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Eagles Kick Off Third Day With DB Watkins

Posted May 10, 2014

With the first pick on the third day of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins.

The No. 101 overall pick, Watkins started 28 of 48 games at Florida – 17 at left cornerback, two at slot corner, three at right cornerback and his final six appearances at free safety. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound Watkins recorded 133 tackles (88 solo) with four stops for losses of 16 yards. He gained 44 yards with a touchdown on three interceptions and finished ranked 11th on the school career-record chart with 21 pass deflections.

Watkins enrolled at Florida in 2010 and performed mostly on special teams as a true freshman, recording eight tackles (5 solos) as the unit’s gunner. Throughout the rest of his Gators’ career, he would develop into one of the most versatile defensive backs in the country, shuttling from position to position, yet, earning 28 starting assignments before embarking on an NFL career.

As a sophomore, Watkins started eight games, six of those assignments at left cornerback and two others playing the slot cornerback position. He posted 34 tackles with a stop behind the line of scrimmage, as opposing receivers managed to catch just 10 of 52 passes targeted into his area.

Watkins continued to play all over the secondary as a junior, but would come out with the first unit at left cornerback for 11 of his 13 appearances in 2012. He finished seventh on the team with 39 tackles (26 solos) and deflected eight passes, scoring once on three interceptions, as the other two pass thefts also set up Florida touchdown drives. He had 57 passes targeted into his area, but just eight of those balls (14.04 percent) were able to be caught by his coverage assignments.

Through all of the injuries and suspensions that saw Florida plummet to a 4-8 record in 2013, Watkins was one of the few bright spots. So much so, he was named an in-season team captain. He started nine games, including three at right cornerback and six at free safety, finishing third on the team with 52 tackles (31 solos) with two stops-for-loss. He also broke up seven passes and limited his coverage assignments to 10 receptions on 65 targeted passes (15.38 percent).

The postseason would become Watkins’ proving ground, as he first impressed NFL decision makers while performing all week in Mobile preparing to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl. He was one of the few defensive backs to truly stand out from the rest, putting together a string of positive plays during drills, getting his hands on the ball on a few reps. Watkins showed smooth feet and hip action to quickly redirect and get his body under control to mirror the movements of the receiver. He also did a nice job getting his head turned around to find the ball, elevate and break up the play. While he is noticeably lean, he would elevate any concerns about his power with an impressive strength performance a few weeks later at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Watkins was one of the top performers at his position during agility tests at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. He opened eyes in the weight room, where his he bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times, tying Keith Reiser of Florida Atlantic for the top berth among the cornerbacks in attendance.

Watkins' half-brother is Sammy Watkins, the receiver selected No. 4 overall in this year's draft by the Buffalo Bills.

Here is the scouting report from NFL.com:

STRENGTHS: Nice size and strength for a cornerback (22 bench-press reps at the NFL Scouting Combine). Excellent speed. Good fluidity and movement skills. Alert in zones. Flashes some playmaking ability. Versatile - lined up as a corner, safety and nickel defender and played on all special teams.

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