In advance of attending the NFL Combine in Indianapolis later this month, ESPNBoston.com has identified 10 prospects it wants to learn more about. Along those lines, Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. is helping provide background and insight from his time studying tape and attending all-star games such as the Senior Bowl.
Player: Tavon Austin
Position: Wide receiver
Height/weight: 5-foot-8 3/8; 173 pounds
School: West Virginia
Why he's on the radar: The Patriots need more speed at receiver and also could benefit from an infusion of youth. Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, top slot receivers on the depth chart, are scheduled for free agency.
Projection: Early rounds
Muench's take: "Austin is a dynamic playmaker who can make an impact as a slot receiver, working out of the backfield and in the return game. He’s a sudden route runner who has the quickness to separate from underneath coverage regardless and he is dangerous when he gets the ball in space. He can shake defenders with his wiggle and he has the second gear to run away from pursuit when he gets a seam. He doesn’t have ideal size for a vertical threat but he can still stretch the field because teams have to respect his deep speed. His ability to line up in the backfield can cause matchup issues for defenses who will be at a significant disadvantage if they try to match up with a linebacker. While he’s not big or strong enough to regularly carry the ball 21 times like he did against Oklahoma this year, he has the vision and burst to make a defense pay if it doesn’t respect the run when he lines up in the backfield. Austin, of course, has his flaws including just average ball skills. The bigger issue, however, is his frame. He’s listed at almost the same height, and is 12 pounds lighter, than Wes Welker. That lack of bulk raises concerns about his ability to take the kind pounding he’s going to take over the middle and stay in the lineup even though he never missed a game at West Virginia."