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Calvin Austin III, Memphis WR | NFL Draft Scouting Report

How high can Memphis WR Calvin Austin III go in the 2022 NFL Draft with his scouting report? Here's a look at the NFL's next dynamic weapon.

Today’s NFL is all about playmakers. Who can make plays with the ball in their hands, and who can make plays when the ball is in the air? Players who create are worth their weight in gold at the wide receiver position. The NFL Draft scouting report of Memphis WR Calvin Austin III reveals a potentially elite creator with rare playmaking potential at the next level.

Calvin Austin NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • School: Memphis
  • Current Year: Redshirt senior
  • Height: 5’9″
  • Weight: 162 pounds

Calvin Austin Scouting Report

There are different molds at the wide receiver 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 at 5’9″ and 162 pounds, he’ll never be a complete receiving threat. But even with his size as a natural limitation, he 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 can generate 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 can cut routes at absurd angles and use 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 can sink 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.

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 he 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 can explode upfield and use his speed to press defensive backs vertically, then break inside and gain space. His 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 can also separate one-on-one 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. He has springy vertical athleticism, and he can effectively track the ball, contort, and snare passes in midair.

Among other things, Austin can use 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’s listed at 5’9″, 162 pounds, but may measure in even shorter than that. 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 he 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.

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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, at times, use throttle control to create more contrast when breaking back on routes. There are times when he can use his sudden capacity more judiciously to create space. He can also be more efficient with his footwork on occasion, although he improved this in 2021.

Calvin Austin III’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. But beyond that, he’s decisive and calculated with his routes. When he’s on, he’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 more manipulative with his releases. He has better instincts at the catch point. And 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 can catch passes amid contact and maintain his focus in crowds. He may be labeled as a gadget player on account of his frame, but he 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.

Calvin 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

Being undersized, Austin took a redshirt in the 2017 season. He spent the time acclimating to the college game, then joined the Memphis Tigers in 2018 as a redshirt freshman. Even as he hit the field, it took time for Austin to earn a role. But the potential was evident early on. On just 3 offensive touches in 2018, Austin logged 107 yards and a touchdown.

In 2019, Austin saw an uptick in production, drawing 318 yards and 4 scores on 21 touches. He officially earned a scholarship for his performance, but his true breakout would come in 2020 — the year when Austin started to fully realize his potential.

In 2020, Austin exploded onto the scene as one of the AAC‘s most electric playmakers. Both as a wide receiver and a punt return man, he made an unmatchable impact. 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.

2021 featured more of the same for Austin. The Memphis WR only continued to blossom, accumulating 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.

Calvin Austin III’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 he fares in his offseason bowl game. Austin will be among many talented WRs at the Senior Bowl. There, he’ll get to prove his route running wizardry against higher-level defensive backs. And if he can prove he has utility at the catch point as well, that’ll only help his cause.

Wherever he goes, don’t make the same mistake others have made with Austin. Don’t discount him on account of his size alone. The Memphis WR has an enticing combination of explosiveness, twitch, and polish as a receiver. With that combination, he can be a productive weapon at the next level.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and his voice and face on Pro Football Network Daily. Follow him on Twitter @ian_cummings_9.

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