With their 7th round pick in 2018 NFL Draft, the Bills selected another WR, this time the UNC product Austin Proehl. He’s son of former Panthers great Ricky Proehl, who was an assistant coach with the Carolina Panthers from 2011 to 2016, working directly with Bills HC Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane.
Austin is a small wideout (5’9″ 182 lbs) who succeeds with great technique and precise route running skills — nothing surprising, considering who his father is. He has experience lining up outside and in the slot. NFL coaches and scouts were concerned about his speed/size combination in the pre-draft process, but Proehl was able to impress, running a 4.41 second 40-yard dash at the regional combine in Tampa.
This 'Julio' route per my boy Ted, is one of his most effective routes. He is very good at getting into the blind spot of DBs. pic.twitter.com/txhfraKWpb— Cover 1 (@Cover1) May 12, 2018
Another senior drafted by the Bills, Proehl produced 43 catches for 597 yards and 3 TDs as a junior catching passes from Mitch Trubisky and playing behind NFL level guys in Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins. He started his senior season as one of the focal points of the Tar Heels’ aerial attack, having an eight catch, 120-yard game against Louisville, but a broken clavicle kept him off of the field most of the time. He was able to come back before season’s end and finished it with 21 receptions for 337 yards and one TD.
Can't wait to see Proehl do work. (Top of the screen) pic.twitter.com/cNtno9hIiJ— Cover 1 (@Cover1) May 12, 2018
His lack of size and thick frame are obvious concerns at the NFL level. He struggles against physical corners and on contested catch situations. He’s a little bit inconsistent catching the ball, and his small 8.5″ hands are a concern. Proehl also is not a guy who has played much special teams in his career.
Austin Proehl comes in battling for a roster spot against guys like Kaelin Clay, 6th round pick Ray-Ray McCloud and Malachi Dupre, not exactly stellar competition. Most assume his best shot is as a slot specialist, but with his surprising speed and ability to get open in all three areas of the field, Proehl could become the deep threat the team desperately needs. This is an interesting guy to keep an eye on during training camp.