Is Tavon Austin Something Special?

Even Jeff Fisher's mustache can't hide his enormous smile as he passes the microphone to Tavon Austin during a press conference. - USA TODAY Sports

When the Rams made their move, trading up in the NFL Draft, it really wasn't a huge surprise that they selected WR Tavon Austin. The kid has the tools to play at the NFL level, regardless of his size.

Anyone who has seen him play knows the electricity he can bring. No one can question his natural ability, however let's take a look at some important abilities every WR needs to have to be successful at the NFL level, and see where Tavon stacks up.

1. Route Running B+ - After watching some film, Tavon is a solid route runner. However, I noticed several times where he would turn his head in the direction he was eventually going, throughout the entire route. I think his natural ability to cut at full speed sort of masked this flaw. However, that said, this is easily correctable, and I imagine this will be one of the first things Rams coaching staff will address. Other than that, he is solid and it is scary to think where he will be when he makes this key change.

2. Speed A+ - This is one of Tavon's strongest abilities. At the combine he ran a 4.34 40. The scary part is that watching film, he has a second gear... which is extremely scary. Not only is he fast, but he has an uncanny knack of using it properly by not outrunning blocks, and kicking it up at the right time. Couple that with being able to change direction and cut at full speed and you have the makings of a defense's worst nightmare in the open field.

3. Vision A+ - This is a no-brainer here. Tavon (I feel) has the best vision of any WR taken in the NFL draft. Many times I've seen him set up defenders at the second and third level well in advance of making it through the first level. I hate comparing a WR to a RB but Barry Sanders use to do this as well and also Steven Jackson. This just furthers the nightmare for defenses.

4. Decision Making B- - This could be his his weakest ability. Many times I saw him trying to make something out of nothing. There is nothing wrong with that, however if he makes this a habit in the NFL he's going to lose a lot of yards. There will be times he is going to need to get down, or step out of bounds at the NFL level. This could also open up turnovers, and injuries. While he shouldn't "duck" out of every single play, he needs to use better judgment. But he will learn this quickly.

5. Hands B+ - Tavon has small hands, and will drop passes from time to time. However, looking at the film, many of the passes were dropped because he was looking up field before he caught the ball. This is also very correctible. I honestly don't see this being a huge issue for Tavon at the NFL level.

6. Size B - Tavon checks in at 5' 9" and 174 lbs. Very small for a WR. This was the biggest flaw seen by most NFL scouts. Personally I think he will be fine, particularly as a slot receiver.

7. Staying Healthy A+ - We all know what one big hit can do to a WR, not to mention one with a smaller frame like Tavon. But hold on. After watching the tape, Tavon has an uncanny knack of avoiding a big hit. He seems to know when enough is enough and step out of bouds, or make players hit him at an angle. While I rated him a B- in decision making above, that was just for making plays. His decision making on avoiding hits is nothing less than outstanding. This reminds me of the GSOT days where Torry Hold and Isaac Bruce had a saying, "Live to play another down." Tavon never missed as much as a practice in college. Never a dent in the fender.

8. Versatility A+ - Tavon can return kicks, and also line up in the backfield. He could also be used as a decoy. Very similar to Marshall Faulk.

Conclusion? Tavon is going to be something special in the NFL. You can clearly see it. It's scary that I mentioned Barry Sanders, Steven Jackson, Tory Holt, Isaac Bruce and Marshall Faulk as comparisons in this article.

I think we will see him develop as the season progresses. Don't be surprised if you see him losing 5-10 yards on a play here and there as he tries to make something out of nothing like he did in college. He will learn.

What are your thoughts on Tavon? Is there anything else you might add?

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