Wide receiver Calvin Austin III is among the most exciting players entering the NFL via the upcoming draft. The Memphis, Tenn., native chose to stay home to play for the Tigers and also starred as a decorated track sprinter.
Austin redshirted in 2018 for Memphis but still appeared in 11 contests. In 2020, he erupted and was named to the All-AAC first-team offense, scoring 11 times through the air in as many games.
Height: 5-foot-7 3/4
Weight: 170 pounds
40 time: 4.32 seconds
Austin saved his best performance for 2021, logging 1,149 yards and eight aerial scores on 74 grabs, adding a 69-yard rushing touchdown on his way to another first-team all-conference selection.
His projected draft placement varies quite a bit, typically ranging from the third to the fifth round. It will be rather surprising if Austin falls into the fifth as at least one team figures to fall in love with his speed and big-play nature in this pass-happy league much earlier.
Table: Calvin Austin III NCAA stats (2018-21)
*includes postseason/bowl games
- Explosive athlete with elite speed who can house it from anywhere on the field
- Skill set begs coaches to manufacture plays to get him in space — dangerous from all three levels of the passing tree
- Improved technical nuances as a route runner in 2021
- Quality hands, especially tracking down the field
- Can play from inside and the slot without skipping a beat — actually played more than 90 percent of his snaps on the outside last year and shouldn’t be pegged as “just a slot receiver” because of his size
- Plays bigger than his physical stature — comes with a degree of moxie that cannot be taught
- Hard to jam at the line due to quick footwork and multiple releases
- Elusive in the open field — exceptional agility, low center of gravity, and top-shelf body control make for a tough target to tackle
- Ran an absurd 1.44-second 10-yard split in the 40, which ranks in the 99.8th percentile all time among combine WRs — instant gas pedal response and first-rate start-stop ability
- Menacing special teams returner — a pair of touchdowns on 25 punt returns in the last two seasons
- Understands how to work back to bail out a scrambling quarterback — shows a feel for exploiting soft spots in coverage
Also see: 2022 NFL Draft Central
- Obvious size concerns will immediately create detractors
- Isn’t a factor in closely contested situations — too frequently loses 50/50 jump-ball scenarios
- Doesn’t shed many tackles once the defender gets a hand on him
- Unlikely to develop into a true WR1 in the pros
- Borderline useless as a blocker
Fantasy football outlook
A comparison often thrown around is Tyreek Hill, and that’s just not fair. Hill is much more powerfully built with a thicker frame and better functional strength. A more apt comp is Marquise Brown. Both are lightning in a bottle but don’t profile as a No. 1 and aren’t terribly hard to game plan against at the next level.
We’ll give a detailed outlook on Austin’s fantasy worth once the diminuative receiver finds an NFL home. He should become a weekly lineup consideration in short order, although Austin’s style of play is inherently inconsistent for fake football deployment. Expect a lot of all-or-nothing outputs, regardless of where he winds up.