Every year during the NFL draft, general managers, coaches and scouts have to weigh the always tough decision to either select the best players in the draft regardless of position or to try to fill immediate needs on their teams. Every once in awhile, the board will fall right where the BPA (best player available) matches needs, but all too often teams reach for need and set their franchise back. The Dallas Cowboys could be in an interesting position this year because of a wide receiver named Tavon Austin and his explosive playmaking ability.
September 22, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin (1) is tackled after a pass reception by Maryland Terrapins defensive back Jeremiah Johnson (14) during the second quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
A previous example of the Dallas Cowboys passing up a better player at a position they didn’t feel was a need was the case of running back LeSean McCoy in 2009. According to Tim MacMahon, the Cowboys had a first round grade on McCoy, but believed they were set at running back. The team instead decided to reach for offensive tackle Robert Brewster, who only lasted two seasons in the league. Meanwhile, McCoy is one of the best running backs in the league and was named AP All-Pro in 2011.
But when discussing the notion of the Cowboys selecting a wide receiver high in the draft, some will say no because of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. The Green Bay Packers, after their Super Bowl win in 2010, had many needs on their offensive and defensive lines. Heading into 2011, the receiver position was an area of strength for them. The Packers already had wide receiver Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver and tight end Jermichael Finley. Yet, when Randall Cobb fell to them in the second round, they passed on filling needs and decided to draft the highest player on their board. Cobb had a breakout season in 2012, which gave the Packers enough leverage to keep from overpaying wide receiver Greg Jennings who bolted to Minnesota in the off-season.
West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, who is a very similar player to Randall Cobb, could put the Dallas Cowboys in a very interesting situation. Given the way the draft could fall, Dallas may have to choose between Tavon Austin and a player at a position of need who is ranked lower. However, before that scenario becomes a possibility, let’s take a look at the explosive playmaker from West Virginia.
On November 17th 2012, in a game against the Oklahoma Sooners, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin stole the show and caught the eyes of NFL draft fans and scouts across the nation. Prior to the Oklahoma game, Austin was used primarily as a slot wide receiver, and many scouts had compared him to Philadelphia Eagle’s wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Austin hadn’t received many carries out of the backfield before that game (he had only 14 running plays through the first nine games).
November 17, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin (1) carries the ball on a 31 yard gain against the Oklahoma Sooners during the first quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium . Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
After observing how the Minnesota Vikings used Percy Harvin out of the backfield along with Randall Cobb in Green Bay, Dana Holgorsen decided to put his best playmaker in the backfield. The results were incredible. To go along with four receptions for 82 yards, Austin rushed for a career high 344 yards on 21 carries.
Tavon Austin is one of the quickest players I have ever seen on tape and his combine results back it up. Below is a list of some of the quickest and fastest players in the NFL as compared to Austin.
When compared to other players who are roughly the same size as Austin and play a similar position, he has the second fastest short shuttle of the group. The short shuttle drill is designed to give NFL scouts a measure of a player’s quickness and how well he changes direction. The combine results also demonstrate that Austin has an incredibly fast 10 yard split.
Tavon Austin can be used as an offense’s ultimate chess piece. His future in the NFL could be as a dominant slot player on one play, and then line up in the backfield on the next, much like he did against Oklahoma. If the Dallas Cowboys decide to use the 18th selection on Tavon Austin, he could immediately bring speed to an offense that desperately needs it.
I believe there is a legitimate chance Tavon Austin will be the best player available when the Dallas Cowboys draft at 18th overall. It will be very interesting to see if the Cowboys decide to take, in my opinion, one of the best playmakers in this draft or if they’ll decide to reach once again for a position of need.