Home > Draft, NFL > Tavon Austin: best skill player, second best WVU receiver in the 2013 Draft

Tavon Austin: best skill player, second best WVU receiver in the 2013 Draft

I have a solid first round grade on three members of the West Virginia offense, as designed by Dana Holgorsen.  The top rated quarterback on most boards is Geno Smith, who justifies such a high grade with both the stats and the tape.  Then there’s do-it-all senior Tavon Austin, who may not prove that ‘speed kills’ in the literal sense, but that it certainly shortens the lives of defensive coordinators.  And the third, least hearlded member of the trio of top rated Mountaineers might have just been the best receiver in the country last year: Stedman Bailey.

Bailey doesn’t quite measure in at six feet, but he’s also not slender in build like Austin is, and is a major tackle breaking threat for two reasons: lateral explosion and lower body strength.  He’s a very good route runner who won’t run away from corners, but makes up for it by going up in traffic and contesting balls.  And in 2013, not one player in college football or pro football (and very possibly high school football) caught more touchdowns last year than Stedman Bailey.  Where as Austin’s numbers took a (slight) hit moving from the Big East to the Big 12, Bailey’s numbers actually got much stronger.

Stedman Bailey’s main position in the WVU offense was the isolated “X” receiver, a position he’s likely to play in the NFL.  Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith is an excellent player comparison for Bailey in terms of size and style.  Although Bailey isn’t quite Smith in top end speed, he has the rare ability to separate from skilled corners in one on one situations.

Bailey needs to work on his hands as well as his ability to find the ball coming out of his break, but the WVU offense gives players a ton of experience making NFL-style route adjustments, and despite his relative inexperience, he comes to the pros ready to contribute from day one.

A big topic of conversation about Bailey’s draft prospects will center around how much help he received from Smith, Austin, and Holgorsen in order to score 25 touchdowns.  The realistic answer here is: “a lot,” and “does it really matter?”  Holgorsen’s offense is definitely fun to watch and is supposed to be player friendly, but the ‘X’ receiver spot is perhaps the most demanding position in it, and Stedman Bailey remained the offenses’ go-to receiver and big play threat throughout the year, in spite of the fact that Tavon Austin could have handled that role.

And sure, he definitely benefited from Smith’s accuracy and Holgorsen’s confidence in his abilities, there is no denying that.  But he also consistently drew the toughest coverage assignments, and still produced.

Stedman Bailey is a top 25 player in the upcoming draft, and although he likely will not get drafted before either Austin or Smith, he could end up having the most prolific pro career of the three.  His impact will be seen from day one.  He is my fourth rated receiver in this draft (including Austin, not a true receiver, but listed as one), and my thirteenth ranked offensive player at the moment.  He is likely to rise from here.

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