For the second year in a row, the Philadelphia Eagles wound up with the first pick on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. After having a night to sleep on it, they handed in a card for cornerback Jayley Watkins out of Florida.
Watkins started rising up draft rankings around the scouting combine, where he turned in one of the better workouts at his position group. Watkins led all corners with 22 reps in the bench press, while his 4.41 in the 40-yard dash was tied for fifth.
But like virtually everybody Chip Kelly brings in, Watkins undoubtedly was attractive to the Eagles for his versatility. He can play corner—outside or in the slot—or safety and contributes on special teams.
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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. Brother, Sammy, projects as a top-10 pick.
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.
Cary Williams turns 30 this year, and his salary cap figure is set to increase to $8 million in ’15, the final year of his deal—expensive for a middling cornerback. Bradley Fletcher will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
In other words, one or both starting jobs at cornerback might be vacant as soon as next year. Watkins can be groomed for one of them.
He wasn’t a big playmaker at Florida, recording just three career interceptions, zero sacks, zero forced fumbles. At 5’11”, Watkins is also just a hair shorter than the corners the Birds have targeted since Kelly’s arrival, although that’s certainly big enough.
For this point in the draft, Watkins looks like a great value. A potential starter in the fourth round? Yes, please.