2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Calvin Austin III

Calvin Austin III Draft

Every year, people around draft circles look for that new speedster to take over the league. The prime example was when the Cincinnati Bengals drafted John Ross because Tyreek Hill influenced the league. While this didn’t work out, speed receivers are still a hot commodity in each draft season. 

Calvin Austin III is one of these players. He has 4.2-4.3 speed. The Memphis product was a former three-star recruit but comes with some red flags off the bat. Austin is 5-foot-7. Before the Senior Bowl, he was believed to be 5-foot-9, but this isn’t the case. With that said, Austin makes the most of it. He dominated Senior Bowl practices and made the most of his time in Mobile. Now, Austin is looking like a Day two pick; let’s see if he’s worth the hype.  

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

Player Bio

Name: Calvin Austin III
Jersey: No. 4
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Memphis
Class: Senior
Height: 5’7″
Weight: 173 lbs
Games Watched: Cincinnati (2020), Houston (2020), Houston (2021), Mississippi State (2021)

Major Injury History: None

Player Breakdown

Hands (8.75/10)

Across the four games watched, there was not one drop. Austin has made some clutch plays with hands. Against Houston (2020), Austin was open in field goal range and secured a diving catch to set up the game-winning try. He’s constantly saving his poor quarterbacks with different catches well out of his frame, which is impressive for someone so small.

As we’ll see early and often, strength is an issue, and it is here. If a corner gets his hands in Austin’s radius at the point of catch, they will probably out-strength him and be able to break up the pass. However, this is the one issue with Austin’s hands, and they should be more than fine at the next level. 

Contested Catch (7.5/10)

This is about the highest we can go for Austin because of the size. He’s shown an excellent ability to catch the ball with receivers draped on his hips or back. Austin caught the ball twice with Cincinnati star Coby Bryant right on him. He laid out with two defenders coming right at him for a touchdown against Houston (2020) and can secure the ball through contact. 

Where he’ll get hurt is the jump balls. Austin does well to high point the ball and time his jumps when it’s in range, but that range isn’t large. There are a lot of ups and downs, but interceptions have occurred when targeting Austin in a jump ball type fashion, so this is a weakness. 

Tracking/ Body Control (8.25/10)

Austin will make some highlight-reel plays and some not-so-great ones with his body. For higher throws, Austin can make beautiful adjustments. There are twists and bends, and you can tell he is a super agile player. However, when the defender is on Austin a bit more, it’s hard for him to make these adjustments, thus not making the catch. Austin has shown no issues to track in the deep ball, but it’s that tight coverage where he’ll struggle more. 

Route Running (8.75/10)

You can’t classify Austin as a technician in the route running world, but he’s excellent here. The first thing that jumps off the page is the cuts he makes and his hip movements. When Austin is approaching the next move of his route, he can change direction so quickly with a firm cut. Furthermore, when Austin has a defensive back on one hip or another, it’s so easy for him to win the rep by twisting his hips and gaining leverage in the opposite direction. He did this so much to Cincinnati that they had to switch Ahmad Gardner and Bryant onto Austin in the second half. 

Austin also has a diverse route tree. His best being the python route from the slot. Working across the middle of the field is Austin’s strength, whereas, on the outside, he struggles to gain more separation. While he didn’t get targeted deep often (because Memphis’ quarterbacks were not the best), Austin was consistently winning deep with the combination of speed and route running. 

The negatives come from erratic movements. Austin can, at times, be a little out of control and fly past the spot he’s supposed to hit in the route. In addition, he struggles to stop on a dime with his curl routes but has succeeded a little more with comebacks. While these issues are minimal, he needs to polish them because Austin is already at a disadvantage with the strength. 

Separation (7.5/10)

This is a tricky area to grade. Austin’s strength hinders him here, and it’s the only reason he would lose reps in the first half. NFL cornerbacks may be able to dominate Austin at the line of scrimmage. Austin also isn’t great in the scramble drill, which you’d want to see more of for someone so fast. Otherwise, he’ll win and get away with that mix of agility, speed, and overall route running. This was shown tremendously in college as well. Austin drew at least two holding/ pass interference calls a game, proving that this ability to separate is a serious one when not heavily pressed. 

Release (9/10)

Everything starts in the hips for Austin, including his release. When the ball is snapped, Austin gets going with his feet immediately. The stutter is absurdly quick, and he then does one of three concepts to get past the pressing defender. If he is quick enough and the corner slow enough, Austin will swipe the defender’s hands down and almost stun the defensive back. If this doesn’t work, Austin will attempt to gain leverage in whichever direction his route is going and win that rep with his hip movements. The third move Austin will try is the most impressive. With that great agility, Austin can get super low and go almost under the defender’s hands. This doesn’t affect his speed and has gotten him often quite a bit. Overall, the release is most likely Austin’s best skill. 

Run After Catch (8.75/10)

Someone so fast will have a good grade here, but there’s a common trend that must be touched on. If Austin catches the ball with room to run, he’s as good as gone. He’ll blaze past the bunch and gain yardage in chunks. When there’s no room to go, however, Austin is a pretty easy tackle. Now, you still have to make sure you get your angles right and wrap up because he can just run around defenders. Even so, Austin is an explosive player who is always a threat with the ball in his hands. 

Vertical Speed (9.5/10)

We know Austin has pure speed, but how does he use it in-game? Well, for a baseline, Austin had a 95-yard punt return touchdown against Mississippi State. He ran a straight line on this play, 95 yards in 10.5 seconds. This is elite vertical speed, and it shows on the rare deep routes that Memphis put him on. At first, it was a little surprising not to see Austin run that many go routes, but once you see the arm strength of Memphis’ quarterbacks, you’d understand. 

Burst (4.5/5)

Off the line, Austin gets going and doesn’t stop. As we just mentioned, his ability to reach top speed is incredible, but he needs to control his burst a bit more. This goes into play with the erratic movements in the route running, where he can’t really stop himself and turn back to the ball. There’s a clear explosion on routes like skinny posts where Austin can dust by the field when going deep. Austin’s burst needs some polish but will get there in the NFL. 

Athleticism (4/5)

Here’s where we are going to factor in the height issues. 5-foot-7 almost limits Austin to be a gadget player at the next level, but we’ve seen guys like Chatarius Atwell and Rondale Moore get drafted in 2021 with similar physiques. Austin’s strength is another negative. Besides those two, the athleticism is off the charts. The former Tiger is a fluid mover who is always a threat on the field. 

Blocking (3/5)

Austin has gotten rolled on some blocks and has set some key ones too. His best block was on a screen against Houston (2020), where Austin held a critical block, setting up an 85-yard touchdown. The technique was great here, and he held on long enough to win the rep. Other times, Austin’s technique gets away from him, and due to his size, he won’t be a primary run-blocking receiver in the league. 

Versatility (5/5)

In 2020, we saw a lot of traditional receiver lineups for Austin. He played the outside and slot early in the tape but got more diverse opportunities in 2021. Jet sweeps and screens last year were way more common, and he became much more of a return threat. Kick/punt returning is a key skill for Austin that can earn him a role right away in the NFL. He’s had some very solid punt returns, including that touchdown we mentioned earlier, and this is his way to contribute right off the bat. 

Player Summary

With Austin, we see a high grade, but it must be taken with a grain of salt. He has major potential to bust due to size alone. However, he has a high ceiling. Everyone thought last year Moore would be a gadget player exclusively. Instead, Moore showed us some serious flashes of the receiver he can be. With the way these types of players are going in the draft, don’t be surprised if Austin is a second-round selection. He’s got the talent to be and can change any offense he joins. Now, Austin is not for everyone. Coordinators will have to be creative to play to his strengths. Austin should get the returns right away, the jet sweeps and screens as well, but with enough time, this is a player who can be a very challenging receiver (most likely slot) to cover. 

Rookie Projection: High-End Return Man/Gadget Player

Third-Year Projection: Potentially Starting in Slot

Player Grade (84.5/100): Early Second-Round

Player Comparison: Rondale Moore

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