In recent weeks, Buffalo Bills fans looking for a safe bet at a position of need atop the 2013 NFL Draft class have been warming up to the idea of endorsing West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin with the No. 8 overall pick. It's not often that a 5'9", 174-pound wide receiver is a Top 10 pick, but there's merit to the idea.
Austin does not fit the profile of a bigger perimeter receiver that GM Buddy Nix has repeatedly cited as the team's need at wideout; then again, we don't know that the presence of Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett hasn't changed Nix's outlook on that front, either. The player routinely heralded as the most explosive playmaker in this year's draft class could easily carve out a role in Marrone and Hackett's West Coast flavored offense.
Once upon a time, C.J. Spiller was also the most explosive playmaker in a draft class. The Bills obviously liked him enough to pick him in the Top 10, even when they didn't have a need at running back. Despite the fact that Spiller and Austin play different positions (leading to more touches for Spiller), there are a lot of similarities between the two as prospects. Spiller was the better prospect, but both were clearly explosive and highly productive.
|Rushing/Receiving||Kick Returns||Punt Returns|
|Spiller (4 years)||729||4,967||6.8||43||74||2,052||27.7||7||53||569||10.7||1|
|Austin (4 years)||397||4,444||11.2||35||97||2,407||24.8||4||34||433||12.7||1|
Admit it: the idea of an offense featuring both Spiller and Austin (and heck, even T.J. Graham while we're talking about players with top-notch speed) intrigues you. It should.
Having so many smaller speed-reliant players is not the typical way of building out the skill positions, but add in an athletic rookie quarterback and the Bills could easily fold in some interesting read-option wrinkles that Hackett was already experimenting with at Syracuse. Austin was used out of the backfield at West Virginia, and we all know that Spiller is capable as a receiver. That versatility would allow Hackett to fiddle with pre-snap motions, as well - much like Seattle will be doing this year with Percy Harvin in the fold. The Spiller/Austin duo is one that could be immensely difficult to game plan for, especially when you have Stevie Johnson to consider, as well.
It's not a perfect fit. Because of his size, there will always be limitations to what Austin can provide teams as a wide receiver. Plus, the Bills really do have a bigger need for a perimeter receiver that will allow Johnson to play out of the slot more frequently. But if the Bills are interested in adding an explosive playmaker that could diversify an offense and take pressure off of its existing stars (Spiller and Johnson), however, there may not be a wiser choice to make than Austin. There may not be a safer pick among a solid wide receiver class, either.