In perpetual search of help for their passing game, the Lions are hosting West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin, one of college football’s biggest playmakers, on a pre-draft visit today.

Austin is projected to go in the first 20 picks of next week’s draft after racking up nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage last year.

He had his second straight 100-catch season, averaged 8.9 yards on 72 carries and finished his college career with five special-teams touchdowns and a well-earned reputation as an electrifying return man.

In one November game against Oklahoma, Austin ran for 344 yards and two touchdowns in his most extensive action at running back since high school.

The Lions aren’t likely to take a receiver at No. 5, but the 5-foot-8 Austin could be a player of intrigue if they trade down in the first round.

“He’s my favorite player in the draft,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said in a conference call Monday. “When you watch the kid play, he’s magnificent. He’s a great return man; punts, kicks. He lines up at tailback, and he plays like a tailback. He looks like Darren Sproles at tailback and he looks like Wes Welker in the slot.

“I’ve seen him be magnificent after the catch. All-purpose yardage. Look, he’s tough, tremendous stop and start quickness, and flat out finishing speed. I’ve seen quick guys, I’ve seen fast players, but I’ve never seen very many that have the combination of speed and quickness like Austin has.”

The Lions have hosted at least three other receivers on pre-draft visits, USC’s Robert Woods and Tennessee teammates Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter.