When NFL teams pick players who excelled in college football, it’s difficult to know whether they’ll thrive at the next level.
For the Rams, who picked both of West Virginia’s star receivers in the 2013 draft, the decision was assisted by a pair of backup quarterbacks — Kellen Clemens and Austin Davis — who traveled with G.M. Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher to Morgantown last month for a private workout.
“We went into the West Virginia campus, a great host, and we went into their indoor [facility], but we take our two quarterbacks, backup quarterbacks and we actually run our routes,” Snead explained on Thursday’s PFT Live. “And for Tavon [Austin] we ran more routes that the inside slot receiver would be running. For Stedman [Bailey], we did both inside slot and outside routes that our receivers and offense will be running.
“What’s really neat about the whole process is those quarterbacks, you know passing game is a timing thing so they know they can easily give you insight, ‘Hey when they hit that third step, wait a minute, Tavon was there. Hey, we’ve never had a receiver there on that third step.’ And the same thing on Stedman was, being his stature, he’s not a tall player, we worked out a lot of players before the draft. They felt like, hey, this was like throwing to the tallest receiver they threw to. They felt like they could just launch that ball and he was going to come down with it. So, great insight in those private workouts, you know, all things considered.”
Austin’s ability to run routes like an NFL player doesn’t mean he’ll take hits like an NFL player, given his (lack of) height and (lack of) size.
“You being in West Virginia, you’ve seen what he can do with the ball in his hands,” Snead said. “God, mom, and dad gave him some freaky skills to be able to get open but also to avoid tacklers when he gets the ball in his hands. And I was a part of being with Warrick Dunn who, when we had him in Atlanta we made him, if you want to call it, a number one, full-time, carry-the-load back which nobody ever thought he could be.
“Again, a man that’s not a very large, physical stature, but to go with the ability to elude tacklers, [Austin] just has that knack to to not get hit, to avoid big hits, to go down when necessary. So, I think that’s what gives him that and hey, the track record is this – the guy hasn’t really missed a game [or] practice since he started playing football in high school, so I think track record says more than anything because he’s been avoiding bigger people his entire life.”
He’ll soon be avoiding bigger and stronger people than he ever has. We hope he can do it, in part because I like to see West Virginia players succeed in the NFL — and in part because I’m not sure what’ll happen to Austin if one of those giants hits him hard.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!