I know, I blinked about eight times too. But then I sat and stared blankly some more, sinking into my default look, and I thought to myself: maybe Tavon Austin to the Eagles isn’t so crazy? Or maybe it’s just crazy enough to be Chip Kelly crazy.
This possibility was raised by a kind stranger who used the Twitters to ask Jeff McLane a question as part of his tweetbag. McLane’s response?
The Eagles have been adamant that they plan on taking the best available player. It is not inconceivable that they have a very high grade on Austin. If they stay true to the plan, maybe they would take a skill position player over, say an offensive lineman, if they truly felt he was best available. (Would anyone be shocked if Austin won Rookie Of the Year, by the way?) It all depends on that top-secret draft board of theirs.
While this draft in particular is difficult to project, it seems likely that the Eagles could trade back a bit and still snare the West Virginia receiver if that’s their target. I am not predicting it happens, but I can’t say I would be shocked.
I wouldn’t be shocked either, although such a move still feels unlikely.
Interest in Austin has been climbing steadily since the Combine when he ran the 40-yard dash in only 4.34 seconds. That complemented the vast game tape of the former West Virgina wideout which shows him cutting and slashing in the open field, and being highly versatile while also lining up in the backfield. He’s the proverbial Swiss Army knife that’s a staple of a creative spread option offense, with his ability to inflict pain in multiple ways.
Sort of sounds like a Chip Kelly guy, huh?
Yes, yes he does. But the problem with any link between Austin and the Eagles becomes one of value, and the potentially very poor value the Eagles would be investing in him with their fourth overall pick. Most mocks have Austin currently slotted in the mid teens, and often to the Rams at No. 16. That makes a trade down the most likely scenario for Austin to land in Philadelphia.
However, Austin’s rockstar pre-draft tour will include a meeting with the Jets, who own the ninth overall pick. If he’s being considered for that spot, suddenly going fourth overall may not seem quite so drastic.
The Eagles have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin cemented atop their wide receiver depth chart, but they’re both vertical types. Austin has speed in abundance too, but he’s cut more from the Wes Welker mold with his ability to line up in the slot.
What’s even more impressive and useful for Kelly’s offensive ingenuity is Austin’s ability as a running back. While also catching 114 passes for 1,289 yards during his senior season at West Virginia, Austin added 643 rushing yards on 73 carries. If even faint consideration is being given to utilizing Jackson’s speed in the backfield, Kelly is surely spending many long hours alone with Austin’s tape, and possibly a bag of Jiffy Pop. In that role, why not use Austin and his 109 total collegiate carries, instead of Jackson, and his 78 carries between both his five years in Philly and three years with the California Golden Bears?
Of course, this will most likely just be a reaching possibility, and in the end, little more than fun fodder for a pre-draft discussion. We are, after all, in the fodder producing business.
As tempting as Austin may be since he’ll slide perfectly into Kelly’s offense, there are far greater needs for the Eagles, even after their moves in free agency to address the defense which netted Isaac Sopoaga, Bradley Fletcher, Patrick Chung, and Cary Williams.
Despite the additions of Williams and Chung, Dee Milliner — widely viewed as the draft’s best cornerback — may be hard to resist. But the even greater need and draft value is at defensive tackle, and Star Lotulelei would be a fine anchor for a new hybrid 3-4 scheme.
But dammit, an Austin-Kelly pairing would be pretty much the greatest draft gift ever. Make it so.