While it's tough to know with any certainty how the Bengals have this year's uber-talented crop of WRs ranked on their board, the signals the team has been sending suggest Tavon Austin may be atop the wish list. While I'm not demeaning Austin's skills or the phenomenal success he had in college, I believe if you look at the track record of WRs of his stature in the NFL it makes a sound argument against drafting him with the #21 pick. Presumably, the front office is looking back on the 2008 draft where they passed on DeSean Jackson due to his small stature and wants to make sure history doesn't repeat itself. However, Jackson, who proved to be a steal in the 2nd round, had experience lining up outside and running deep routes, while Austin has mostly been used in the slot. The team already has one of the quickest and most elusive slot receivers in the league in Andrew Hawkins but he has been underutilized. Defenses started stacking the box and daring Dalton to throw deep on them and this limited Hawkins' effectiveness.
So just how many WRs 5' 10" or shorter lived up to first-round billing in the NFL (I'm only including recent history, so no Art Monk and the Smurfs, since CBs and Safeties are taller today)?
And how many of these small WRs either ended up as busts or disappointments at the position, ending up contributing mostly as return specialists? Several come to mind: Ted Ginn Jr., Devin Hester, Dexter McCluster and if I'm missing a few names here it's probably because they rarely make an impact in the NFL,
The bottom-line is Austin is probably limited to the slot at the next level and while there's always that chance he becomes the next Welker, it's even more likely he joins the long line of diminuative speedsters who fail to make an impact as a WR in the NFL and end up returning punts or kickoffs for a living.