We’ve been through this before fans. All of us expected the Lions’ high octane offense to take the NFL by storm last season and what we got was a 4-12 record with a very sporadic offensive showing. Did injuries play a factor? Yes, Matthew Stafford‘s top weapons in Brandon Pettigrew, Ryan Broyles, Nate Burleson, Jahvid Best - perhaps the biggest loss to the offense, and Titus Young all missed significant time last season, which no doubt explains the Lions’ inability to produce at the level we all expected on a consistent bases.
We all know the Lions need to do two things to win: be explosive on offense and bring the heat of opposing quarterbacks. The Lions were very average in both categories and their inconsistency on offense is the main factor as to why we had to suffer through another forgettable season that started off so promising.
So what did the Lions do to address these issues this offseason?
They upgraded the running back position with Reggie Bush, who’s a perfect fit in their vertical offense. That’s it.
Jahvid Best’s absence was by far the Lions’ biggest lose, and signing Reggie Bush improves the offense by leaps and bounds, but there are still some glaring weaknesses at the receiving corps thanks to Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson suffering significant leg injuries and Titus Young’s implosion which led to his release. If the Lions don’t draft a solid number two receiver, we may have to endure another miserable season, especially if Broyles and Burleson aren’t 100 percent.
That may be taking things to the extreme. I feel that both receivers will be healthy by the start of the season, with Broyles more than likely starting the season off with limited reps, but there is still a need for that go-to number two receiver that the Lions desperately lack.
After evaluating each receiving prospect thoroughly I feel there are two receivers that the Lions could take in the draft, at reasonable value, to solve their problem at receiver in Justin Hunter and Aaron Dobson. Both are tall receivers with great speed and great hands and could produce at a high enough level to take advantage of the coverage defenses give them thanks to all the attention Calvin Johnson draws.
With that said, holding tight and drafting either of these receivers are solid and feasible options for the Lions, but they aren’t the best option. The Best option for the Lions to solve their problems on offense is to draft Tavon Austin from West Virginia.
“He’s the most sudden athlete I’ve ever evaluated, ever. Speed combined with quickness.” – Todd McShay on NFL Live
Austin is just on a completely different level from just about every other wide receiver, including those in the NFL right now. He may be small at 5’9 172 lbs, but he combines his elite speed, 4.25 and 4.31 forty times at the combine, with exceptional football instincts, and can play just about anywhere on the football field. Against Oklahoma last season Austin ran the ball 21 times for 344 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His all purpose yards that game, 572. As impressive as those stats are, it’s even more impressive after you watch the highlights from the game.
The Lions have made some terrible decisions over the years, but have made up for it with some exceptional ones. They drafted an elite arm talent and leader in Matthew Stafford, the most freakish athlete to play wide receiver in Calvin Johnson, and surround their franchise quarterback with one of the most productive receivers to play college football in Ryan Broyles, and a dynamic running back who can do just about everything in Reggie Bush.
The Lions obviously have a plan in mind and that’s to be one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. To me there’s one missing piece and that’s Tavon Austin. Drafting Austin would come at a high cost. The Lions would be foolish to take him with the fifth pick and even more foolish to trade back in the draft and miss out on a franchise left tackle. But if both elite tackle prospects in Lukel Joeckel and Eric Fisher are gone by the time the Lions are on the clock then trading back a few spots might not be a bad idea, although I would still take defensive end Ziggy Ansah.
With that said the only way to acquire Austin would be to acquire an additional first round pick, by trading high picks from the 2013 draft and likely a high pick from the 2014 draft.
Most of you are probably thinking that the price for Austin would be too much and I understand that. However, let’s look at what Austin can do for the Lions with his skill-set and what the Lions have shown us offensively in terms of play calling the past two seasons.
Let’s start with what the Lions do offensively. They stretch the field vertically, run screens and bubble passes, run end a rounds. Simply put, the Lions like to attack at all levels of a defense.
Each play type listed is just a small piece of Austin’s game. He can stretch the field vertically, he’s proven to excel in bubble and screen passes, he can break a defense of the edge with his elite speed on end a rounds, and I haven’t even mentioned the impact he could have in the kick and punt returns, as well as lined up as a running back.
There are many ways Austin will find immediate playing time on the field for the Lions. Opposing defenses will have a hard time covering Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, and the threat of Austin will virtually be uncontainable. With Austin in the offense there isn’t a defense that the Lions won’t be able to exploit.
After evaluating the many ways Austin can impact a game in the Lions’ offense, would they really be giving up too much to acquire him?
This is a question I’ve battled amongst myself the entire offseason and after watching film and trying to identify why the Lions would be giving up too much to acquire Austin, I can honestly say that there is enough value in what Austin can bring to the Lions offense in each game that would clearly justify the current and possibly future draft picks it would take to acquire his services. If the Lions made a move for him, it would be the right one and it would undoubtedly solve the Lions inconsistency problems on offense.
If you’re not sold on what I’ve been saying then I strongly advise you to watch the video above. He’s cutting ability and creativity is unparalleled. It’s the closet thing we’ve seen to Barry Sanders since his days in Detroit.