Tavon Austin: Potential Wes Welker Replacement for the Patriots?

Tavon Austin Patriots Draft

Does Tavon Austin have what it takes to replace Wes Welker? (US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: James Christensen

Wes Welker plays an immense role in the Patriots offense. If he leaves this off-season due to ongoing contract issues – Welker is currently playing on a one year franchise tender – Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be hard-pressed to find a suitable replacement.

West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin certainly passes the eye test as a talented weapon, but would he fit into the Patriots scheme?


ROUTE RUNNING AND CONCEPTS

Pivot RouteWelker runs a steady diet of “pivot” routes (pictured) – a quick step to the inside followed by an out cut – a staple of the “Air Raid” offense that former Welker coach Mike Leach and current Austin coach Dana Holgorsen employ.

Both receivers also run the “stick” route, which is more of a 6-8 yard out in New England, but a 5-6 yard curl in West Virginia.

Another Welker staple is the quick “in” route from the “levels” concept (pictured, left side) – run with a parallel “in” route 10 yards behind it.

Both Austin and Welker make these simple route work so well by being able to accelerate and make extra yards after the catch.

One of Austin’s favorite routes is the “wheel” route – see Shane Vereen’s touchdown from Week 12 against the Jets for an example. Austin can run it from the slot or the backfield with equal precision.

Welker and Austin both have the ability to run precise routes when covered tightly to create separation, but they can also round the corner off to keep their speed when the situation calls for it.

Air Raid offenses (read more here) require mastery of a smaller set of concepts than the Patriots run, but the framework is there for Austin to succeed in Josh McDaniels’ offense.

RUNNING GAME

Wes Welker doesn’t run the ball very often anymore (zero carries in 2012), but his counterpart Julian Edelman sees the ball on an end-around or reverse every once in a while (four carries in 2012).

With Tavon Austin in the fold, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels might be more prone to use receivers in the run game – as New England did with Aaron Hernandez during the playoffs in 2011.

Austin is electric with the ball in his hands, capable of taking simple jet sweeps or outside zone plays to the house with ease. I’m not much of a statistics guy, but a 10.6 average on 49 carries (famously including 344 rushing yards against Oklahoma) certainly makes you take notice.

SIZE

Tavon Austin measures in at 5’7″ and 175 pound, although I’m sure those figures could change after the NFL Combine this February. While those figures are certainly eye-catching for the wrong reasons, I don’t think they are cause for much concern.

Welker is 5’9″ and 190 pounds soaking wet and has been able to shake off numerous hits throughout his career. Both he and Austin are adept at not getting clobbered – maximizing yardage without subjecting their body to too much risk.

TEAM NEEDS

Other than Brandon Lloyd and Matthew Slater, the Patriots don’t have any true receivers under contract for the 2013 NFL season.

If either Wes Welker or Julian Edelman isn’t re-signed, Tavon Austin would be a natural fit to keep the Patriots offense singing. He is currently our first round pick for the Patriots in our latest 2013 NFL Mock Draft.

One wildcard that could play a factor is the health of Jeff Demps, who has placed on injured reserve this pre-season. If he is healthy, he has a lot of the kick return and running game skills that Austin has as well.

Tags: 2013 NFL Draft, Julian Edelman, Tavon Austin, Wes Welker

12 Responses to “Tavon Austin: Potential Wes Welker Replacement for the Patriots?”

  1. Craig says:

    Special Teamer? This guy caught over 200 balls in the past two years…and many teams are going to the slot guy like the Pats utilize. However, I don’t feel he fits the needs of the team. Sayin he’s not a WR is a ridiculous statement though. He’s also never missed serious time due to injury.

  2. Jethro says:

    If they go WR in Rd1, I hope it’s someone more like Terrence Williams. They may still sign WW after the season. Otherwise, give Edelman his shot.

  3. Dan says:

    Why the hell would they draft a WR first round? I know Welker is leaving, but they need Pass rushers!!!!!!! Jones is good, but he cannot do it all by himself . Move Tavon Wilson up to LB, as he is almost somewhat competent in coverage, and the rest of the Lb’s suck at it. Draft a good DE to play with Jones.
    LB’ers: Mayo, Spikes, Hightower, Wilson
    D-Line: Jones, Wilfork, 1st round DE(maybe D. Jordan?)
    CB1: Aqib Talib CB2: Alfonzo Dennard
    FS1: Mccourty FS2: 2nd round draft pick (maybe Bacarri Rambo?)
    That defense could become pretty good. I also hope that they don’t resign Chung. Gregory should move to second string FS.

  4. Jon says:

    Austin in some ways seems to fit the mold of that they look for in an inside receiver, but I seriously worry about his size. Yes Welker is small, but I think he’s more of a unique specimen. Consider Edelman is similarly proportioned (actually a bit bigger) and his shorter career playing the same role has been far more injury-plagued.

    I think Welker is back next season. He’s on pace for about 1,300 yards. Gronk and Hernandez certainly are stars, but no one has supplanted Wes as Brady’s preferred target .

    I wouldn’t mind a WR in round one, but I don’t think I like the idea of this kid. He reminds me more of a DeSean Jackson, at least in build, than a Welker/Edelman. He might have tons of skill, but like a number of recent high-round bust, you need to stay on the field first.

    In the first round I think I’d look to continue to fortify the o-line, or maybe get a d-lineman to help get an interior push.

  5. Billy C says:

    Where do I start? How about the projected first round for the Patriots. You’ve got to be kidding me. A 5 foot seven 175 pound slot receiver drafted by Bill in the first round. With holes still to be plugged on the interior of the defensive line and another player to get at the quarterback. Slot receiver will be looked at in the seventh round or later. BTW, how do you characterize Slater as a true receiver. he’s a special teamer all day long who just happens to have the receiver label placed on him as window dressing.

    • NEPD says:

      Slater at least carries the WR label. I meant to distinguish Lloyd and Slater from Gronkowski and Hernandez.

      In retrospect, would you have drafted Welker in the first round?

      • td says:

        Welker is a freak of nature that has flourished with TB, just like Gronk. Unfortunately, he is not getting Moss money after the contracts of Gronk & Hernandez. We still need to sign Vollmer and others.

  6. Lundahl says:

    No one can replace Wes. I understand your point, and the evaluation is very good. But bottom line, losing Wes would be a disaster and we all know it. We can’t lose him. He’s the best slot receiver of all time. I try not to thing about the 2013 offseason frankly.

  7. Bomber says:

    B.B doesn’t have a good record drafting wide receivers.Offense hasn’t been the problem.The defense has cost this team at least three super bowls with Brady at his peak.

  8. td says:

    If a slot guy was a major component in the offense, BB would have signed Wes not brought in an army of TE’s.
    I don’t see BB spending money on a slot WR when the focus of the offense is 12 personnel and he recently spent a lot of money on 2 TE’s.

  9. James says:

    Pass. I like tavon Austin I just think we have too many guys on our team that can fill that kind of role right now. Woodhead, Edelman, possibly Jeff demps and vereen… I’d prefer stedmon bailey. More if an outside guy






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