Lions general manager Martin Mayhew loves wide receivers, and if he’s looking for one early in the draft, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin will likely be a top target.
Austin is far more than a receiver, though.
During his senior season with the Mountaineers, Austin had 72 carries for 643 yards and three touchdowns, with the majority coming in a 21-carry, 344-yard performance against Oklahoma. He also had 15 punt returns for 165 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown, and 33 kickoff returns for 813 yards, including a 100-yard touchdown.
That’s all in addition to 114 receptions for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“I think I’m the all-around best player in the draft,” Austin said Friday at the combine. That may sound cocky, but he was asked directly if he thought he was the top all-around player.
Austin is projected as a late first-round pick, but if he slips into the second round, the Lions would be wise to consider him. Depending on how he performs at the combine, though, Austin could move up to the middle of the first round.
He said his top 40 time was a 4.29 during his training for Tom Shaw, and he hopes to run something sub-4.3 Sunday.
Austin measured in at 5-foot-8, 174 pounds, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he lacks strength. He said he’s done 15 reps at 225 pounds and hopes to match that this weekend, and as far as durability, Austin hasn’t missed a game in eight years.
The Lions are in the market for a speed back to replace Jahvid Best, and Austin could provide a necessary change of pace. He played running back in high school in Baltimore.
“I can’t say I’m going to line up (at running back) every play, but hopefully I get in there on third down and get a screen play or a couple plays up the middle and I think I can get it done,” he said.
The Lions will also need a return man after they presumably don’t re-sign Stefan Logan.
“I really take pride in doing punt return and kick return,” he said.
Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles are both returning from surgery, and Mike Thomas is the only other receiver under contract with significant NFL experience, meaning the Lions likely need another receiver. Why not take the one who models his game after Wes Welker?
“A lot of teams are looking for the type of player that can do multiple things on the field, and I think I’m that guy,” Austin said.
Most Lions fans would despise the team drafting a wide receiver in the first two rounds for the third straight season, but before anyone freaks out, take a look at his game against Oklahoma in which he had 572 all-purpose yards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxzPryPMB74&feature=player_embedded