Tavon Austin The Ultimate Match-Up Problem

The following is the 8th in a series of draft profiles for the 1st round pick for the Dallas Cowboys. These profiles are put together with the specific needs of the Cowboys in mind, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and game tape to get an idea of who might fit in best with Dallas come draft day.  Surely, circumstances will dictate what actually happens on that day, but we will profile the 8-10 most likely candidates and try to kick the tires on each and every scenario an how it relates to the Cowboys in 2013 and beyond.

Tavon Austin
West Virginia
Wide Receiver
5’8, 174
40 time: 4.29    Bench Press: 14 Reps

Born: March 15, 1991 (Age 22)

We all have our ideas of how a draft should work. I am generally a big believer in the idea that many draft cliches are silly and while they sound good on television, they don’t make any sense if you are actually running a team.  One of them is that “you take the best player available” which is said about a million times every draft season, but if you want to have another 3-13 season, just take guys based on draft grade without consulting your own depth chart to see that you cannot have 3 middle linebackers or tight ends no matter what you do.

Meanwhile, those positions you did not address are still major weaknesses which are exploited every Sunday by your opponent.  But, you took “the best player available” – and then you and your entire coaching staff got fired.

Ideally, I am a big believer of taking the “best player available as it applies to this franchise” – which means that if you have Aaron Rodgers at age 29, you don’t take a QB with your top pick because he is the BPA.  That doesn’t make any sense.  Rather, you look at try to figure out how this guy fits here.

Which leads us to Tavon Austin.  On the surface, it makes no sense for a team with size issues to take one of the smallest players in the draft.  And he is small.  Pop in one of his tapes and you don’t even need to know his number.  You just look for the smallest guy on the field and that will be him.

But, in a sport that has evolved to a game where bubble screens and jet sweeps are on most menus, we are looking for matchup problems that have no solution and versatile players who can be used in a number of ways to drive defenses bonkers.  Say hello to Tavon Awesome.

What DeSean Jackson, Randall Cobb, Percy Harvin, Victor Cruz, Wes Welker and that group of “weapons without labels” bring to the table is speed and quickness that doesn’t quit.  They are not prototypical outside receivers as their size limits them from dominating in the air.  But, they are issues inside and underneath in a sport that once taught us little guys would get killed inside.  They haven’t been killed, but instead, seem to dominate the league most Sundays.

Watching Austin is a real thrill in just about any game he had at West Virginia.  But, his show of 572 total yards against Oklahoma will not soon be forgotten at the college level.  That night, he ran for 344 yards on just 21 carries as West Virginia handed him the ball repeatedly and then watched him look as if he was shot out of a cannon down the field.  8 other times during the year he had at least 10 catches as one of the main targets for Geno Smith with a collection of stem routes that were always there because he cannot be covered in man to man by almost anyone – and yet kills zones with his quickness.

Then, if that isn’t enough, he returned a punt and a kick for touchdowns this season as well.  He is electric and will be a star in this league for one team or another it seems.

Clearly, he will try to defy science, as players who may never weigh 180 lbs often do when they try to play pro football.  It seems if you invest in him, you are depending on his ability to be durable and there is really no way to know for sure until he gets up from a huge hit that he will periodically take.  But, he is plenty tough and even seems to enjoy blocking downfield when he doesn’t get the ball.  He competes hard and can smell the end zone.  His instincts are fantastic and he has no fear.

He also has some deep ability that is set up with continuous shallow routes and then when he has you sleeping, he darts 20 yards clear down the field.  But, maybe his most interesting ability is to keep the safeties on a leash, with his underneath work, thus springing his team-mates behind him once a safety takes a false step.

In the end, though, it appears you have a weapon that teams fear.  And in this game of matchups, that is truly what this sport has become.  He should be a 1st down machine, helping you sustain drives and win many games in the right situation.

Here are some youtube cut-ups for your own personal eye-ball test.  Find the WR who wears #1 and watch:

Vs Oklahoma

Vs Maryland, Texas, and Baylor

The Case For Dallas Taking Tavon Austin at #18: Any offense in the NFL could make room to try to sort out what Austin could bring to your table.  As I said, the matchup issues that he causes alone are worth the trouble.  Could you imagine with Jason Witten, Miles Austin, and Dez Bryant occupying coverage what would happen if Austin was in the slot?  Sometimes, you are only as good as your worst match-up, and with that combination, I don’t know where the defense would cheat.  The interesting thing about this draft would actually be if he is available at #18, this is where the Cowboys phone would likely ring off the hook with trade offers to move down and collect more picks.  So, in the event that he is on the board, the Cowboys will have an interesting choice to make.

The Case Against Dallas Taking Tavon Austin at #18:  The idea that they take another small player with their premium pick would go against all my beliefs about what this team needs.  That being said, we should be careful not to paint all small players with the same brush and I will readily admit that Austin seems a rare bird.  I just think that they have so many more holes on this team that if I felt that the team was one player away, it might be different.  But, as they are currently built, I just don’t like the idea of taking your 1st Rounder and spending it here.

There is no question that when this guy gets picked, you hope he goes to the AFC or at least out of the division because you would not want to pass on this talent and then have to play him every year once or twice.  Tavon Austin looks like he will be a household name in this league for a long time with jaw-dropping plays.  Think DeSean Jackson without the attitude or baggage.  What type of player could that be?  An amazing one.  And that is where I think Austin will be, but I don’t think the Cowboys will do it.  Instead, if he gets to them, he is the key to grabbing an extra 2nd or 3rd rounder to whoever wants him more.

This one is a tough ranking, but of our 8 profiles, I would list them in this order:

1. Chance Warmack – Report Here
2. Jonathan Cooper – Report Here
3. Sheldon Richardson – Report Here
4. Sylvester Williams – Report Here
5. Tavon Austin
6. Sharrif Floyd – Report Here
7. Kenny Vaccaro – Report Here
8. DJ Fluker – Report Here