Considering the Philadelphia Eagles' 2013 defenses ranked 23rd in opponent yards per pass attempt, it was hardly a surprise to see them address their secondary during the 2014 NFL Draft. The Eagles were in need of help at both cornerback and safety. So with pick No. 101, the Eagles selected Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins, a player who can play both positions.
So far, head coach Chip Kelly has noted Watkins will be worked in at both cornerback and safety. During Eagles rookie minicamp, however, Watkins said he feels most comfortable playing cornerback and is still learning the safety position.
In order to learn more about one of the Eagles' newest defenders, I contacted Florida SB Nation blog Alligator Army. Andy Hutchins was kind enough to answer my Watkins questions and had some worthwhile information to share.
1) What is Jaylen Watkins' NFL potential?
I think Jaylen -- J-Wat if his coverage on any given day is particularly nasty -- can be a really good third corner down the road. He played all over Florida's secondary and was never really a liability, and given how nickel corners have to deal with both slot receivers and edge running, I think that Watkins's versatility can translate there.
2) What are his strengths?
Watkins progressed from being a good cover corner with woeful ball skills -- torched by Georgia as a freshman -- to being a solid secondary player with no glaring weaknesses. His strength is being no worse than average at anything.
3) What are his weaknesses?
The flip side of that strength, I guess: There's no one thing that Watkins does at an elite level, no skill that will get him on the field for certain. That might make it slightly harder for him to crack a secondary rotation.
4) Watkins is known for his versatility to play both cornerback and safety. How often did line up at each position for Florida? Which position is his strong suit?
I think I'd probably play Watkins at corner, but I'm not sure if it's his strong suit. And the story on Watkins's time at Florida is that he did what was asked: After playing corner for most of his first three years, Watkins was shifted to safety midway through the 2013 season because of inexperience at the position (and the emergence of freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who made Watkins playing corner less necessary). He lined up at safety more than corner as a senior, but at corner more than safety over his career.
5) Anything else you want to let us know about Watkins? Feel free to expand upon your thoughts.
You may have heard that he is the brother of Sammy Watkins. (This is true.) But the things that have stuck with me about Watkins are how professional and focused he has been throughout his Florida career. His post-game interviews, the ones from the locker room that I catch on the radio as I drive home from The Swamp, stood out for their clarity, something of a rarity in college football. And his preparation for the NFL Draft was obviously superb: While Florida's two more heralded corners botched the pre-draft process so badly that they went undrafted, Watkins excelled at every stage, and would likely have been a second-day pick had he been able to finish his time at the Senior Bowl.
Also: Only Gators has an excellent series on Watkins's pre-draft preparation.
Thanks again to Andy. Make sure to check out Alligator Army.