2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Austin Watkins

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Austin Watkins

by April 20, 2021 0 comments

Austin Watkins has soared under the radar. Playing at UAB, he never became a standout name among the college football ranks. But every year, we saw a handful of small-school studs and Watkins is definitely one of them. He’s electric with the ball in his hands, a superb athlete, and a great route runner. He possesses an intriguing frame that NFL teams would love to jump on. Watkins becomes another uber-talented receiver in this crazy receiver class. 

Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 NFL Draft Scouting Reports.

Player Bio

Name: Austin Watkins

Jersey: #6

Position: Wide Receiver

School: UAB

Class: Redshirt Senior

Height: 6’2” 

Weight: 210 lbs 

Speed (9.25/10)

At 6’2″ 210 lbs, one might think he’d be more of a physical, slow, mover. This is simply not the case. Watkins is a dangerous deep threat with his speed and has the ability to blow right by the defensive backs. He averaged an outstanding 16.7 yards per catch in his career and it really shows up on the tape. At his pro day, he ran a 4.5 40 yard dash and he certainly plays a lot quicker than this measurable. 

Athleticism (8.75/10)

The speed has been established, but Watkins is also an above-average athlete in other parts of his game. He put up 18 reps on the bench press (three more than the wide receiver average) and had a broad jump of 9’8″. On top of this, he just moves so effortlessly for a taller wide receiver and it allows him to be used in a multitude of ways. He’s demonstrated his athleticism on the gridiron with multiple mid-air grabs where he is required to show his smooth body control.

Route Running (8.5/10)

Watkins is a very good route runner. He dominates off-man coverage by using his speed to eat up the space between him and the defensive back. He’s shown great ability to change direction and make cuts in all three areas of the field. He demonstrated this ability in one-on-one’s at the senior bowl where he set defensive backs up so nicely with a multitude of moves, and excellent timing. He ran through a very detailed route tree at UAB and showed this ability at the Senior Bowl as well. A knock on his route running would have to come against zone coverage. He seems to not want to sit down in the holes of the zone, but instead, try to make more happen. This could be a scheme and coaching thing, but a tad concerning nonetheless. 

Hands (9.5/10)

The stats can indicate this trait before the film is even looked at. During a three-year playing career at UAB, Watkins totaled just one drop. The film can confirm his natural ability to catch the football as well. He makes catches in all sorts of traffic and has shown good ability to catch the ball outside his frame. Drops will not be an issue for Watkins in the NFL.

Contested Catch (8.5/10)

While he’s not going to necessarily go up and embarrass someone, Watkins does really well to secure the ball into his massive catch radius. If he’s blanketed in coverage, but if the ball is thrown into his window, he will most likely catch it no matter how well the receiver has got him in coverage. He’s shown a good ability to adjust his frame to grab the ball and extend his radius

Run After Catch (9.0/10)

Watkins is an intense, physical runner who has good ball carrier vision and shows his speed in space capabilities. Using him in the screen game seemed to be a big focal point of the UAB offense and there’s no reason NFL teams won’t be able to use him here. He’s made nice juke moves and has been able to change speeds pretty well out in space.

Ball Skills (9.0/10)

As previously mentioned, he can go up and grab the ball well but he also has a unique ability to make adjustments and track the ball in. Watkins was given so many deep balls in college. He showed an outstanding ability to track the ball in the air, adjust his body, and create the proper angles to make the catch. His tracking ability should translate very well to the NFL. 

Release (7.75/10)

This is a pretty interesting category here. Because of his crazy athleticism, one could guess he’s quick at the snap, which he is, and he does tend to work his way open off the line. In the film, there’s no real variety of how he tries to get out of a jam and no real moves. He still does well to get past press-man but this is an area he’ll need to improve when going from Conference USA corners to NFL corners. 

Versatility (3.25/5)

Watkins doesn’t have the best versatility in the world, but it’s fine nonetheless. He’s only really lined up on the left side of the formation, so he’ll need to learn how to play on the right. He has played both on the outside and in the slot but he seems more comfortable on the outside. No real kick returning experience which is a bit disappointing as he could make some noise in that area of play.

Competitive Toughness (4.75/5)

Very fun player to watch in terms of intensity. He shows his effort all over the place. He’s physical, goes after guys in the run game, and is always giving his team something.

Blocking (3.5/5)

He’s very willing to block, which is nice to see. However, he does not really have the technique or impact but his effort goes a long way in scouts’ eyes.

Injury (5/5)

Watkins has shown no injury concerns at UAB and was only a 2020 opt-out because UAB had Covid-19 issues.

Player Summary

Watkins is a name people need to start hearing more about, and well within the next couple of days. A fantastic athlete with prototypical NFL size, he can do it all. Definitely someone who could go in the first round, if it wasn’t for this loaded wide receiver class. He will certainly be a day-two pick that can make some noise right away in training camp. Watkins projects as an eventual high-end No. 2 wide receiver or even No. 1 in the NFL. 

Player Grade (86.75/100): Late-First Round

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