The Times West Virginian

Sports

April 6, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Kiper: Little doubt Tavon is taken high

MORGANTOWN — It is almost amazing how Tavon Austin has risen up the draft ladder, now seemingly for certain a first-round pick despite his diminutive size.

One of his biggest boosters, by the way, is the person who changed the entire “show biz” presentation of the draft, Mel Kiper Jr., who recently spoke glowingly about Austin during a national press conference.

“Well, he’s a phenomenal player,” Kiper said when asked his evaluation of him. “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. He doesn’t break tackles; he’s only 5-8½, 5-9, and yet try to get a handle on him to tackle him, so the first thing you have to do is corral him.

“He’s great kid, very businesslike in his approach, serious about his business. You know, you think about the slot receivers, guys like (Wes) Welker and (Danny) Amendola and Davone Bess, they all went undrafted. This kid is going to be drafted in the top 16. I think the furthest I could see him getting down to, well, the furthest I could see him is 23 to Minnesota; 16 to St. Louis is where I have him going.”

Kiper believes what makes Austin so valuable is his fit with the direction the NFL is taking.

“I think Tavon is going to have a heck of a career. I think he’s just an electrifying, dynamic player. You could say he’s overdrafted because this draft doesn’t have elite guys in the top 10, but in this NFL, in the era we’re in in the NFL, his skill set transitions and translates tremendously well.

“Now, 20 years ago it might have been a different ballgame, and the three guys that are dominating obviously are putting up big numbers at the slot receiver position went undrafted, but that certainly doesn’t affect Tavon Austin. He’s a guaranteed first-round draft choice and probably no later than pick 16.”

So how does Kiper come down on the Geno Smith controversy?

“You have a first-round quarterback in Geno Smith. I’ve said all along I think he’s 20 to 32, and everybody is kind of saying the same thing. I said it three months ago, I thought he was a 20 to 32 guy. I kept asking teams, is he going to go in the first, is he going to go — ‘Yeah, he’s going to go in the Top 10.’ Well, he’s not going to go in the Top 10, but everybody thinks he’s 20 to 32, so it’s been an interesting dynamic trying to evaluate where he’ll project,” he admitted.

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