Would the Philadelphia Eagles Really Draft Tavon Austin in the First Round?

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 24, 2013

Feb 24, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin runs with the ball after making a catch during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Star Lotulelei, Sharrif Floyd, Dee Milliner, Dion Jordan, Geno Smith. 

All seven of those prospects have been projected to go to the Philadelphia Eagles fourth overall in various spots around the web. But a darkhorse candidate who is picking up some steam differs greatly from the rest of the guys listed above, mainly because he hasn't been viewed by anyone as a top-five pick, but also because the Eagles already have two good starters at his position. 

Regardless, Tavon Austin talk is picking up. The West Virginia wide receiver would be one hell of a toy for Chip Kelly to have at his disposal, but such a marriage seemed far-fetched throughout the spring because the Eagles have more pressing needs and Austin certainly won't be considered the best player available in that No. 4 spot. 

The multi-dimensional Austin had over 1,200 receiving yards and over 600 rushing yards while scoring 15 touchdowns during his final year in Morgantown. But surely the Eagles, who already have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on board and who have LeSean McCoy, James Casey and Bryce Brown at their disposal as well, wouldn't spend their highest pick in 14 years on a guy like Austin, right?

Here's what ESPN's Sal Paolantonio told 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia earlier this week, per PhillyMag.com

"Here is what a general manager told me [on Monday]: 'I know the Eagles want a tackle.' And if those are all gone, he said, 'Don't be shocked if Chip Kelly takes Tavon Austin No. 4.

"He's a little guy but the NFL now is a spatial relations league. Open space. What are you doing with a lot of space and how are you filling it? Which to me is the way to go right now because you can't touch these wide receivers between the hash marks."

It's smokescreen season, sure, but smokescreens are usually applied when teams have clear motives to trick other teams into thinking they do or don't like a particular player. If they aren't actually interested in taking Austin fourth, why would it benefit the Eagles to leak the idea that they are?

You'd think Philly would be better served by continuing to play along with the idea that they're enamored with guys like Lane Johnson and Dion Jordan, who teams would be more likely to trade up for. 

I guess it's possible the Eagles could be overplaying their interest in Austin in order to thwart a potential Oakland trade in the No. 3 spot. If Joeckel and Fisher are gone and Lane Johnson's on the board when the Raiders are on the clock, a trade makes a lot of sense. But if tackle-needy teams feel the Eagles might not want Johnson, there'd be less incentive to jump ahead of them.

Such a ploy could also give a team like Arizona even more of a push to trade up three spots to take Johnson ahead of Detroit, giving the Eagles the seventh pick and an extra pick or two later in the draft.

It all seems overly elaborate, but then again, so is the entire draft culture.