New York Jets Draft – The Case For Tavon Austin

The case for the New York jets drafting West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin

One of the most intriguing options for the New York Jets in the upcoming NFL Draft is West Virginia  wide receiver Tavon Austin. Surprisingly there seems to be many Jets fans hesitant about using the 9th or 13th pick on him, despite him providing strong value at either location. Among the complaints I consistently hear about Austin are his lack of size, durability issues, a lack of need for him because of Jeremy Kerley being the team’s slot receiver and him not having the capability to be a lead playmaker on offense. These excuses to avoid Austin are misguided. The Jets offense is in desperate need for a player like Austin, who is a truly a “wow” player, something the Jets have lacked seemingly forever.

First off, let’s begin by addressing Austin’s durability and size. Austin is 5-8, 175 pounds and yet did not miss a single game in 4 years at West Virginia despite an enormous amount of touches between offense and special teams. Over the course of 4 years, he racked up a total of 543 touches. That is 543 opportunities to be tackled and injured…Austin never missed a snap. Consider his senior year when he had 21 carries and 4 receptions against Oklahoma (for a total of 426 yards) and then 6 days later turned around and had 14 carries and 6 receptions against Iowa State for 173 total yards, along with a 42 yard punt return and a 29 yard kick return.

Austin has ELITE short area quickness and burst, coupled with a unique ability to forced missed tackles. In a 4 game tracking of his 2012 season, he forced 59 missed tackles (AKA two career’s worth for Shonn Greene), while also avoiding a single drop in 29 targets. Austin doesn’t take big hits because of his shiftiness and lack of size. He did most of his receiving work up the seams and over the middle, yet was never taken out by a safety or linebacker. Contrast that with Stephen Hill, a BIG target who spends the entire game outside the numbers but managed to not stay healthy throughout his rookie year.

Both Wes Welker and Victor Cruz are no more than 10 pounds than Austin, both have had immense success in recent years working out of the slot, while managing to stay on the field. Injuries can happen at any time at any place on the football field (look at Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes last year), assuming somebody will get hurt because of their weight when they have no history of injuries is an unfair assertion.

Austin is going to provide more versatility to an offense than a “slot” receiver which is why it is foolish to say the Jets don’t need him because they have Jeremy Kerley. People get too locked into believing in specific positions for wide receivers. We already covered in-depth why Kerley is more than a slot receiver and Austin certainly has the skill set to be more than that. You can play Kerley, Austin and Santonio Holmes at the same time. They can bounce between split end, slot, flanker and in Austin’s case, running back. There are different packages and situations that always move receivers around the formation. You collect play-makers at the position and figure out where to line them up later. This is a good problem to have. A tall target who lacks quickness (Stephen Hill) is more locked into being a split end, playing outside the numbers than a short, shifty receiver is locked into playing anywhere on offense.

You know what a shaky quarterback situation needs? It needs a player who can take a 3 yard slant route or swing route for a 70 yard touchdown. You know what an offense that will struggle to move the ball and score points needs? A player who can convert a 3rd and 2, on a sweep at the running back position, on a quick out from the slot, a quick in-cut screen from the split end position or a bubble screen from the flanker spot.

The Jets need a game-changer on offense. Austin is a movable chess piece who must always be accounted for by opposing defenses. He is a threat to score anytime he touches the football on both offense and special teams, where he would also solve the Jets ongoing punt return problem. Is he going to have 1,750 yard receiving seasons like Calvin Johnson? Of course not. Can he be Randall Cobb 2.0 or a similar player to Percy Harvin who changes the dynamic of a stagnant’s team’s offense? Absolutely.

Football can be a simple sport at times. The Jets need players who can score touchdowns and create points. There is nobody better equipped in this upcoming draft to do that than Tavon Austin.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports

  • blastingzone

    I was on a web sight last night and commented
    that Austin is the most explosive player in the draft and the jets should take him with
    9th or 13th pick? Well I was blasted for even
    suggesting that the jets pick him in the first round and I defended myself with many
    Ideas but the one I like the most is some team will pick him between the 9th(in case
    we do) and the 20th pick and the jets and us
    will regret not picking him for years to come! Austin is going to be amazing!

  • Harold

    I agree 100% on Tavon Austin. I am tired of this ridiculous notion he will be hurt just becuase he is small. The last really small player to be drafted #13 Eic Metcalf. I would sign up for that in today’s less physical NFL. Thank you for the insightful argument

  • KAsh

    When I saw your earlier tweet, I knew this was coming. So I went to YouTube and looked up Austin’s games.

    The biggest question marks of the WVU season were Kansas State, Texas Tech, and the bowl game vs Syracuse(2012). I could not find his tape from the last one. The other two featured the positives of him as a kick returner.

    What I like about him: he is a crossover from a different sport. He actually uses his lack of height, which translates to shorter limbs, to have more contact with the ground while running. This is a unique advantage of short soccer players. Soccer greats like Maradona have sometimes between counterintuitively short, stocky people because of their great contact with the ground. Austin’s shortness and short, quick steps allow him easier change of direction. To those who are not expecting it, he can instantly get beyond their range. It also allows him to quickly and easily change speeds, as it is easier to increase or decrease the rate of shorter legs.

    I watched all the tapes. His good and his bad. What they show is a player who knows his inabilities (and a team that knows them, too.)

    Austin avoids big hits by running to the sideline. When most running backs or receivers would try to gain the yards, Austin makes a bet that he can outrun the defenders to the outside and then break a run up. The sideline is also his escape hatch, as defenders stop chasing him once he is out of bounds. He always cuts to where there are no defenders and hesitates if there are any defenders in the immediate direction to which he is cutting. So, he will cut inside and upfield, but only as a) his man already beat him outside AND b) no one is in the ten yards behind his man. Otherwise, he darts to the sideline. This was used against him by Texas Tech, which calmly escorted him out of bounds for three yard gains. Again, this is all to reduce the amount of hits he takes. But the ability of NFL corners to set the edge and LBs and safeties to step in will seal off the sideline and wrap him up at the line of scrimmage.

    Scheme-wise, pressure was taken off Austin. A lot of his catches came from five-receiver, empty backfield sets. Geno Smith rarely threw balls his way that he would have to contest. Even on three-receiver sets, Austin demonstrates an ability to get open through the cuts and slants that he runs. However, he relies on sloppy defense and sloppy tackling. Kansas State always had someone within five yards of him and wrapped him up at first opportunity; I am pretty sure his YAC was close to zero that game. Kansas State also was good at stopping his initial kick return (he got about 10 yds; again Austin always looks for a hole and never runs at somebody) but then allowed a kick return for a TD.

    In conclusion, Austin is a finishing piece. He is not something DCs would have to plan around because the effective strategies against him are what most good defenses do anyway. Austin knows his own limitations: he does everything to reduce injury, but this is a limitation for him at the next level. As long as the primary corner is not too aggresive in trying to tackle Austin for a loss, Austin will step out of bounds after a two yard gain himself. He needs others to make himself better; I do not know if he can make others better by himself.

  • Lidman

    Define ‘short area quickness’ and compare it to both other WR and defenders in the draft. Are you talking 10yd split? Look at Ansah, Jordan, Mingo, Floyd, Loutelei and S Richardson..all these guys have 10yd dash in the 1.52-1.7…I haven’t even gone to the DBs. Guys are faster in the NFL.

    I’m not suggesting the guy will be Donnie Avery (who, was him back in 2008) or Titus Young. Citing Stephen Hill serves your purpose, but it doesn’t give the reader the correct context: he had a hamstring (not contact) and knee injury(not touched by anyone, he came down awkwardly). Let me ask you, what do these guys have in common:
    Calvin Johnson
    Andre Johnson
    Brandon Marshall
    Demaryius Thomas
    Vincent Jackson
    Dez Bryant
    Reggie Wayne
    Wes Welker
    Roddy White
    Julio Jones
    Steve Smith

    Well, they are the top 12 WR, by yardage last year. So, we can assume they were durable. Now both Smith and Welker are listed at 5’9″/185. Everyone else is 6’2″/205 minimum. It’s a big man’s league guy (by the way, NYG list Cruz at 6’0″/204 and we can argue that, but he’s not 5’8″/174).

    Again, not saying this guy won’t be capable of big plays in the NFL. I am saying, history tells me picking a small WR is a tough proposition to begin with. Picking him at 9 just isn’t smart-even if it works out. You can’t miss on 1st rounders and be successful, you just can’t. If you could get him in round 3, I’d see your point. I can’t take that big of a risk, and neither should Idzik.

  • Lidman

    Kash..I see you like my ‘finishing piece’ description.

  • blastingzone

    Kash there are other people who think like me
    don’t care about size and stats only his attitude and heart! I watched every video
    I could of Austin and I trust my eyes and
    not stats alone andI don’t care what you say
    Austin is going to be one hell of a player!
    Did you read the article on this blog about
    Austin? There is another blog today that says
    several teams have said if Austin is there
    when they pick they will pick him and one of
    the teams is in the top ten!! Alot of people
    agree with me and think Austin is a great talent so only time will tell!!

  • Lidman

    Blastingzone, the argument isn’t whether he’ll be great, good or a bust. It’s whether this team, the NYJ, can afford to take a risk on an outliar. Can we agree Austin is an outliar? Meaning, if he achieves the greatness you, and basially everyone at TOJ, believe he will, it will be the exception and not the rule..can we agree there?

    If you do, all I ask is: Is this the player you take with a first round pick, when you have a number of needs. If you blow a number one pick, it kills you. If Vernon Gholston was a great pass rusher, Ben Rothlisberger doesn’t make that 1st down, in the 2011 AFC title game. If Sanchez became what they thought, he would have been able to carry the team. You get the picture, right?

    So, if you think it’s a good idea to draft an outliar, when history shows they usually, don’t work out, I wish you luck.

  • mike

    that oklahoma game was nutz.

  • mike

    ps lidman, you mean “outlier” not “outliar”, which, were it a word, would have an entirely different meaning.
    and no, tavon austin is not an outlier, he’s one of the very best playmakers in the draft. he can contribute to every phase of the offense, he has great endurance, and he makes people miss. if he stays healthy, which is an if for any prospect at any position, he will be a valuable part of whatever team takes the “risk”.

  • KAsh

    @Lidman: I never thought about liking or not liking that “finishing piece” argument – I guess I do – but I agree with it.

    I can see a team like the Niners or the Patriots shooting for Austin. On that side of the ball, they have everything. Their OC must have rolled an eleven-sided die to come up with his list of needs by position.

    It is like when you are rich and you have everything in the world, you turn to novelty items: your $5000 Gucci bags, $2000 leather jackets, and $100,000 modern art that was made in five minutes with inputs totalling $19.95. None of this stuff is a need, just a really big want.

    @blastingzone: Top 10? Come on, Bills! BILLS! BILLS! BILLS!

    Take those rumors with a grain of salt. Players are assets, and you do not ask your asset what it thinks about what you want to do with it. (That is also why I think Revis is wrong to expect the team to be upfront with him: while we have you, you’re a Jet; when we don’t want you, you can jet to another team.)These rumors are started by the player and his people to drum up interest, and by other teams aiming to psyche out other teams to trade up for him. I will be amazed if he gets picked in the top 10 by a team that did not trade to get him.

    But your real argument is about Austin’s heart. I can tell you from personal experience that heart takes you only so far. You already see Austin (smartly) not charging through people to get additional yards and running out of bounds to not get hit.

    I boxed in college. I had guys hit me in the face and just hit them right back. I had guys pound me and just waited it out. While studying abroad in Germany, I joined their university boxing club, which was much bigger (50-60 members) and they generally were much less hesitant about letting their students beat on each other. They had various levels of experience: some of them I held my own against, some of them were downright better, and some of them could not even hurt me. (By the way, I am 5-foot-10 and weighed about 220 lbs at the time, short for my weight class).

    My hardest fight was not against the best boxer. The guy was roughly four inches taller and had about 30-40 lbs. on me. Because I am short, I know how to enter and exit, how to duck, and how to slip punches. Nothing worked because he would just stretch his hands out and toss me between his fists like a cat does with a bouncy reed. My guard was up, but he just tossed me with each blow. I could only go two two-minute rounds with him and then had to sit down because I was woozy. And this was my first spar of the day.

    Heart only takes you so far.

  • KAsh

    The most accurate description I found of Austin is an “all-or-nothing” player.

    As a running back, a returner, or a receiver, he either is caught right where he got the ball or he breaks for a run. In that Oklahoma game, where he had a 16 YPC average, he either broke long runs or got caught at the LoS. In the NFL, the former is bound to decrease while the latter increases.

  • Lidman

    Apologies for the spelling snafu. As I said, he may well be a good, or great player. That isn’t the question. The process is, at best, an inexact science. So, unless you can tell me you’re batting 1.000, on your projections of players, I will stick to the overwhelming odds that favor not taking this risk, when I don’t have any ‘wind at my back’. Like I said, if you’re SF and you have 13 picks, and are in a position where you need to win now, before you have to make some critical ‘cap decisions’, then I can understand assuming this risk. But, when you’re the NYJ and you need at least 2 OL, 2LB, 2-3DB and help at WR and DL (I didn’t even mention QB), I don’t think you can afford to take that risk. If Austin isn’t the outlier (thanks, again), you continue to hold yourself back.

  • blastingzone

    I like the way you think Mike!As far as Kash and Lidman goes I want to commend you both
    for being civil! I have seen people call
    people stupid etc on different blogs for not
    agreeing with them and thats not right! Every
    one is different and allowed to express their
    thoughts without being cursed and harassed!!
    I have been a jet fan since 1967 and love the jets as much as anybody else does and
    I have suffered through the good and the bad times just like you have(maybe more?) but the main thing to remember is we are all jet fans and have the same goal to get rid of Woody Johnson and see the jets win a super bowl!!

  • Lidman

    Hey, if the NYJ draft Austin, I’ll be rooting for him big time. I just don’t think picking him that high is the right strategy.

    But, I’m a bit passionate about picking Jarvis Jones over the Mingo’s and Jordan’s of the world too. So, I like production over potential. I guess that should make me an Austin fan. I like him in round 3, not 1.

  • G

    As a WVU alumni and a Jets fan I absolutely love Austin. He is a game breaker with unparalleled lateral speed. I have never seen someone stop and go/change direction as quickly as he does. On the right team he will be a very effective weapon but I have to agree with Lidman here – the Jets have too many other needs right now and cannot take a gamble like this would be. OLB, OG, TE are true pressing needs.

    Idzik is a smart guy and he knows this so I don’t think there’s a chance in hell of him picking Austin anyway. I bet they trade back with the 13th pick…

  • blastingzone

    Lidman I hope I don’t shock you but I want the jets to draft Jones too(great minds think a like) I don’t like mingo because I
    hate it when they take a DE and try to switch
    him to linebacker, like a project named
    Gholston!! The jets tryed the same thing with
    him, well you know the rest of the story?
    I like Jordan too but he won’t be there 9th!
    I have watched a lot of video of Jones and
    one word comes to my mind, ANIMAL!!

  • Lidman

    Plus Jordan didn’t produce like Jones, in a weaker conference either:

    If they drafted on Jan 15, Jones is likely 1st LB taken. Why? Because his film says he should. So, now they run some sprints and that changes? Makes no sense, to me.

  • KAsh

    Since we have come to this, I disagree about J. Jones. I think that he is kind of like Austin: a productive college player that will not transition well into the league. I will admit that each pass rusher in this draft comes with his own set of problems, but I think both Austin and Jones used their strengths and hid their weaknesses really well at the college level. Both have durability issues. Both have avoided physicality in their games. To me, Jones’s spinal stenosis seems to have influenced his play style, which will both be difficult and dangerous to correct.

  • John C

    I like Jones also – His stats blow away any other possibility, and it’s not like he played in Div 3 = Georgia is in the SEC right? He has almost as many tackles behind the line, as Mingo had tackles! If they think he’ll be there at 13, I’d take a lineman at 9, and Jones at 13. If they’re concerned he wouldn’t be there at 13, I’d flip the order. Please – No more “conversion” guys like Gholston

  • Nikolas

    Austin is a real weapon. I hope he is available at #9

  • joeydefiant

    victor cruz is 6’0″ and 204 lbs.
    tavon austin is 5’8 and 174 lbs.

    how is that 10 lbs???

    tavon austin = sinorice moss. the jets will probably draft him and waste a pick on a guy that will score 4 tds and gain 800 yards in a failed nfl career. end up as a over hyped punt/kickoff returner that we already have in joe mcknight.

  • joeydefiant

    star loutelelei is the man to pick if available. size, strength, stats, and heart. you can’t go wrong.

  • Dont be surprised if Chip Kelly takes Austin at 4. Jets need to be aggressive and grab this kid. Wont be there at 13 that is for sure. If the Fins get this kid at 12 it is all over.. They win the division hands down…If I were the Jets Id go Austin then Jonathan Cooper at 13….Best defense is a good offense. Jets have worst offense in football. No defense can stay on the field all day and do well..

  • Jets please do not listen to people who have never played the game and think they know what they are talking about. Tavon Austin is the best player in the draft. Not just a fast guy but a player. There is a difference. Kid is a player and game changer. Not Johnny Lam Jones who was just fast – no offense Johnny !!. Austin is a player !!! Will win you 2 games a year just on special teams…Record for fastest time in history of combine !!!