Mel Kiper Is Gaga Over Tavon Austin


Maybe it's because Mel Kiper is a Maryland guy, so he's seen Tavon Austin in high school and heard all the local buzz.

Or maybe it's just that Kiper has flipped on the tape like the rest of the pundits.

Either way, the ESPN draftnik is gaga over the West Virginia wide receiver and Dunbar High School product.

"He's a phenomenal player," Kiper said. "I saw him in high school here at Dunbar in Baltimore, and he was outstanding. He was a man among boys. He's just tremendously electrifying, great quickness. I think Tavon is going to have a heck of a career."

Kiper went on.

"He is a touchdown maker, he is a scoreboard changer," he said. "You can get him the ball in terms of a running game, you can get him the ball on reverses, the wide receiver screens to get him in space, the return game. He's dynamic."

In his senior season, Austin caught 112 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran 72 times for 643 yards and three scores. He put up 572 all-purpose yards in one game against Oklahoma, giving birth to one of the most impressive highlight tapes on the internet.

Austin has backed up the hype since. He impressed at the combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.34 seconds, justifying the speed shown on tape.

The question is how high a draft pick a team would use on a 5-foot-8, 174-pound prospect. Some of the best slot wideouts in the game, smaller players like Austin, went undrafted: Denver's Wes Welker, New England's Danny Amendola and Miami's Davone Bess.

But Kiper says he thinks times are changing and Austin will be a different story.

"In the era we're in in the NFL, his skill set transitions and translates tremendously well," Kiper said. "Now, 20 years ago it might have been a different ballgame. … He's a guaranteed first round draft choice and probably no later than pick 16."

Kiper has the St. Louis Rams, who lost Amendola to the Patriots, taking Austin at pick No. 16 in the first round. If he's correct in his assessment of how much teams value the speedster, the Ravens would have to trade up from pick No. 32 if they wanted the local product. Austin was part of a local pro day workout conducted at the Under Armour Performance Center Thursday, in which Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh were in attendance.

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