backfield issues by bringing in Mike Goodson. It's too early to judge the move in a positive or negative way.
Would the Jets be smart to nab both Geno Smith and Tavon Austin in the draft?
It's rather clear to see, based on the aggregation of Pro Football Focus' 'ranking' data, that the main issue for the Jets was their ability to throw the football in 2012. Assuming the team is able to trade Darrelle Revis for a 2013 first-round pick, New York will have two selections in the top half of the first round to improve their aerial attack, while still maintaining the integrity of the rest of their draft by keeping their other selections.
Smith amassed 4,205 yards with 42 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2012, but faltered down the stretch after a fantastic start to the season. Austin, on the other hand, dazzled fans and scouts all season long, catching 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns with a good amount of highlight-reel runs mixed in. The receiver also showed impressive versatility out of the backfield, carrying the ball 72 times for 643 yards and three touchdowns on designed runs.
This isn't to say that the combination of Smith and Austin would change the Jets' fortunes. The signal-caller has a system arm and struggles with decision making on multiple-read passing patterns. As for Austin, while he's dynamic, the pass-catcher is somewhat limited to the slot and the Jets don't exactly have a need there, with Jeremy Kerley having played well in 2012.
It'd be an interesting fit in New York, for Smith's chemistry with Austin would certainly translate to a connection on the field if the two were given the opportunity to start. That said, the Jets can't settle for another quarterback they don't love, and would be better off from a financial standpoint to wait another year before finding a solution under center.
Considering the draft is held in New York City, Radio City Music Hall would certainly erupt if the Jets went with both Smith and Austin. Then again, Jets fans may also erupt in the following months when new faces spell similar results for Gang Green.