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Jaylen Watkins A Versatile Weapon For 'D'

Posted May 10, 2014

Jaylen Watkins had a good feeling when he woke up this morning. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound defensive back didn't have to wait very long on the third day of the NFL Draft to hear his name called as the Eagles selected him with the first pick of the fourth round, No. 101 overall.

"It's definitely a great opportunity for me," Watkins said. "I'm just excited, really, to get in and learn."

One of the most versatile defensive backs, Watkins started 28 games in his four-year career at Florida with 17 at left corner, three at right corner, two at slot corner and six as a free safety. Head coach Chip Kelly values Watkins' versatility and isn't afraid to test the rookie by teaching him both cornerback and safety to start his NFL career.

"Extremely high football intelligence," Kelly said. "He has the speed to play corner, but sometimes when you’re drafting guys, you’re trying to project that maybe he can be this. Obviously, there is evidence of him playing safety and doing it at a really high level.

"He could be the quarterback of the defense because of his football intelligence, and we just thought that versatility and that football intelligence and character part of it, we thought it was a really good value, especially today. He’s one of those guys that we were really excited about last night, where if we didn’t get a great offer, then we were going to stay right there and take Jaylen."

Watkins' character, football IQ and playing experience fits right in with the other players selected by the Eagles in this year's draft class.

“It’s very big because if you ever look back at teams that win national championships or are very successful, you have a lot of veteran and older guys that have grown in systems and have peaked at the right time," Watkins said. "I feel like when you have a bunch of guys with high IQs, have graduated and are mature, they come in with that aspect, are ready to learn and are humble. A lot of those aspects come with that.”

Despite Florida's struggles in 2013, Watkins continued to thrive recording 52 tackles, two for loss and deflecting seven passes. Watkins also served as a role model for the secondary not allowing the unit to fall into the traps that can happen with teams that are not performing as well as expected. Watkins was rewarded by his coaches by being named a team captain in the middle of the season.

"We were going through a rough time," Watkins said. "The coaches were finding guys who were consistently playing and still fighting through what we were going through. I was one who took control of the secondary and tried to keep us playing and to reach our goal which was to get off the field on third downs and no touchdowns. I saw the goal in our unit regardless of what we were going through."

It's been a big weekend for the Watkins family as his half-brother, Sammy, was the No. 4 overall pick of the Buffalo Bills. Jaylen Watkins thought that he would have been selected higher, but an ankle injury slowed him down in the pre-draft process. After visiting with the Eagles, Watkins felt that he impressed the coaching staff with his knowledge of the defense and wasn't surprised to get the call from the 215 area code. Watkins is thrilled to be in Philadelphia and will have safety Nate Allen, who went to the same high school, as someone to show him the ropes. Allen's mom, Darlene, was Watkins' 10th-grade home economics teacher.

“I know Philly is a place I will love to be so I’m watching pick 101 and they called me right before," Watkins said.

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