30 Nov Scouting Notes: Austin Watkins, WR, UAB
RS Senior | 6’3” 210 lbs | Fort Myers, FL
An outside wide receiver who wins with some very impressive change of direction skills who struggles to capitalize after the catch
Austin Watkins came to UAB as a 2-Star junior college recruit, redshirting his first season on campus before earning a starting spot last year as a redshirt junior. In 2019, Watkins become the third player in school history to break the 1,000-yard receiving mark and earned Second-Team All-Conference USA honors. He has racked up 97 catches for 1,640 yards and nine touchdowns as the X receiver in the Blazer’s run-heavy offense that looked to isolate and create one-on-one matchups for him. The Fort Myers, Florida native destroys man coverage on intermediate routes with great change of direction skills, but he shows very little ability to create yards after the catch. Austin is the cousin of Kansas City Chiefs wideout, Sammy Watkins.
– Has two effective releases against soft press coverage, slide step and foot fire inside release
– Solid acceleration off the line of scrimmage against off coverage
– Deadly on 90-degree or more routes using very good change of direction and head/shoulder fakes to create separation
– Has the quickness and explosion at the top of his route to create space on double moves, especially on circus routes in the red zone
– Against the lower-level/C-USA competition, has the speed to win vertically
– Very good at ball tracking and adjusting to inaccurate deep passes
– Doesn’t drift and works back to the ball when running ins, outs and curls
– Makes smooth adjustments to back shoulder throws
– In contested catch situations, he high points the ball and has the physical toughness and strong hands to make catches through contact
Areas to improve:
– Against press with a jam, he doesn’t use his hands to swipe the defensive back’s away and gets widened towards the sideline on outside releases
– Misses opportunities to slow down or sit in the holes and doesn’t look for the ball when in a window against zone coverage
– Has a habit of fading on deep routes instead of getting back on the redline, often fading towards the sideline
– Against Miami/better competition, he struggled to get on top of their corners and win on vertical routes, suggesting his speed won’t translate to the next level
– Outside of contested-catch situations or 50/50 balls, he’s more of a body catcher and has some hard hands that lead to drops away from his frame
– Goes down on the first contact, doesn’t show any elusiveness and doesn’t fight for extra yards after the catch
– Liability as a run blocker, lack of effort and strength to stay in front of defenders
It comes with the territory of being a small-school prospect, Watkins will have to prove that his production in college was more indicative of his skill set and not just a result of the level of competition he faced. Regardless, the wideout would a good fit for a team that is looking for an outside receiver who can beat one-on-one coverage and be a threat in the intermediate range. As for the draft, Watkins is looking at a late-third- or fourth-round projection.
What to watch in 2020:
How does he do in the pre-draft events and can he be more effective after the catch? The Senior Bowl will be huge for the Blazer to prove that he can win against better competition and prove that he belongs in the league. As mentioned above, his speed is a question mark right now so a sub- or low-4.5 40-yard dash time at the combine will help erase any doubt. Watkins may never have the elusiveness and pure strength to create yards after the catch, but he needs to at least increase his effort in that realm by fighting for extra yards.
- A Bay Area native who has a dysfunctional relationship with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.
- Matt played college football and was a recruiting assistant at Division 3 Willamette University, where he received his BA and MBA.
- He has worked in the industry as a journalist, film analyst for PFF, and graduated from the Scouting Academy.