Watkins (6-0, 194) is the brother of Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. He started nine games for the Gators this season — three at cornerback and six at safety. He finished the year with 52 tackles and seven passes defensed. The Cape Coral, Florida native had three interceptions while with the Gators — all of them coming in 2012.
Watkins ran a 4.41 40-time at the combine. He revealed to Philly reporters Saturday that he was nursing an ankle injury (sustained that the Senior Bowl) when he ran at the combine, which he says slowed him down some.
“I truly believe I would have been the fastest corner, I know that, if my ankle was 100 percent,” he said.
The Eagles brought him in for a visit during the lead-up to the draft.
Kelly isn’t sure whether he will start Watkins out at safety or corner. He plans to work him in at both this spring and will see how it goes.
“One of the things that led us to this pick is his versatility because he has played both. Extremely high football intelligence…He’s played safety, he’s played corner, he’s played nickel. He obviously has the speed to play corner. Sometimes when you’re drafting guys you try to project that maybe they can be this, but there’s obviously evidence of him playing safety and doing it at a really high level. Could be the quarterback of the defense because of his football intelligence. Just thought that versatility, football character, football intelligence part of it, just thought it was really good value.”
The Eagles were fielding calls for the pick but planned on holding onto it and selecting Watkins unless they received a really nice offer.
Versatility, intelligence and character are three traits that Kelly clearly looks for. Watkins appears to check all three boxes. He was named team captain in-season during Florida’s tumultuous 2013 campaign in which they finished 4-8.
“We were going through a rough time and I think at the time the coaches were trying to find guys who were consistently playing and still fighting through what we were going through, and I was one to take control of the secondary and try to keep us playing,” said Watkins. “I guess because I saw the goal in our unit regardless of what we were going through.”
Nice size for a cornerback. Good fluidity and movement skills. Alert in zones. Flashes some playmaking ability. Versatile — lines up as a corner, safety and nickel defender and plays on all special teams.
Thin-framed, small-boned and short-armed with minimal muscular development. Lacks ideal size and strength for a safety and quickness and burst for a corner. Average press strength to re-route receivers. Allows separation at break points — late to transition out of his pedal. Too grabby. Selective hitter — shows up in spurts. Not a physical tackler. Tends to propel his shoulder into ball carriers and needs to do a better job securing tackles.
Here is some footage of Watkins from a 2012 game against LSU, courtesy of DraftBreakdown: