Without question the player Dolphins fans ask me about the most for the coming draft is West Virginia all-purpose ankle-breaker Tavon Austin.
I suppose the reason Miami fans love this player is because he is a surge of electricity. Here now. Gone now. Lots of speed. Great vision. A one-on-one mismatch in the open field when he has the ball. He promises many dropped jaws in the stands and dropped pants by defenders.
So Miami fans want to know if the Dolphins are likely to pick Austin.
No, I do not see the Dolphins picking Tavon Austin in the coming draft -- certainly not in the first round where everyone seems to think he'll be selected.
This, I write, because I know how the Dolphins judge players. This because I know how the Dolphins value size and weight and the so-called prototype in the draft.
And Tavon Austin is all of 5-8 and 175 pounds which is as far from the NFL prototype as you can get without being in the CFL.
Understand, the Dolphins do make size exceptions. They made one for Pat White who happened to hail from the same West Virginia program as Austin. Um, maybe that's not a good example.
Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland has told me he asks himself this question when he's evaluating a player that is for whatever reason not of prototypical size or weight or speed: "Does he walk on water?"
(The phrase originates from the fact Jesus Christ walked on water on the sea of Galilee. So did Peter for a couple of steps before he got tackled by a blitzing lack of faith).
The point is most people who are not the Son of God cannot walk on water. They simply aren't so incredibly great that the field tilts in their favor when they step on it. They simply aren't so amazing that one can forget that they are too short or light or slow or whatever other failing the player may have.
Most players do not walk on water.
Barry Sanders did.
Thurman Thomas did.
Darrell Green did.
But the list of non-prototypes in my mind isn't much longer. And while looking at Austin on tape suggests he floats very well on water, and perhaps even swims like a fish in the water, he's not walking on the surface. He's not Sanders-Thomas-Green great.
Austin caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards last season. He caught 12 touchdown passes. He was also used out of the backfield and has a career 9.5 yards per carry average. His game against Oklahoma in which he gained 572 total yards was perhaps the greatest individual performance of the season by a collegian.
His 11.3 yards per reception is not suggesting NFL deep threat. He sometimes double-catches passes, perhaps a result of his smaller hands. That's not a big deal in college because the game is slower. But in the NFL, receivers who juggle and must recatch the football often get drilled between the first catch and the attempted second catch.
I watched Austin cutups and I saw him be very, very friendly with the sideline. He searches out the sideline a lot to avoid contact, which is natural and smart for a player his size but could be an issue for some coaches.
I also saw a little high stepping a few times. Yeah, Miami coach Joe Philbin would love that.
Don't get me wrong. Fake GM Salguero would love Tavon Austin on his team. But not at the expense of the No. 12 overall draft pick. Late in the first round? Maybe. In the second round, yes. But in the upper third of the first round, the durability concerns caused by his size, the fact he'll never be an outside receiver because he simply lacks the wingspan to help the quarterback out there, and the good but not great hands give me pause.
By the way, some folks will look at the Austin highlight tape below and believe him to be a faster Wes Welker. Don't be fooled. Wes Welker towers over Austin and outweighs him by at least 15 pounds. Welker is built much more compact and strong. Austin is lean.
That's another thing. One scout I talk to a lot told me he has questions about Austin's affinity for the weight room. The scout loves the kid's spunk and swag and all that. But he did mention the weight room issue.
So, to answer the most asked question I get: I don't believe the Dolphins will be drafting Tavon Austin at No. 12. Not unless he finds a way to walk on water between now and draft day.