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.
The TOJ Draft staff looks at what wide receivers the New York Jets could target in April’s draft
In continuation with our positional breakdowns of potential NFL Draft prospects for the New York Jets, we turn our attention to a position that, although is not a top need, wouldn’t hurt from the addition of a playmaker. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential wide receivers that could be selected by the Jets in April’s draft. These initial rankings are certainly subject to change as we progress through the entire pre-draft process, but as it stands now, these players are who we feel would be the best options for New York at wide receiver. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdowns of potential quarterback targets and potential running back targets, for the Jets.
Keenan Allen, California, 6’3″ 206 lbs –While it is highly unlikely that Allen will fall to the Jets in the 2nd round, crazier things have happened on draft day. If Allen were to slip down to the 39th overall pick, it would be extremely difficult for New York to pass up on him, despite having taken a wide receiver in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. While Stephen Hill hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential yet, the new front office in New York is in no way married to him as a piece of the puzzle moving forward. While there is no reason to give up hope on Hill yet, Allen is a tremendous talent that would hold excellent value as an early 2nd rounder.
Allen is a big body at 6’3″ and possesses above average top end speed, with very good ball skills and athletic ability. He has some of the strongest hands out of any player at his position in this year’s class and does a very good job of getting to the ball at its highest point.
Most importantly, however, is Allen’s character. He has been highly praised by coaches and teammates alike for his work ethic and overall coach-ability. He puts in an extensive amount of time studying film, as well as in the weight room. Everyone that has been close to him during his career at California seemingly cannot say enough about his drive and desire to better himself everyday. On an offense that is in dire need of attitude like Allen’s, combined with what can become elite playmaking ability, he would be an excellent selection at the 39th overall pick, despite the improbability that he falls that far. Still, a name to keep an eye on.
Robert Woods, USC, 6’1″ 190 lbs – Woods has flown a bit under the radar as of late, but his immense production as a Trojan should not be forgotten. Woods has adequate size, but the top end speed that can certainly stretch a defense and give his offense a real home run threat. Woods has sure hands and demonstrates a very quick initial burst off the line of scrimmage. He isn’t the most polished route runner, but he shows an ability to adjust his routes based on coverage and has knack for finding the holes in a zone, something that could allow him to thrive in an offense like Marty Mornhinweg’s. He is an extremely competitive player who will always fight for extra yards after the catch and, like Allen, puts in numerous hours in film study and in his physical training. Depending on how he performs at the combine, Woods could end up being a 2-3 round pick.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia, 5’8″ 173 lbs –While Austin certainly does not have the size of the previous two players, his speed and quickness are nearly unparalleled. He needs some fine tuning in his overall route running and ability to get off of press coverage, but Austin has the tools to be a weapon in a scheme like Mornhinweg’s. Picture him in a role similar to what DeSean Jackson had in Philadelphia under Mornhinweg, but a bit more versatile, as he has experience running the ball as well.
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State, 5’11” 182 lbs – Wheaton, like Austin, doesn’t have tremendous size, but is another receiver with big play ability. He does a good job of finding holes in zone coverage, and his excellent footwork and agility allow him to come in and out of his breaks with great fluidity, making curls, hitches, and comeback routes seemingly painless for him. Wheaton is also a very tough player, reportedly having played through some significant bumps and bruises at Oregon State. A fairly strong week of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl will likely help his stock.
Terrance Williams, Baylor, 6’2″ 201 lbs – The size and talent are certainly there for Williams, who can create excellent separation while maintaining an ability to properly adjust his routes when needed. The biggest question marks with Williams are his character. He has been cited for immaturity, and although has the ability to run good routes, can tend to get lazy at times. This will likely cause him to fall into the mid-late rounds, but if New York feels that his talent is good enough to take a chance on getting his mind and work ethic right, he could be worth a flyer in rounds 4-6.
The Jets can likely go into camp next year with a healthy and hopefully motivated Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jeremy Kerley and have a group that can be sufficient, while continuing to develop 2012 2nd round pick Stephen Hill. Behind the receivers aforementioned, Hill can play without pressure to perform and get better naturally instead of being forced into a role beyond his capacity. Other than these 4 receivers, the Jets should build WR depth with 1 or 2 late picks in the draft.
Late 1st – Early 2nd
4th – 5th
4th – 5th
5th – 6th
If DeAndre Hopkins (82 rec, 1405 yds, 18 TDs) is available in the 2nd round, the Jets should snag him and not look back. Hopkins and Sammy Watkins were supposed to lead Clemson’s receiving corps, but Hopkins ended up outshining Watkins for the majority of the season. As far as receiving goes, he runs great routes, has great hands, and is a burner. He has the ability to beat a defense with precise routes or the deep ball. With the Jets going to a West Coast offense, this will be slam dunk if they can snag him. Watching film on Hopkins, he flashes some talent that resembles that of Julio Jones. Watkins will be tough to get, but if he falls to the Jets, there is a good chance New York looks long and hard at him.
Kenny Stills (82 rec, 959 yds, 11 TDs) was always a very consistent receiver for Oklahoma and quarterback Landry Jones. He is a decent blocker and needs to work on attacking the ball in mid air. Stills has great hands and can develop into a good NFL receiver. He can get separation from defenders and has deceptive speed. He had a small issue with a DUI but it was an isolated incident so I don’t believe it should be considered a major issue. He has average size but can make a play after the catch and is superbly athletic and flexible, which is important for WRs.
Quinton Patton (104 rec, 1392 yds, 13 TDs) was electric in his senior year at Louisiana Tech. He went against Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks (possible 1st round pick) and after the game; Banks said he was the best WR he played against. Against Texas A&M, a team out of the SEC, he had 21 catches for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is a strong receiver who can get separation and is also good enough attacking coverage to separate and create with the ball in his hands. He is very good at tracking the ball in the air, has quick feet and good coordination. He won’t test extremely well at the combine and coming from a smaller school may hurt his stock, but he can take the next step and play at an NFL level. There is a chance he is taken within the first 4 rounds, but if he slips, he could hold great value in rounds 5-7.
Tavarres King (42 rec, 950 yds, 8 TDs) has consistently jumped off of his college film at Georgia. While his stats aren’t over the top, he has the skill set to be an NFL caliber receiver. From going up to pluck the ball out of the air to getting separation, he can seemingly do it all, he just needs to be more consistent. This would be a developmental pick, but would give the Jets decent depth at the position in 2013. He can beat defenders over the top with straight-line speed and shows good stop, start, go type elusiveness to make defenders miss. He is above average at getting off press coverage, which makes sense because he played in the physical SEC. He would be a good get in the 5th or 6th round to help out the current Jets receiving corp.
The Jets wide receiver group has a number of questions that need to be answered as they prepare for the 2013 season, highlighted by a new-look offense and the continued absence of a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
The biggest challenge the group of wide receivers face coming into the season will be transitioning into Marty Mornhigweg’s “West Coast Offense”, which hinges on precise route running, sure handedness, and the ability to gain yards after the catch. Santonio Holmes, who essentially assumed No. 1 receiver duties by default, should thrive in the system—assuming he’s able to return fully from Lisfranc surgery, and stay motivated. The Jets will likely need to make it work with Holmes considering questions surrounding his rehab and his bloated salary will certainly limit trade options.
With Holmes injured, Jeremy Kerley emerged at the position to lead the Jets with 56 receptions and 827 yards in 2012. Kerley will likely continue building on his success in the pass-happy WCO, able to line up both at the flanker and slot position. But fans will have to wait to see what recently hired GM John Idzik decides to do regarding Braylon Edwards, although it makes sense to bring him back on a one-year deal, especially considering Stephen Hill’s infinite number of issues as a rookie.
With little wiggle room in the salary cap, the most likely scenario for the Jets is to select a receiver in April.
Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech, 6’0”, 202 lbs: Currently slotted to go somewhere in rounds two or three, Patton could find his way into the Draft’s top 40 picks by the time April comes around—especially considering the attention that he’s garnered during the first few days of Senior Bowl practice.
While he may lack the ideal strength and top end speed of an elite NFL receiver, the Louisiana Tech senior is still quick off the line of scrimmage, a very good route runner, and has the ability to consistently gain separation from defenders with his shiftiness and head fakes.
Patton will likely need to add strength in the coming months, as he has shown a tendency to have the ball stripped out of his hands before he can secure the catch.
Conner Vernon, Duke, 6’1”, 200 lbs: Vernon is a very interesting Day 2 option that displays reliable hands, crisp route running, and the versatility to play multiple receiver positions in the NFL.
The ACC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards lacks ideal speed to thrive consistently on the outside in the NFL, but makes up for it with his precise route running and shiftiness in traffic, as well as his ability to find space in the defense.
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State, 6’1”, 183 lbs: Wheaton is another receiver likely to go early in Day 2. The Oregon State all-time leader in receptions boasts tremendous speed and solid route running, but his overall strength and the reliability of his hands are concerns.
Wheaton’s speed is clearly his biggest selling point and will certainly help him gain attention from NFL teams looking to stretch the field. But it’s his route running and ability to break tackles that help him turn short passes into long gains, making him a very interesting option for a team running a WCO.
Chris Harper, Kansas State, 6’1”, 228 lbs: Harper is a big-bodied receiver who possesses deceptive speed and is sure to get comparisons to Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin (6’1”, 220lbs) as April approaches.
While he lacks some quickness at the line of scrimmage, as well as the quick twitch some like to see in the NFL, it’s his deceptive buildup speed that allows him sneak behind defensive backs downfield.
Never afraid to go up and fight for the ball, the former Oregon quarterback also uses his size as an advantage, regularly punishing tacklers.
Brandon Kaufman, Eastern Washington, 6’4”, 214 lbs: Projected as a Day 3 selection, Kaufman boasts consistent and precise route running as well as reliable hands. While he lacks elite speed, he is deceptively fast considering his build, and has no problems lowering his shoulder into an oncoming defender.
His consistency on the field is what has most scouts impressed, despite playingagainst a lower level of competition at Eastern Washington. If still on the board in Round 6, he’s certainly an interesting option.