How will Andrew Hawkins' retirement affect Austin Carr?

Charlie Neibergall / AP Photo

Northwestern's Austin Carr led his league last year in yards, receptions, and TDs en route to being named Big 10 Receiver of the Year. As a former walk-on at NU and an undrafted free agent, he's drawn comparisons to Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. Unfortunately, he was also a long shot to make the roster. Until now.

After 31-year-old slot man Andrew Hawkins announced his retirement Wednesday, Carr's odds of securing a spot on the 53-man went up exponentially. While he'd still most likely end up as the sixth receiver (behind Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, and Chris Hogan), Hawkins' unexpected move puts the rookie in prime position to seize that last open space.

Now, Carr's other competition is limited to Cody Hollister, Devin Lucien, and Tony Washington. None of those three has more than two years of experience, and two were undrafted rookies as well (Lucien was a seventh-round pick). It might still be difficult for Carr to pick up the system, but if he can handle that his slot skill set and outstanding work ethic could be enough to survive cuts.

And out of the four, Carr offers the most opportunity down the line. Lucien and Washington, who already have some experience under their belts, haven't shown much potential and have split time between the main roster and the practice squad throughout their careers. Hollister, meanwhile, is as green as Carr. And while Lucien and Hollister are 6'2" and 6'4" respectively, the 6'1" Carr would be a nice change of pace over the middle from the 5'10" Edelman and Amendola.

Coming out of college, analysts pegged Carr as an "overachiever," a guy who got the job done thanks to his dedication rather than his overwhelming physical skill. It's a well-worn NFL story, but it's also one that applies to star pass-catchers like Edelman, Welker, and Amendola. With Hawkins effectively gifting him the inside track to a roster spot, he Northwestern product's NFL career has started out rather favorably. But luck has taken him almost as far as it can--now it's time for Carr to prove the comps aren't just height. It's time for him to prove that he can become the next great Pats slot receiver.

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