Rookie Spotlight: Austin Watkins, Alabama-Birmingham
Height: 6’ 3” (unofficial)
Weight: 210 lbs (unofficial)
40 yard dash: 4.6 (unofficial)
NFL Comparison: Brian Quick, Tee Higgins
– excels at creating separation
– gets in and out of breaks fluidly
– excellent body control
– tracks the ball well in the air
– physical with contested catches
– speed may not translate to pros
– allows easy passes into body
– inconsistent blocker
College Production Score: .29
2020 Market Share Team Receptions: 27%
2020 Market Share Team Receiving Yards: 34%
2020 Market Share Team Receiving TDs: 26%
unranked recruit (2016) per 247 composite ranking
Scouting Notes: A former JUCO standout, Watkins transferred to UAB where he averaged 19.2 YPC on 57 catches in 2019, displaying his ability to make big plays. Watkins isn’t the fastest guy on the field, but he creates separation with nimble footwork and expert head fakes in addition to getting in and out of his breaks with stunning suddenness and smoothness. Watkins adjusts well to the ball in air, often salvaging inaccurate passes by wielding his body in ways that we’re used to seeing smaller receivers do in the mold of App State-era Brian Quick. He’s also got a knack for out-reaching and out-muscling corners for contested catches. Strangely enough, if it’s not a tough catch to make, he will occasionally let the ball get into his body. And though Watkins is physical at the point of catch, he doesn’t consistently bring that physicality to his blocking and in fact will take off some plays that he isn’t involved in. That being said, Watkins is a versatile receiver, who is just as shifty after the catch as he is prior to it. He finishes runs with power and rarely goes down with first contact. Senior Bowl week will be big in helping us to see how he stacks up against better competition.
Fantasy Outlook: Watkins is a first cousin to Sammy Watkins of the Chiefs, so he has football pedigree, and more importantly someone who can teach him the ins and outs of NFL play – He’ll need all the tricks he can get, as Austin doesn’t have exceptional speed. His route-running and ball skills should help to mitigate where he lacks in quickness as well. Watkins has tons of upside, and he should come at a decent value considering that he didn’t come from a marquee program and isn’t a speedster. If he can continue to separate at the next level, he could work his way into a starting spot on a needy team. He’s a jack of all trades that can break open plays in an instant, so don’t sleep on him in dynasty formats.
98 catches for 1,642 yards and nine touchdowns…Ranks seventh in school history for receiving yards and eighth in career receptions…One of just three players in school history to have a 1,000 yard receiving season…Had at least one catch in every game of his career (25)…First UAB player named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl since 2012.
AS A REDSHIRT SENIOR (2020):
First Team All-Conference USA…Selected to Reese’s Senior Bowl…In seven games, had 34 catches for 468 yards and three touchdowns…Had a career-high 183 receiving yards on seven catches at South Alabama…Led the team in receiving four times
AS A REDSHIRT JUNIOR (2019):
Second Team All-Conference USA…Midseason Biletnikoff Award Watch List…Became just the third player in program history to have over 1,000 receiving yards in a season…Finished the year with 57 catches for 1,092 yards and six touchdowns…His 57 catches were the fifth most in a single season at UAB and his 1,092 yards were the fourth most…Had three 100-yard receiving games…Posted a career-high 167 yards at UTSA…Had 10 catches for 159 yards in the New Orleans Bowl vs. No. 20 Appalachian State…Ranked 21st nationally in yards per reception (19.16) and 28th in receiving yards.
AS A JUNIOR (2018):
Played in the first four games of the season before utilizing the redshirt rule … Hauled in multiple receptions in three contests … Finished the season with seven catches for 82 yards … Most productive game came against Coastal Carolina (9/8), pulling in two receptions for 40 yards with a long of 24.
PRIOR TO UAB:
Hauled in 24 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns in nine games played for the Conquistadors…As a freshman at Dodge City, he caught 38 passes for 376 yards and scored one touchdown…Chose UAB over Akron, Bowling Green, Marshall, Southern Miss and Youngstown State…Related to Kansas City wide receiver Sammy Watkins.