The NFL Draft scouting report of Memphis WR Calvin Austin III reveals a potentially elite creator with rare playmaking potential at the next level. With today’s NFL being all about playmakers, players who create are worth their weight in gold at the wide receiver position. Therefore, could we see Austin as a potential Day 2 selection in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Calvin Austin III NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Memphis
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 5’7 3/4″
- Weight: 170 pounds
- Wingspan: 73″
- Arm length: 30″
- Hand: 9 1/4″
Calvin Austin III Scouting Report
There are different molds at the WR position. A rare few overlap through categories and have complete profiles. More often than not, you have your specialists. Austin is one of those players. Listed near 5’8″ and 173 pounds, he’ll never be a complete receiving threat. But even with his size as a natural limitation, Austin brings immense prospective value as an NFL Draft talent.
One of the most productive American Athletic Conference wide receivers over the past two seasons, Austin has a mold waiting for him in the NFL. Some of his NFL production may depend on where he goes and how his team utilizes him. Nevertheless, Austin isn’t just a gadget guy. He has the tools to create independent of his scheme, and his independence — on top of his deadly upside in space — makes him an incredibly dangerous player.
Calvin Austin III’s athletic profile
The defining characteristic of Austin’s NFL Draft scouting report is his rare explosiveness and potential energy as a playmaker. Austin is supremely explosive and sudden out of his stance. He’s an effortless accelerator in space, and he generates ample vertical separation with small runways. The Memphis WR can go from 0 to 100 at a moment’s notice.
Expanding on Austin’s explosiveness, he is an incredibly twitchy player. He cuts routes at absurd angles and uses his sudden twitch to manipulate larger defensive backs. He stores a ton of potential energy on any given play and prevents defenders from having any sense of security when guarding him.
Going further, Austin is also a fairly flexible, balanced athlete. He sinks his hips in and out of route breaks without losing momentum. Additionally, he has a fluid lower body. He can lower himself and lean into breaks without losing his balance. Furthermore, the Memphis WR has good balance when stepping through arm tackles. He can gather himself, reset, and explode into new pockets of space.
Austin’s explosiveness and twitch yield him great creative capacity before the catch, but he is also a very shifty runner after the catch. He can use his fast feet and initial burst to navigate congestion and make defenders miss.
Austin’s NFL Combine and pro day results
The following results were recorded at the 2022 NFL Combine unless stated.
- 40-yard dash: 4.32 seconds
- Bench press: 11 (recorded at Memphis Pro Day)
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.07 seconds
- Broad jump: 11’3″
- Vertical jump: 39″
Execution beyond the physical traits
Austin’s athletic profile is incredibly enticing, but his refinement and calculated approach take him a step above the average speed receiver. He has always shown flashes of route-running prowess, but Austin noticeably improved his attention to detail as a technician in 2021.
At the line, Austin can put defenders on a string with his complex, intricate releases. Upon generating displacement, he explodes upfield and uses his speed to press defensive backs vertically, then breaks inside and gains space. Austin’s ability to pressure defenders vertically and break in rapid succession only compounds his unpredictability.
When Austin gets upfield, he showcases strong separation ability and awareness in zone. He knows how to seep into the open field by using blind spots, but he also separates 1-on-1 against defenders. The Memphis WR can use calculated head fakes to feign his intent and throw defenders off-balance. His size sometimes makes it harder for him to escape longer defenders, but he’s not a liability when the ball is in the air. Austin has springy vertical athleticism, and he can effectively track the ball, contort, and snare passes in midair.
Among other things, Austin uses his body control to adjust for low passes and corral them in stride. He can also haul in passes amid contact with his hands and concentration. Austin is extremely versatile. He can line up outside or in the slot, and he projects well as a motion man.
Areas for improvement
While Austin projects very well within his mold, his mold of receiver does feature a few notable limitations. Perhaps most glaring is Austin’s lack of size. He doesn’t have a wide reach, and that negatively impacts him in quite a few phases.
As a receiver, Austin doesn’t have the size to consistently fight through contact at the stem. More physical defenders can delay and muddy his breaks. Additionally, Austin’s frame naturally limits his catch radius in situations where he has to extend. He doesn’t box out defenders well and can be draped by larger defensive backs. Longer defenders can also give him trouble at the line. Although Austin’s fast feet help him, his below-average length can make him easy to handle in press.
Austin is a short-strider, which means more athletic long-striders can keep pace with him. He also isn’t going to withstand direct contact with his frame very often. Although he can leverage his burst into force at the contact point as a blocker, his size limits him there as well.
Beyond his size, Austin still has room to keep refining his game. He can occasionally use throttle control to create more contrast when breaking back on routes. There are occasions when he uses his sudden capacity more judiciously to create space. He can also be more efficient with his footwork, although he improved this in 2021.
Austin’s 2021 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Austin’s size will be a fierce mitigating factor for his upside as an NFL Draft prospect. But even taking that into account, the ceiling is high for a player like Austin.
He’s fast, explosive, twitchy, and very well-balanced overall. Beyond that, he’s decisive and calculated with his routes. When he’s on, Austin’s a separation factory, and he’s also incredibly shifty after the catch.
A common comparison for Austin will be Louisville WR Tutu Atwell, who was taken with the 57th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. But I think Austin is a better prospect than Atwell. Austin is a more precise and detailed route runner. He’s also more manipulative with his releases and has better instincts at the catch point. On top of that, he has the same game-breaking explosiveness and speed that made Atwell such a high pick.
Austin may be smaller and lighter like Atwell, but he’s not at all fragile. He catches passes amid contact and maintains his focus in crowds. He may be labeled as a gadget player on account of his frame, but Austin has complete receiver ability hidden under the surface. Atwell was already a reach, so it shouldn’t be expected that Austin passes him. But Austin has Day 2 ability on offense alone, and his special-teams production is just a bonus.
Austin’s Player Profile
Austin will be overlooked because of his size. It’s just part of the game. By now, it’s no surprise to Austin. Despite being a hyper-versatile, hyper-productive player at Harding Academy in high school, Austin was an unranked recruit in the 2017 recruiting class. He scored 49 career touchdowns, including 32 on offense, 11 on special teams, and 6 on defense. But even that wasn’t enough to earn him any Division I offers.
There was visible promise with Austin, a track star who had a 4.38 40-yard dash and a 38.3-inch vertical jump on record. But at 5’8″, 148 pounds, Austin’s size turned almost everyone away. The Memphis, Tennessee product chose to walk on at his hometown school. There, he’d carve out his own path on the college football stage.
Austin’s career at Memphis
Austin took a redshirt in the 2017 season before joining the Memphis Tigers in 2018 as a redshirt freshman. His role in that first year on the field was small, but the potential was evident early on. On just 3 offensive touches, Austin logged 107 yards and a touchdown. In 2019, he saw an uptick in production, drawing 318 yards and 4 scores on 21 touches.
As a redshirt junior, Austin exploded onto the scene as one of the AAC’s most electric playmakers. In 11 games, Austin logged 1,053 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 63 catches. He also amassed 188 yards and a score on 20 punt returns. The 2021 season featured more of the same for Austin. The Memphis WR accumulated 1,149 yards and 8 touchdowns on 74 catches. He also took a 69-yard carry and a long punt return TD to the house. It comes as no surprise that Austin earned first-team All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2021.
Austin’s 2022 NFL Draft ascension
As mentioned earlier, Austin has legitimate Day 2 ability. His size may take him off some teams’ boards, but the modern NFL is growing more and more accommodating of a talent like Austin. His high-level separation and RAC ability can make him a valuable offensive weapon. Although he may be limited in contested situations, he’s incredibly dangerous in space. So get him in space, and let him thrive.
How high Austin goes may depend on how evaluators plan to use him. But for those who know how, he can be a dynamic playmaker. At the Senior Bowl, Austin used his route-running wizardry to generate constant separation against higher-level defensive backs. He also showed off that extension ability and body control that makes him more than a speed threat. While he’s smaller, Austin has great proportional length, which helps in that regard.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Calvin Austin III
Positives: Undersized, game-changing receiver with outstanding pass-catching skills. Quickly releases off the line of scrimmage, immediately gets to top speed, and plays faster than his 40 time. Outstanding route runner who quickly gets in and out of breaks, extends his hands, and offers the quarterback a target. Displays solid eye/hand coordination, catches the pass with his hands, and snatches the ball out of the air.
Nicely makes the reception on crossing patterns and adjusts backward to grab the ball from the air. Has a terrific burst of speed that he turns on in a single step, sees the field, and can be effectively used on reverses. Follows blocks, beats defenders into the open field, and can run to daylight. Comes back to the quarterback and works to make himself an available target. Competes to come away with the difficult reception, gives effort blocking, and does the little things well.
Negatives: Small and loses out in battles. Needs space to work and does not display naturally soft hands.
Analysis: Austin is an explosive skill player and a legitimate home-run threat whenever the ball is in his hands. After a terrific season in 2021, he was one of the better receivers at Senior Bowl practices and went on to have a great Combine workout.
Size is a limiting factor, and Austin is not a receiver for everyone. Yet, a creative offensive coordinator will take advantage of his speed and use him in a variety of ways, putting Austin in positions where he can be successful.