In the most recent edition of the ESPN First Draft podcast, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay took some time, while hypothesizing what the Carolina Panthers might do with the 14th pick of the draft, to slap some pretty fulsome praise on the 5'8" 174lb frame of Tavon Austin. Here are some highlights from their discussion:
"Tavon Austin is a flat out stud. I know he's small...but man is he a player. I watched him in the pro day. He barely broke a sweat."
"He's a we and us guy. He's not me and I. He not about flash. He's not about highlight films and worrying about 'hey talk about me' 'look at this great thing I did' 'watch this great move in the open field'. He's serious. He's one of those guys who's got that...game face."
McShay said he had talked to Austin's college coach Dana Holgorsen who had said:
"The best thing about Tavon that nobody really knows is his toughness. I can't tell you how many times he's battled through little aches and pains, a lot of other guys would have taken some time off. In four years of practice...Tavon Austin didn't miss one"
McShay continued on that theme in his own words:
"What you worry about in terms of him being small and holding up and durability, you get that concern eased a little bit when you watch the way he works and you hear guys around him talk about his work ethic and his toughness and his background and what he's been through. The fact that he's coachable."
Kiper finished with this:
"Wherever he's been: high school, college and now the NFL, he has been spectacular. In this day and age of the NFL...he is built for what the NFL is right now."
McShay's words backed up what was a ringing endorsement of the player:
"Outside of his size, it's hard to find holes in this guy's game."
The general man crush on the West Virginia receiver was echoed earlier this week by Greg Cosell, who took to Twitter to say:
"If NFL is passing/space league, why is WVU Austin not top 10 pick. Most explosive playmaker in draft. Can align anywhere. Matchup nightmare"
And, seeming to preempt Rams fans inevitable questions about the wisdom of drafting Austin having just given a pretty hefty contract to Jared Cook, who seems destined to find himself in the slot more often than not, he has this:
"To me Austin is a special playmaker. Not solely a slot WR. That's too limiting + too conventional."
Whatever you feel about the value of Kiper, McShay and/or Cosell's opinions, this is pretty stirring stuff, and certainly something to chew on for Rams fans if Austin is available to them at any point in round one. It is however worth noting that, since 2001, a period in which West Virginia have had, by consensus, one of the top offenses in college football, they have only had two receivers drafted, Chris Henry and Rasheed Marshall in 2005, and neither had particular success in the NFL, although Henry's career was obviously cut short by his premature death in 2009.
During the podcast, McShay took some time to talk about the 2013 wide receiver class in general, and Cordarrelle Patterson in particular:
"My concern is, at least in the first two or three years of his career, we’re going to have to be constantly labouring to find ways to get the ball in this guy’s hands and to simplify things so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed and short circuited trying to digest an entire NFL playbook when he has so little experience at the big time college level, doesn’t really understand running routes and reading coverages and all those little things."
Comparing Patterson to Austin:
"To me Austin is so much more polished and provides so much more in terms of what you can do getting the ball in his hands."
Finally on the wide receivers available in the 2013 draft:
"This receiver class is not exceptional by any stretch, and there’s no Calvin Johnson, there’s no Julio Jones or AJ Green or anyone like that but there’s a lot of good players when you start to get into the middle of the first…all the way through the third round. It’s going to be interesting to see how they all come off the board"
That is certainly good news for the Rams when you consider that they will probably be looking for multiple wide receivers in this draft.