INDIANAPOLIS -- Tavon Austin's mission in Indianapolis: convincing NFL evaluators he's a big-time player wrapped in a tiny body. The West Virginia wide receiver today measured in at 5-8, 174 pounds, making him one of the smallest players at the scouting combine.
He's also one of the most explosive, which is why some see the 49ers -- who at this point do not have a clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver -- taking Austin with the 31st overall pick. Austin had more than 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns at West Virginia in 2012, was the team's kick and punt returner and also played running back at times.
The 49ers got good production from another diminutive player, LaMichael James, on kick returns in the second half of the season. Their two punt returners, however, are question marks in 2013. Ted Ginn will be an unrestricted free agent while Kyle Williams is coming off an ACL injury.
Teams will be wary of using a high draft pick on a sub 180-pound player, but Austin noted he's played running back most of his life and knows how to take a hit. He said he hasn't been injured in eight years.
Austin said he hoped to prove his toughness by cranking out at least 15 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press -- excellent for someone his size -- and show his speed by running a sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash on Sunday. He said his best mark in that drill has been 4.29 seconds.
"I'm a little guy, but I play big," he said before pausing. "I'd like to be two inches taller but I've got to use what I've got."
Austin also didn't shy away from some big comparisons, including Percy Harvin and Wes Welker. Austin's coach at West Virginia, Dana Holgorsen, coached Welker at Texas Tech, and Austin said he was very familiar with the Patriots wideout. "I feel like I'm a little quicker and faster than Wes," he said. "I feel like if he can do it, I know I can do it, too."
-- Matt Barrows