If you’re trying to get a feel for what Jaylen Watkins is like as a player, talking with Jordan Matthews is a pretty good place to start. Watkins and Matthews both began playing college ball in 2010, and as conference foes in the SEC, went up against one another quite a bit.
“The thing that I remember is that I could never get away from him,” said Matthews. “I would go outside and he’s standing there staring me in the face. And then I would go to the ‘Y’ in the three-by-one in any type of ’10’ personnel and he’s coming over and playing ‘one’ coverage over top of me, too. Jaylen is so versatile,” said Matthews.
“Then I had to go deal with him at the Senior Bowl, too, so it’s like I really can’t get away from him. Then I come to the NFL and he’s right here, too. I guess we’ve always had that bond or something.”
For the record, Matthews was limited to five catches for 45 yards and no touchdowns against Florida last November — his lowest output of the season. He had a nice day against the Gators his junior year, though, with eight catches for 131 yards and a score.
Of the Eagles’ seven draft picks, Watkins may be the one that arouses the most curiosity. Part of that is because we don’t even know what position he is going to play for this defense long-term. He lined up a good deal at safety last season for Florida and the Eagles are thinking he has the tools to play the position down the line in the NFL. For now he will compete at corner, where he is most comfortable. Another part is connected to his upside. Watkins ran a 4.41 40 time at the combine on a bad ankle. He told reporters last week that he believes he could have run a 4.3 if healthy.
“We thought he’s another one of those guys kind of like when we got Brandon [Boykin], who if his ankle was 100 percent would have ran even faster and done even better in his testing,” said Howie Roseman. “When you talk about the package of things he can do, he can play corner, he can play nickel, he can play safety. We think he’s got starting ability at all those three spots. He’s almost six feet tall. He’s as smart as you can be.”
As Sheil mentioned in his defensive depth chart analysis, the 21-year-old could be used in sub-packages early assuming he doesn’t wrestle one of the starting outside cornerback posts away from Cary Williams or Bradley Fletcher. Watkins says the coverages he has learned in his limited time with the Eagles are similar to what they ran at Florida, but grasping the new terminology and scheme is part of the learning curve he’ll be fighting through in the coming weeks and months.
“It been challenging, but that’s been the best part about it,” said Watkins. “I’m learning a whole new defense. I was a starter for three years in my last defense so every year you come in, you just go to work. Now I have to take a different mental approach to learning the plays and the speed outside of the field. So everything is a little different.”
He’ll see a familiar face opposite him, though, as he gets acclimated to professional ball in camp this summer.
“He’s going to be great, man,” said Matthews. “Just one of the most versatile DBs in this whole draft class.”