Written by Joe Marino
Games watched: SMU (2020), Cincinnati (2020), UCF (2020), Navy (2021), Mississippi State (2021), Tulsa (2021)
Best Game Studied: Mississippi State (2021)
Worst Game Studied: UCF (2020)
Route Running: See Above.
Hands: Austin has natural hands and he routinely catches the ball in stride and carries speed through the ball to maximize his chances to produce with the ball in his hands. I was very impressed with his ability to extend for the ball despite a small catch radius. While he isn’t immune to an occasional drop, he is mostly consistent.
Separation: See Above.
Release Package: See Above.
Run After Catch: Austin is electric with the ball in his hands. He has lethal speed and quickness that is complemented by good field vision. He consistently destroys pursuit angles and is fearless as a runner. He has the type of skill set that demands manufactured touches that’ll make the defense hold their breath.
Ball Skills: Austin does a good job of tracking and adjusting to the ball in the air and has wonderful body control. With that said, his catch radius is tiny and winning through contact is a challenge given his size. He does well to maximize his catch radius and compete at the catch point but the reality is that there are limitations. The good news for Austin is that he does such a great job of separating that those limitations aren’t often manifested on the field.
Football IQ: Make no mistake about it, Austin is a track and field star AND he’s a football star. Any notion that Austin is a track guy trying to play football is a poor assumption and not rooted in what Austin proved at Memphis. Austin has natural pass-catching instincts and good route-running technique. His heads-up punt return against Mississippi State in 2021 is a perfect example of his situational awareness.
Versatility: Austin has plenty of experience playing out wide but also projects well from the slot. He can impact an offense in so many ways including down the field, on quick passes, and on handoffs where he has the ability to produce big plays. Austin was never given a single rep as a kick returner in college. He does have some experience as a punt returner, where he has two return touchdowns but also a concerning amount of muffs across a relatively small sample size.
Competitive Toughness: Austin is an extremely undersized player but he is fearless on the field which is evident in how he competes with the ball in his hands. Obviously, his diminutive frame presents some restrictions and he isn’t going to make an impact as a blocker and small amounts of contact can take him off the menu on a given play.
Big Play Ability: Austin is a big-play machine. He is a dynamic vertical threat and yards after catch guy but he also has three rushing touchdowns on eight career carries and averaged more than 21 yards per attempt. He has two punt return touchdowns in only 29 return attempts. He is lightning in a bottle.
TDN Consensus: 79.17/100 (Third Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 79.00/100
Marino Grade: 78.50/100
Harris Grade: 78.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 79.50/100
Weissman Grade: 79.00/100
Parson Grade: 81.00/100