Ranking the Oakland Raiders Top 5 UDFA’s
By Austin Gayle
3. Austin Willis
Another undersized Undrafted Free Agent poised to develop into a special talent for the Oakland Raiders is a former Division II receiver out of Emporia State University.
Yes, an undersized receiver out of a small school having success in the NFL does sound like a sort of “cinderella” story, but Austin Willis is talented to become a reliable target at the next level.
At 5’9″, 175 pounds, Willis is an explosive route runner with really soft hands, which both create for a slot receiver that can handle a high volume of targets near the line of scrimmage. Willis also has elite speed and quickness that allows him to make a lot of plays after the catch, as he proved at multiple pro days with his sub 4.40 forty time.
According to Levi Damien of Silver & Black Pride, Willis has brought in over 100 receptions for 1,688 yards over his final two seasons at Emporia State.
Although Oakland hopes Willis can develop into an impactful slot receiver for the team as he continues to improve through the offseason, his best opportunity to make the team is as an effective punt/kick returner.
Oakland averaged just a little over seven yards per punt return in 2014, and now that the team has officially announced former University of Florida receiver Andre Debose has been waived/injured, it is Willis’ time to shine.
Willis understands how to turn a special teams opportunity into a starting role on offense, as his first season at Emporia State was primarily spent on special teams. He caught just one pass in his first year.
“It’s kind of tough those first couple of years proving yourself and climbing the ladder, but just like anything else, if you’re patient good things will happen,” Willis told the Emporia Gazette earlier this offseason. “Coach Higgins gave me opportunities here and I took advantage of those. I plan on doing the same thing again out there in Oakland.”
Next: Top 5 UDFA's: #2, Josh Harper