We have held out long enough. It is finally time to discuss the possibility of Miami drafting the most explosive player in this year’s draft.
West Virginia’s Tavon Austin has become a fan favorite to land in South Beach next Thursday night with the 12th overall selection. Some fans covet Austin because they are the ball watching type that call for the Dolphins to draft a quarterback, running back, or receiver in the first round every April.
But there is also a crowd of respected and knowledgeable football fans that want Austin in a Dolphins uniform. Fans that realize the possible ramifications of passing up on a talent with the upside Austin brings to the table, even though receiver is far from a need after the additions of Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson.
But should the Dolphins forgo addressing a more pressing need when possessing a playmaker like Austin would be more of a luxury than a necessity? Let’s take a look.
Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Weight: 174 pounds
40: 4.34 sec.
Vert: 32.0 inch.
Bench: 14 reps
Strengths: World class acceleration. A home-run threat every time ball is in his hands. Has a rare combination of great speed and quickness. Adjusts well to the ball in air. Shown ability to make difficult grabs. Plays tougher than his size would indicate. Projects as a dangerous return man.
Weaknesses: Very small prospect. May not be able to hold up at the next level. Mostly limited to the slot. Doesn’t project as a boundary starter at the NFL level. Small hands. Let’s passes get into his chest.
Why draft Austin?
If Tavon Austin is as good as advertised the Dolphins will have the decision to draft him with their first-round pick or watch him tear up the league with another franchise for the next 5-10 years.
Yes, the Dolphins have major question marks that need answers, particularly at tackle and corner. But you can find quality starters along the offensive line and in the secondary in the middle rounds of the draft. You’re not going to find a game-changer like Tavon Austin outside of the first round.
And you have to remember, you’re not only drafting for the 2013 Dolphins and the team’s current needs. You’re drafting for the future as well. Throw needs out the window. Who knows what positions this team will need in 2014, 2015, and beyond.
Select a guy like Austin who is as talented of a playmaker as they come. There is always room on a roster for a playmaker of Austin’s caliber.
Besides, the Dolphins could be looking to upgrade at slot receiver this season. Davone Bess is in the final year of his contract and Miami can dump $2.7 million of cap space by cutting him loose. Austin not only has the ability to rack up receptions from the slot like Bess, but he can actually make something happen after the catch. Something Bess doesn’t bring to the table.
Austin could also fill in as a return man, giving the Dolphins the opportunity to produce instant offense from their special-teams unit. He is a player that has “special” written all over him. Pass him up and look back on this draft with regret for years.
Austin’s collegiate highlights are as impressive as they come. But let’s hold off on proclaiming him anywhere close to sure thing at the next level. At his size, Austin projects as an ideal slot. Meaning he may never become a starting NFL receiver.
If you take a receiver in the first round of the draft, he better be an every down player. And let’s be honest, who knows if Austin will be able to stay healthy taking hits from defenders that could have upwards of 100 pounds on him.
Austin’s size may be too much of a hurdle to overcome. Look around the league, how many 5-8, 170 pound guys do you see dominating on Sundays?
Austin reminds me a little of Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster. A serviceable player, yes. But McCluster hasn’t produced enough to justify the Chiefs taking him with the fourth pick of the second round back in 2010.
If Austin was a can’t miss prospect I’d say fine, forget about drafting for need and go get the best player available. But while he provides plenty of upside, there is also a huge risk associated with taking a player of his size in the first round. Don’t pass up the opportunity to add a young, promising tackle, a potential lock-down cornerback, or even a red-zone target for Tannehill in Tyler Eifert for a roll of the dice on Austin.
In a league where everyone is big and everyone is fast, Tavon Austin may just become another player. Not the explosive playmaker you see when you turn on his college film.
So, have at it! State your case for Jeff Ireland to select Tavon Austin. Or tell us why it’s a dumb idea.