When discussing playmaking wide receivers out "west," USC's Marqise Lee, Fresno State's Davante Adams and Colorado's Paul Richardson are often mentioned. Playing for New Mexico State of the Independent League didn't get Franklin much national attention but savvy scouts certainly know his name. Soon, you might too. New Mexico State clearly knew the caliber of athlete they had with Franklin, utilizing him not only at wide receiver but as kick returner and Wildcat quarterback, as well. He missed the first four games of the 2013 season due to an academic suspension but certainly showed off his playmaking ability once on the field, scoring seven touchdowns in just eight games. He played in 33 games for the Aggies over the last three seasons, catching 160 passes for 2,439 yards and 19 touchdowns and showed the ability to step up against top competition, hauling in seven passes for 154 yards against Auburn in 2012 and 10 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in a close loss to Boston College in 2013. Like Lee and Richardson, Franklin projects best in the slot where his burst and willingness to fight through arm tackles can best result in big plays. Likely to still be available in the middle or even later rounds, he could ultimately prove a better value than some of his more well-known peers.
STRENGTHS: Boasts impressive acceleration, making him a legitimate threat to gain significant yardage after the catch. Fights through contact, dropping his shoulders, spinning and keeping his legs churning to force defenders to tackle him, rather than falling down once contact is initiated. Strong hands to pluck outside of his frame. Times his leap well and competes for jump balls against bigger, more physical defenders. Good vision to set up blocks. Elected to sign with New Mexico State out of high school after being recruited by the likes of Utah, Utah State and Vanderbilt, among others. WEAKNESSES: Possesses a slim build, including in his lower body. Impressive initial acceleration but tops out quickly and dominated against low, slower competition. Isn't as quick laterally as he is vertically. Wasn't asked to run a full-complement of routes in this offense; mostly drags across the middle and quick screens to get him the ball in space. Doesn't attack holes on kick returns with the same determination as he does as a receiver. Academic suspension could be taken as a red flag that Franklin may struggle to handle a complicated playbook. COMPARES TO: T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts - Hilton has emerged as one of the most exciting young slot receivers in the league, a fact that is aided by the brilliant passing of Andrew Luck. Franklin will need to be just as fortunate with his quarterback fit and work hard to convert to a pro-style offense to enjoy the same early success as Hilton but the playmaking ability is there. Like Hilton, Franklin possesses a lanky build and is surprisingly tough as well as lightning quick. --Rob Rang (2/5/14)
05/07/2014 - 2014 NFL Draft: 126 FBS programs, 126 possible UDFAs: NEW MEXICO STATE: WR Austin Franklin (5-11, 189, 4.56)...A surprise junior declaration, Franklin is a solid athlete, but his lack of strength and tendency to drop too many passes might force him to catch on as an undrafted free agent. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com