After adding S Malcolm Jenkins and CB Nolan Carroll to boost one of the worst pass defenses in the league, the Philadelphia Eagles added former Florida Gator CB Jaylen Watkins with the first pick in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Watkins, who is related to Buffalo Bills‘ WR Sammy Watkins, was the lesser known of the three Florida corners eligible in this year’s class, but was ironically the only one drafted. His size, strength, and speed are all excellent for a corner, as well as his ability to be able to play in just about any defensive scheme, giving Philadelphia flexibility moving forward.
His physicality and tackling leave much to be desired, however. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound corner will need to become a more physical player to secure a spot in Philadelphia’s everyday lineup. He will also need to work on becoming a more sound tackler, but he is not alone as this has been an issue for the entire Philadelphia defense for years.
Watkins is likely projected to compete for the starting nickel role to start his career with Philadelphia. He will battle with Carroll, Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin for said role. Assuming Boykin and Williams can grasp the starting positions along the depth chart, Watkins should be able to push Fletcher and Carroll for the nickel role early in his career.
Watkins also may see some snaps at safety, similar to how the Arizona Cardinals used CB/S Tyrann Mathieu last season. Watkins could be used in a very similar role if Earl Wolff and Nate Allen cannot hold down the job opposite Jenkins.
Although Watkins could eventually carve out an important role for Philadelphia, I would expect him to make more of an impact next season rather than in 2014. His athleticism will make it tough for Philadelphia to keep him off the field, but he will need to be brought up to speed and slowly worked into the pros. Nonetheless, keep an eye out for Watkins this season and heading into 2015.