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The Vikings are about as needy at the receiver position as any team in the NFL. That is why, at least on the surface, it might seem odd that they are very rarely being linked to one of this Draft class’s most dynamic pass catchers Tavon Austin.
The biggest reasons Austin is being overlooked by Vikings observers is his small frame that is likely going to prevent him from ever being a true #1 wide out in the NFL. At 5′ 8″ and 174 pounds, Austin is built for the slot and flanker position, which the Vikings already have nailed down Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright.
Austin, along with quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Stedman Bailey, put on quite the show during his time at West Virginia. In 2012, his senior season, Austin had the best season of his career. He had 114 catches for 1,289 yards with 12 touchdowns, while also gaining 643 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
I am not big on using “player comparisons” as a way of evaluating rookie prospects, as it sometimes creates a false sense of expectation, but it is hard not to describe Austin’s skill set without pointing to Harvin’s production since entering the league. He is incredibly fast, agile, and quick. He turns on a dime and plays bigger than he is when contact is made, and seldom seems to miss an opportunity to make a play. Like Harvin, he is plenty capable of playing as a scat back and return man, with the versatility to move all around the field and keep defenses on their toes.
At the same time, Austin will be knocked for the same things Harvin was dinged on coming out of Florida (minus the character worries, though) such as his small size and durability concerns. Other than that, however, there is very little to worry about when evaluating him.
I will admit that the Vikings aren’t the most likely landing spot for Austin, even though #23 seems about right for him to come off the board, but the guy has such incredible talent that I would be surprised if there was an NFL team that has completely dismissed the idea of drafting him at some point. On one hand it might seem like there is no spot for him on the Vikings, but on the other hand it is hard to watch his tape and not find yourself assuming he would be a playmaker in any offense.
Where things could get really interesting is if the Vikings do end up swinging a pre-Draft trade that ships Harvin out of town, like some have speculated will happen, because drafting a guy like Austin would suddenly make a whole lot more sense. After all, he is an awful lot like Harvin, except without the headaches… or the migraines.