It was over six years ago that UAB’s football program had been shut down. Fast forward to now, and they have as many as three prospects worthy of being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Two of those prospects were invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and had the chance to showcase their talents in front of NFL coaches and scouts in January. Among them was wide receiver Austin Watkins, who put together solid performances in Mobile.
Watkins has garnered praise during the pre-draft process for his route-running acumen, especially for a player who’s close to 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds. His ability to identify leverage points through his stems allows him to take advantage of his opponents’ weaknesses.
Having played 21 games in the last two years, Watkins has tallied 91 receptions, 1,560 yards and 9 touchdowns in that time frame. His career year came in 2019, when he caught 57 passes for 1,092 yards and 6 touchdowns. He played in seven games this past year before opting out of the remainder of the season.
Watkins confirmed to Windy City Gridiron after UAB’s Pro Day on Friday that he has met with the Bears and spoken with them during his pre-draft process.
Though widely seen as a Day 3 talent projected to go in Rounds 5 or 6, Watkins is currently the No. 16 wide receiver on my board and holds a late third-round grade for me. His physicality on the 50-50 ball, his catch radius, and his precision as a route runner would make him a good fit as an ‘X’ receiver at the next level.
The Bears currently have Allen Robinson holding down that role in the starting lineup, but if they aim to push Javon Wims for a roster spot — or if they want an insurance option in case Robinson doesn’t stick around in the long run — Watkins could be a strong investment on Day 3.
If you haven’t already, please consider checking out my 2021 NFL Draft guide on Patreon! For just $5, you will have access to my entire top 400 big board, a 7-round mock draft, in-depth scouting reports on my top 30 prospects, a long-term positional outlook for the Bears, and more! Your consideration is greatly appreciated.