Kyle Shanahan is perfect coach to maximize Tavon Austin’s skill-set with 49ers

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 06: Tavon Austin #10 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 06: Tavon Austin #10 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

Tavon Austin joined the San Francisco 49ers after an injury to Deebo Samuel.

Tavon Austin burst on the scene during his final season at West Virginia, as he and Stedman Bailey paired with quarterback Geno Smith to make the Mountaineers one of the most explosive offenses of the last decade. Unfortunately, he has been relegated to a gadget player in the NFL, but he’s now landed with the 49ers as he tries to find that one place where his talents are maximized.

With Deebo Samuel, a 2019 second-rounder that emerged as San Francisco’s No, 1 wide receiver, on the shelf due to offseason surgery, the 49ers signed the former top-10 pick and former Arizona Cardinals deep threat JJ Nelson. The team is preparing for the possibility of Samuel has to miss games in the regular season.

Austin, who spent last season with the Dallas Cowboys, might finally emerge as a quality starter on a playoff team if Shanahan is able to utilize his speed as a receiver and a runner.

Tavon Austin can still be a versatile playmaker for Kyle Shanahan.

Despite the fact that he was listed at 5-foot-8 and 174 pounds at the NFL combine, the Rams, who played in St. Louis at the time, chose to trade up to the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 draft in order to get Sam Bradford a No.1 receiver.

When Austin failed to live up to his potential as a receiver, as he has never topped 58 catches or 509 receiving yards in a season, Jeff Fisher had the idea to use him as a running back/wide receiver hybrid. In his career, Austin has slightly fewer carries (196) than receptions (215).

As proven with Samuel, Shanahan has an uncanny ability to get wide receivers open in space and allow them to make plays after the catch. Austin’s speed and short-area quickness are exemplary, and Shanahan values those traits more than any other in his wide receivers. With the still uncertain backfield situation, Shanahan could use him in a way not dissimilar to how Fisher used him, although Shanahan’s scheme is much more complex and effective.

The 49ers don’t need Austin to be George Kittle, but he could pop off for one or two big plays every week if utilized properly.

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Austin clearly did not live up to billing considering his college stardom and how high he was picked, but he can still carve out a role on a quality team given his speed, versatility, and slipperiness as a ball carrier. If anyone in this league can find a spot for Austin to contribute on offense and special teams, it’s Shanahan.