Measurables: 6-foot-2, 312 pounds.
2014 stats: 12 total tackles, zero sacks.
Following his junior season at North Carolina, Marvin Austin was viewed by many scouts and drafniks as potential top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. The big defensive tackle finished his junior year with 42 tackles, six tackles for a loss and four sacks—phenomenal numbers for a 6-foot-2, 312-pound behemoth.
Alas, his draft stock took a major hit when he and 13 other Tarheel players were suspended for the entire 2010 season for receiving improper benefits. He was eventually dismissed from the football team, but oddly, represented them in the East-West Shrine Game and therein reminded everyone why he was considered a top talent.
Riding that momentum and past production, Austin was selected with the No. 52 overall pick (second round) by the New York Giants. His off-the-field transgressions cost him going in the first round, but he still was drafted high, after missing his entire senior year.
Things were looking up for Austin—then he tore his pectoral muscle in the second game of his rookie season and was placed on injured reserve. What would follow was three years of constant affliction by the injury bug.
Austin subsequently bounced around the league, later playing for the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. His biggest issue—the one that truly held him back from being the player his talent says he is—was a back injury. Just when he started improving health-wise, he injured his back in practice and it looked like the bottom fell out on his career.
Viewed as an immense draft bust, John Elway and the Denver Broncos took a flyer on Austin in May of 2014, signing him to a two-year deal, with the veteran minimum. However, between the time he was released by the Cowboys and signed by the Broncos, he had undergone back surgery and said himself that he felt like a new man.
And he looked it on the field. Austin immediately began flashing in training camp, leapfrogging coach and fan favorite Mitch Unrein to be the Broncos primary backup D-tackle, behind Terrance Knighton and 2013 first round pick Sylvester Williams.
In the limited snaps of a rotational player, Austin managed a +1.1 cumulative grade via Pro Football Focus in 2014, which was markedly higher than Williams’ grade. PFF credited Austin with 10 stops, one QB hit and five hurries.
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Austin particularly set himself apart as a run defender. Asked to be a space-eater and block-consumer, he did his job well. This year, under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Austin will be asked to rely more on his athleticism and be more of a single-gap penetrator.
Although it could be argued that he out-played Williams in 2014, Austin will enter training camp as the backup nose tackle. As a former first rounder, the Broncos are giving Williams every opportunity to succeed, and it’s paid off thus far. Williams has earned some praise from his coaches during OTAs.
But the pads are yet to be donned. That all changes on July 31st. With a phenomenal camp, Austin could unseat Williams as the No. 1 D-tackle, but at the very least, he will hold down his position as the No. 2 guy and be a significant role player on the Broncos new 3-4 defense.
Being in a contract year, Austin is likely hyper-motivated to produce. With a great 2015 season, Austin could go on to earn one more big career contract on the open market. He's only 26 years old.