You can find the past breakdowns of other wide receivers here:
Teams interested in a pure weapon for their offense may be looking no further than Tavon Austin. The electrifying wide receiver, running back, and return man did it all for West Virginia this year. Even with his excellent numbers, he often gets overlooked due to his diminutive size. Is this fair or do his numbers indicate that he deserves more consideration as a high draft pick this year? Is he better than Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb, both former do-it-alls in college. It’s unclear to me, but I do know it’s easy to become enamored with Austin’s quickness when watching his tape. Taking away the awe-some nature of Tavon’s play, how do his numbers stack up? Let’s find out.
Adjusting Austin’s Numbers
Everything herein is based on the idea that I adjusted Tavon’s reception and rushing numbers. If you haven’t watched much West Virginia tape or just need a refresher, the offense incorporates a “screen sweep” play. This play involves Smith taking the snap and essentially bats it forward as a receiver crosses in front of him from pre-snap motion. This technically counts as a “screen” and thus a reception, but requires no skill from either the wide receiver or quarterback. Thus, I have adjusted those receptions into rushing plays. Here are the results:
- We can see that Austin ran 28 sweep screens throughout the year. These on average went for 5.8 yards, a respectable average for a rushing play.
- While Austin’s adjusted total receptions and yardage go down, his average catch increases to 13.11 yards from 11.3 yards. The average for this wide receiver class is 14.56 yards, so he’s still below average, but closer than he was before.
- On the whole, this doesn’t decrease his average rush by much, it drops it by .88 yards. Austin’s overall rushing average for the season goes from 8.93 to 8.05.
- Interestingly, with these adjustments, Tavon has more rushes than receptions. The ratio is 100 rushes to 86 receptions. While this doesn’t make Austin a running back, does he still count as a full fledged wide receiver when he ran more than he received the ball?
Where Did He Catch the Ball?
- Of course Austin caught a high number of screens. Even after adjusting for those sweep screens, approximately 34% of his receptions were screens. This is higher than any wide receiver in this class.
- Including screens, 78% of his receptions were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. This seems high but is actually lower than Keenan Allen’s 86% within the same zones.
- Although low, Austin’s 7% of receptions past 20 yards isn’t the lowest in the class. Keenan Allen only caught 3.33% of his passes past 20 yards and Cordarrelle Patterson only caught 4% past 20 yards.
Where Did His Yardage Come From?
Here, I’ve summarized the yardage gained after catching the ball in a certain zone. Thus, when Austin caught the ball in the 1-5 yard zone, on average he caught it 3.15 yards from the line of scrimmage. After that, on average, he had 13 yards after the catch. I have only included the total yardage for screens because I don’t think a receiver should be rewarded for reaching the line of scrimmage.
- While not on this chart, Austin averaged 7.3 yards after the catch in all zones. The receiver with the next highest yards after the catch is Stedman Bailey, Austin’s former teammate. That’s an incredibly high number.
- Austin did not catch an above-average amount of passes in the 1-5 yard zone, but he averaged an insane 13 yards after the catch. Is this because when catching these short passes he was matched against college linebackers who couldn’t keep up with him?
- My concern is that Austin had below average YAC in other zones. Average YAC for this class is 5.24, so why wasn’t he able to achieve that in other zones? I worry that faster linebackers and safeties in the NFL will be able to take away his advantage on short passes and limit him in other zones.
- His yardage gained on screens is unusually low. On average, WRs in this class gained 5.8 yards per screen. Austin, despite his unquestioned shiftiness was only able to manage 3.84 yards on screens. This was bad enough for 3rd worst in this class ahead of Justin Hunter and DeAndre Hopkins. Is this due to the fact that defenses were expecting screens from him and thus sitting on them? Something to consider.
Austin’s numbers are interesting. On one hand his yardage after the catch is well above the other wide receivers, as you’d expect. On the other hand, his yardage after the catch is below average in multiple zones on the field. Is he a one trick pony that can only catch 3 yard deep crosses? Can he continue to pull that off in the NFL? Do his lack of deep catches concern you? Those are the questions you have to answer after looking at these statistics.
For what it’s worth, I’m more curious than ever to see what his combine numbers look like. You can be sure I’ll be revisiting some of these statistics to see if they match the results of his combine workouts. Austin is an interesting prospect, you get to decide whether he’s 1st round material or not.
Scroll down the page for a few more statistics that I couldn’t shoehorn into the rest of the post.
Drop Rate: 4.2%
YPC Chart (Just a numbers version of the bar chart above):