I’m a dinosaur. I know. I believe in great offensive lines and dominating front fours and 4-3 defenses. I’m not prepared to refute Vince Lombardi’s quote, “Football is a running game …” from 50 years ago.
I think trends come and go.. West Coast Offense yields 3-4 defenses yield vertical passing routes yield ‘attacking’ defenses yield ‘read option pistol sets.’
There’s no right offense or defense; there is only right planning.
When I look at the greatest coaches, they break into two categories: innovators (Paul Brown, Bill Walsh) and executors (Chuck Noll, Bill Parcells) and sometimes both (Belichick).
Your best bet in terms of addressing football system trends is to find an innovative coach committed to maniacal execution of fundamentals. Your worst best is to follow (and by definition, be late on) the trends.
The is all prelude to: Settle the Eff Down with respect to newfangled offenses and also the new fangled personnel manning them.
Specifically, settle down on Tavon Austin. He is not a sixth overall pick.
But Kanick: PLAYMAKER!!!!!
“Oh give it up Kanick. You’re such a slave to moneyball type metrics. Darren Sproles! Don’t care what his height is: he makes plays!”
–representative synopsis of counter-points to Kanick’s expressions of skepticism
Let’s think about it for a moment. Tavon Austin is 5’8″. That’s short for anyone. Don’t believe me? Go post a match.com profile with your height as 5’8″ and see how it goes.
But ok, there have been short wide receivers, some good ones. How does Austin compare to some notable sub-six-feet-tall WRs?
- Steve Smith, 5’9″/184, 74th, 4.41 40, 38.5 vert, __?__ arms;
- Wes Welker, 5’9″/195, undrafted, 4.65, 30″, __?__ arms;
- Santana Moss, 5’10″/181, 16th, 4.31, 42″, __?__ arms;
- DeSean Jackson, 5’10″/178, 49th, 4.35, 34.5″, 31″ arms;
- Percy Harvin, 5’11″/192, 22nd, 4.41, 37.5″, 31.5″ arms;
- Ted Ginn, 6’0″/180, 9th, 4.28, 34.5″, 31″ arms;
- Jerrel Jernigan, 5’9″/185, 83rd, 4.46, 37.5″, 32″ arms;
- Jacoby Ford, 5’9″/186, 108th, 4.28, 33.5″, 30.5″ arms.
Tavon Austin, 5’8″/174, 4.34,* 32″ vertical, 30″ arms.
The data show that you can find a short guy like Santana Moss drafted in the first round. Not at 6th overall, mind you, but first round. Of course Moss is taller, faster, and jumps ten inches higher.
I recall a couple years ago watching Jacoby Ford tear up the combine. I remember because Abe Elam was raving on twitter about Ford (and I wondered whether our front office was wise enough to talk to current players about prospects they may be familiar with). Al Davis got a ration of crap for taking him in the 4th round, but he turned out to be a pretty productive player… when not injured.
Let me add this: Steve Smith is my favorite WR of the last decade. No greater baller in the last ten years. He’s a short guy. Got it done. Of course, he *is* taller and he *does* jump quite a bit higher. And he also was drafted in the THIRD ROUND.
Third round for Steve Smith. Fourth round for Jacoby Ford. Because that’s where guys this size go.
All I’m saying is, you want this guy? Fine: third round (and I don’t like it).
But please stop with the 6th overall talk.
Review the tape Kanick. You can’t measure heart.
Below are some Tavon highlights. Is he fast? Indeed. Slippery? Yes. Elusive. Mmm-hmm.
Tavon Austin was a great tool in the spreadiest of spread offenses with the number one QB in the draft throwing to him and underrated Steadman Bailey requiring attention opposite him while playing in the Arena Football League of college football.
And molto rispetto for the kickoff return capability of Tavon Austin… however in today’s NFL this skill is as relevant as his drop-kicking.
How does that translate to the NFL? How does our version of ‘tiny fast guy’ do against NFL-sized cornerbacks in offenses that are not designed by Dana Holgorsen?
Fortunately we have tape on this.
Travis Benjamin: longer, stronger, just as fast.
Last year’s fourth round pick as measurables better than Austin.
I say again: better.
Austin, 5’8″/174, 4.34,* 32″ vert, 30″ arms, 12 bench reps.
Benjamin, 5’10″/172, 4.35, 38″ vert, 32″ arms, 14 bench reps.
So how does this fast little guy do in a non-Holgorsen offense against non Big 12 defenses?
Here’s some short fast WR action from last year doing short, fast WR things: slants, end-arounds, deep routes.
End-arounds? We’ve got an end-around guy.
Release at the line? Do you think a DRC-sized CB who is six inches taller than Austin will really have a greater problem press-covering Austin than Benjamin? Because go and watch that tape again and how DRC uses his bulk to shade Benjamin to the sideline. There will only be more of this in store for Austin.
Hard to imagine how an equally fast but shorter guy who jumps worse would fare any better when needing high-point the in order to make catches in the new vertical game that Chud is contemplating.
Analytics? Analytics? Anyone? Is there a statistician in the house?
I did a quick search at PFT for WRs, 68″ and shorter who have started
80 64 games. (We should get five four seasons of starts out of a #6 overall, amirite?) We’ll search all WRs going back to 1921. Here is the result:
Maybe that was asking too much. Let’s cut it back to 48 games started:
There were 147 5’8″ and shorter WRs drafted since 1921.
- 94 started at least one game.
- 14 started at least 16 games.
- Tim Dwight is the most productive of this group.
- Dwight was drafted 4th round (114th).
Is there an MIT Sloan Sports Analytics fellow in the house? We need some analytics, stat!
Seriously though: is analytics just a trending flavor for the Browns or are they really using it? Because if they’re using it, they should not have had Austin in for so much as a combine interview.
Wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t allow that there has been a notable 5’8″ player. Hall of Famer. Taken third overall. Definitely a statisical outlier who paid off. Barry David Sanders was 5’8″. Thirty pounds heavier than Austin and running back. But still, he’s the guy you’d want to hang your hat on if you’re 100% on the Tavon Austin train.
And yet the voice of the fan remains:
Ok fine. The fans have spoken.
But if you keep an open mind here’s another undersized playmaking option to look at in the first round.
Thank you to Reboot for prompting this post via the conversation started this morning, here.
* The 40 time for Austin is 4.34. It is NOT 4.28. That time was originally reported during the live combine coverage but it was from a handheld watch. Why this number showed up in Grossi’s report is anyone’s guess.