- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the fifth in a series highlighting players who could be selected by the Jets with the ninth overall pick in the April 25 draft:
Player: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Height/Weight: 5-foot-8 1/2, 174 pounds
Scouts, Inc. ranking: 17
Draft projection: Ninth to 16th
Scouting report: Most draft experts would say ninth is too high for Austin, but how could the Jets, with an offense as explosive as a wet firecracker, dismiss the top playmaker in the draft? He'd probably be a better fit at 13 (if they acquire the Bucs' first-round pick for Darrelle Revis), but if you have a conviction on a player, why quibble over a few spots? Austin is electric, with rare separation skills and lightning quickness. He ran a 4.34 40 at the combine. He has tremendous acceleration and change-of-direction skills, able to cut without downshifting. He can also play running back and return punts. If used correctly, a la Percy Harvin, he'd be a matchup nightmare for opponents. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had a similar player in Philadelphia -- DeSean Jackson. Austin is smaller than Jackson, but faster and tougher. He'd be the playmaker the Jets so desperately need.
Key stats: Austin caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 TDs last season. His signature performance came against Oklahoma. Playing running back, he rushed for 344 yards on 21 carries -- a 16.4-yard average, or roughly a quarter's worth of work for Shonn Greene. He had 572 all-purpose yards, the second-most in FBS history.
Red flags: It's his size, of course. Some teams won't be able to get past that. In the last 10 drafts, only one player listed below 5-foot-10 has gone in the top 10 -- RB Trent Richardson (5-foot-9), third overall last year to the Browns. Austin's size means he probably will be limited to the slot. Durability will be a concern, but he never missed a game in four college seasons.
In his own words: "Wes Welker, that’s [the] no. 1 guy [among slot receivers]. I watch a lot of tape of him. I think I’m a little quicker and faster than him, so I figure if he can do it, I can do it, too."