GREEN BAY – With the signing of veteran receiver Tavon Austin on Tuesday, the Packers have added an intriguing weapon to Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense.
A hybrid player with prior experience as a returner, Austin has amassed 5,263 all-purpose yards and 28 touchdowns over seven NFL seasons spent with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys.
Here are five things to know about the Packers' newest receiver:
1. Austin helped define the hybrid player in today's NFL.
Hybrid players are featured components of most NFL offenses these days, with running back Tyler Ervin thriving in such a role with the Packers over the past calendar year. Austin was one of the guys who helped usher in that era. As the eighth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Austin did a little bit of everything in his five seasons with the Rams. In addition to handling returns, Austin caught 194 passes for 1,689 yards and 12 touchdowns and also rushed for another 1,238 yards and nine TDs in 75 games (50 starts). The 5-foot-8, 180-pound receiver caught a lot of defenses off-guard as a rookie, generating 151 rushing yards and a TD on only nine carries. After spending two seasons in Dallas, Austin signed with San Francisco in August before landing on the 49ers' injured reserve list at the end of training camp due to a knee injury.
2. His performance at 2013 NFL Scouting Combine helped make him a top 10 pick.
Even before the combine, Austin already was considered a premier prospect following a senior season at West Virginia in which he amassed nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage with 15 touchdowns. Austin's 8.77 receptions per game led all of NCAA Division I FBS and his 223.9 all-purpose yards per game ranked second. Austin clocked a 4.34-second time in the 40 with a 10-foot broad jump, 32-inch vertical and 4.01 in the short shuttle. He didn't participate in the three-cone drill due to cramping. All told, it was enough to make Austin the first skill-position player to be drafted that April.
3. Austin is a prolific returner.
A former Jet Award winner, given to the nation's top return specialist, Austin returned four kickoffs for touchdowns during his time at West Virginia. The Mountaineers also used him on punt returns during his first two seasons, returning a punt 74 yards for a TD during his senior season against TCU. Austin also returned a punt for a TD in each of his first three NFL seasons, including a 98-yard effort against Indianapolis during his rookie year. For his career, Austin has returned 185 punts for 1,466 yards (7.9 avg) and three TDs and 25 kickoffs for 451 yards (18.0 avg).
4. He's worked with both Matt LaFleur and Packers running backs coach Ben Sirmans.
While Sirmans was never technically Austin's position coach, the two worked together for three seasons in St. Louis. And when Sirmans shepherded Ty Montgomery's in-season conversion to running back in 2016, he harkened back to lessons learned from having Austin pop into his position room as a hybrid player. Austin carried the ball 97 times for 809 yards and seven touchdowns under Sirmans' tutelage, the most backfield activity by any NFL receiver from 2013-15. Furthermore, LaFleur's lone season as the offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams coincided with Austin's final year with the team in 2017.
5. Austin was one of the stars of the Rams' appearance on "Hard Knocks."
Austin was perhaps the most entertaining Rams player profiled during the team's 2016 appearance on the HBO series "Hard Knocks," from his driving a golf cart around the facility to playing Pokemon GO with staffers to finally signing an extension with the Rams near the end of training camp.
Snapshots of newly-signed Green Bay Packers WR Tavon Austin.