Tavon Austin made himself a ton of money at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The dynamic slot receiver/running back from West Virginia blazed the 40-yard dash Sunday, registering an unofficial 4.25. Though the official time was 4.34, it’s clear that the draft’s most dynamic threat has the speed to be more than just a slot machine.
Austin wasn’t the only receiver who opened eyes with a fast 40 time in Indy. Josh Boyce of TCU and Marquise Goodwin of Texas posted blistering times, too. Although this year’s wide receiver class doesn’t feature a ton of top-end talent, there’s plenty of depth in the middle rounds.
Let’s take a look at some of the fastest receivers at the combine and where their draft stock stands.
Tavon Austin, West Virgina
40 Time: 4.21 (unofficial), 4.34 (official)
2012 Stats: 114 catches for 1,289 yards and 12 TDs; 72 carries for 643 yards and 3 TDs; 32 kick returns for 813 yards and 1 TD
Player Analysis: Size concerns aside, Tavon Austin is far and away the best pure playmaker in the draft. An absolute animal at West Virginia, the cat-quick hybrid receiver/running back did his best Percy Harvin impression for the Mountaineers. During his four-year career, Austin developed into a go-to threat for Dana Holgorsen. As a senior, Austin filled the stat sheet while putting together a highlight reel for the ages. Despite his small stature, the future is definitely bright for Geno Smith’s running mate. Austin has unparalleled agility, cutting ability and a nose for the end zone. Those qualities should make him a solid first-round pick and an instant-impact fantasy player. He is the ultimate flex play and should be tremendous in return leagues. If he’s put into a system predicated on quick passing (New England), he will be a star.
Marquise Goodwin, Texas
40 Time: 4.25 (unofficial), 4.27 (official)
2012 Stats: 26 catches for 340 yards and 3 TDs; 12 carries for 151 yards and 3 TDs; 13 kick returns for 327 yards
Player Analysis: Even before the combine, everyone knew one thing about Marquise Goodwin: He’s damn fast. Makes sense for a guy who’s a two-time Texas Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year. As a former long jumper and sprinter, Goodwin brings elite athleticism to the table. However, his football career still needs a lot of development. Perhaps the fastest player in the draft, Goodwin often relies too much on his straight-line speed and must refine the rest of his game. He isn’t a great route runner and lacks the size and physicality to be a factor after the catch. Maybe he could add some more weight to hold up at the next level, but it’s tough to project him as anything more than a gadget player and deep threat.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee
40 Time: 4.44
2012 Stats: 73 catches for 1,083 yards and 9 TDs
Player Analysis: Two years ago, Justin Hunter looked like a young Randy Moss. Last year, he shredded his knee. In 2012, he put together a good season, but didn’t look like a top-10 talent. However, after running a 4.44 forty, the buzz is back about the former Volunteer. Long and lean, Hunter’s game is predicated on build-up speed and out-muscling and out-leaping defenders for the ball. He has soft hands, but is prone to drops due to a lack of concentration. His overall consistency doesn’t warrant a top-25 selection, but a team banking on his athletic upside could take a shot at him late in Round 1. Hunter may not be a first-year fantasy star, but he could turn out to be the best receiver from this class two years from now.
Denard Robinson, Michigan
40 Time: 4.43
2012 Stats: 89-of-167 for 1,513 yards and 9 TDs and 9 INT; 177 carries for 1,266 yards and 7 TDs
Player Analysis: Shoelace may have been a college quarterback, but he won’t be behind center at the next level. Despite posting prolific numbers during his four-year tenure as the Wolverines signal-caller, Denard Robinson will make his money as a slot receiver and possibly returner in the NFL. Although he has next to no experience at the position, he has all the physical tools to become a top-level playmaker. Checking in at just shy of 200 pounds, he has enough size to complement his sizzling speed. Blessed with tremendous open-field elusiveness and great straight-line speed, Robinson is a dynamo with the ball in his hands. With 723 carries for nearly 4,500 yards and 42 touchdowns in his college career, the future receiver knows how to exploit open space. He may not go till the middle rounds and won’t be an instant-impact rookie, but he has the tools to develop into a dangerous weapon.