Receiver Austin Proehl has just one credited NFL season to his name, but within that one season are several NFL stops, including two with—you guessed it—the Buffalo Bills, where his offensive coordinator was none other than current Giants head coach Brian Daboll.
Proehl, the son of former NFL receiver Ricky Proehl, was originally drafted by the Bills in the seventh round of the 2018 draft after not being invited to the combine.
However, he attended a regional combine where he wowed scouts, and then at his pro day, he recorded a 6.75 three-cone drill, a 4.07 short shuttle, a 9’5” broad jump, and a 34” vertical leap.
He didn't make the Bills roster coming out of training camp and would instead be signed to the Titans practice squad. However, he only lasted one day before begin waived by Tennessee.
Proehl then signed with the Rams practice squad in October 2018, staying there through the rest of the season. Los Angeles signed him to a reserve/futures contract after the season ended and brought him to training camp the following summer but Proehl could not stick.
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In 2019, Proehl was drafted by the Seattle Dragons of the XFL and made league history with his 14-yard touchdown reception (one of two he caught that season) which was the first-ever touchdown reception in the ill-fated league's history.
When the XFL terminated operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Proehl signed a reserve/future contract with the 49ers but didn’t make it to training camp, having been cut in the spring.
His next stop was with the Chargers, who claimed him off waivers, but he could not make their roster and instead began the 2021 season on the practice squad. Proehl was released on October 26 and returned to the Bills on November 4 but was released two weeks later before re-signing on December 24.
Proehl will now try to find a home in New York, where he’s currently part of a crowded receiver room. Let’s dive into Proehl’s tape to see what it is the Giants’ brass seems to like that they took chances on the young receiver who played his college ball for North Carolina.
What He Brings
Proehl stands 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds. The young man likely tapped into his father’s knowledge gained from his 17-year NFL career as the younger Proehl does a nice job of catching the ball away from his body without breaking stride. Proehl does a good job tracking the ball in the air and can adjust to passes thrown slightly off target.
According to Pro Football Focus, Proehl caught 65 percent of his pass targets in college for 1,266 yards and five touchdowns with eight drops (none in his final season for the Tar Heels). He logged nearly equal experience in the slot and out wide, with the snaps out wide slightly favored.
Given his size, he probably won’t be a statistical leader in contested catches—he came down with just two of six contested catch opportunities during his college career—and he’s not physical enough to force missed tackles.
That said, his hands are reliable, his concentration excellent, and his route running solid enough to where he gets to where he’s supposed to be, just as the ball is coming out of the quarterback’s hand. As a bonus, Proehl also has some punt return experience from his college days, having logged 77 yards on six returns (five of those coming in 2017, his final year at UNC) for a 9.8 average.
And for what it’s worth, Proehl was called upon twice in his final two years of college play to attempt passes on gadget plays (he completed one of those two attempts for eight yards).
Proehl, 27 years old, signed a one-year contract with the Giants worth $705,000 or about .3 percent of the team’s total cap for 2022. The contract does not have any guaranteed money or signing bonuses attached to it, meaning if Proehl doesn’t make the roster, the team will be credited the deal's full value once the cap accounting is re-set at the start of the season.
Proehl has a reputation for running good routes and for being able to make tough catches on passes thrown off-target. Those are traits right there that a lot of coaches would gladly sign up for. That said, he’s still a developmental prospect with room to grow as an NFL receiver. The practice squad likely beckons, though given how his career has progressed, it will be interesting to see if he sticks if that’s indeed where he ends up.