NFL Draft Sleeper Comparison: Wide Receiver

By Chase Petersen

What’s up readers, it’s sleeper time, and I’m back! I had to get this one out quickly, because the two players getting covered today won’t be sleepers for much longer; NDSU WR Christian Watson and Memphis WR Calvin Austin III are 2wo very talented receivers, so let’s break down their strengths and weaknesses:

Calvin Austin III, Memphis

Credit: USA Today Sports


  • About as fast as fast comes
  • Explosive in and out of breaks
  • Shown the ability to beat press 
  • Won against draftable competition


  • Tiny
  • Small
  • Undersized!

Calvin Austin III is dynamite. In a league that is actively looking for the next Tyreek Hill, here’s this year’s crack at one. Some will look at him and expect a move to RB in the NFL, however I’d think it would be foolish to not give him a chance at being a WR first.

Of course the first thing that is going to jump off the screen about Austin is his speed. He is more than likely going to run sub-4.3, and that shows up on tape. Even while on a bad ankle, he burnt consensus top 100 prospect – Houston CB Marcus Jones – on a couple of occasions in their matchup. It doesn’t matter where a DB lines up on him, Austin will run by them. 

Not only does he possess unreal straight line speed, his lateral quickness and direction changing abilities are elite as well. Multiple times he would get a defender to open their hips, then cut across their face to get wide open. Not to keep harping on Marcus Jones, but Austin caused him to hold multiple times due to his quick cuts. 

My favorite thing about Calvin Austin was his ability to get off and beat press coverage. The Mississippi St. and Houston games showcase this, and he had one move to beat press that no one else could even imagine doing. To beat MSU CB Emmanuel Forbes, Austin dipped all the way down to the ground, basically on his knees, causing the CB to miss his punch, and Austin exploded past him. His explosiveness will give him a puncher’s chance against bigger and stronger corners on the next level.

All of Calvin Austin’s knocks come from one thing, his size. He doesn’t have a big catch radius, he isn’t going to win very many jump balls, and he won’t win off the LOS with physicality. Luckily for him, it’s 2022 and offensive coaches do a fantastic job getting their weapons in open space. Whether it’s lining him up in the backfield, using him as the motion guy in the slot, or just letting him win with his elite juice on the outside, Calvin Austin III’s size won’t stop him from being a productive NFL player – in the right system. 

Comparison: KJ Hamler

My Grade: 2nd-3rd Round

Current Draft Stock: 3rd-5th Round

Christian Watson, North Dakota State

Credit: Tim Sanger (NDSU Athletics)


  • Mountain of a WR
  • Fast. Like really fast.
  • Contested catch expert
  • Huge and soft hands
  • Good ball skills


  • Not an elite route runner
  • Didn’t face press very often
  • Limited route tree
  • No elite competition
  • Not great after the catch

Christian Watson is one of the best WRs in this draft class, you just might not know it yet. In fact, he was called “The next Cooper Kupp” by another draft scouting website. I don’t know if I’m ready to say Watson will have one of the most productive seasons in NFL history, but I really liked what I saw on his tape. 

Standing at 6’5” (1.96m) he will tower over basically every DB he ever lines up against. However, it’s not just his size that makes him an intriguing prospect. Watson possesses speed that comes few and far between for guys of his size. If I had to guess based on his tape, He’s about a 4.35 40 guy, and even when CBs play off of him, he catches up and blows by them in a hurry. He lives behind the deepest defender on the field, consistently blowing by safeties for long TDs.

His QBs however didn’t always like how much separation he could create down the field, ending up underthrowing him more often than not. But luckily for them, Watson is 6’5” and can just go over the top and snag the ball. His contested catch prowess is one of the best in the class, and it’s on display time and time again. 

Now what can’t he do? A knock on him is he isn’t super explosive in and out of his breaks. He isn’t going to be a guy to shake you at the top of the route to be wide open, and they used him to perfection at NDSU. 

With that said it leads me to my next negative, his route tree at NDSU wasn’t huge. A majority of the time his role was to run the DB off the line of scrimmage and take him out of the run game, or to blow by his man for a huge play down the field. This isn’t to say he couldn’t win on slants, outs, digs, etc; we just didn’t get to see a whole lot of evidence of it.

My last knock I’m going to touch on is the lack of elite competition. Odds are he won’t face a single DB in the NFL that he faced in college. While that is concerning, we’ve seen that be overcome by many, many players at all positions.

Comparison: Randy Moss (Just in terms of his tools – I am In no way saying he’ll be Randy Moss!)

My Grade: 2nd-3rd Round

Current Draft Stock: 3rd-4th Round

The Verdict

Of all my sleeper articles, selecting which player I like more this time is the hardest decision I’ve had. With that, my choice is Christian Watson. How many 6’5” humans are out there, let alone ones that also possess 4.35 speed? While Calvin Austin has legit olympic track runner speed, Watson’s size and speed put together, get him the nod from me. I expect to see both of these men rise up draft boards throughout the pre-draft process!

2022’s Best Sleeper WR: NDSU WR Christian Watson



From just outside Kansas City Missouri, Chase has been obsessed with the NFL Draft for as long as he can remember. An avid Minnesota Vikings and Texas Longhorns fan, connect with Chase on Twitter @SportTalkCenter