Atlanta has been exploring multiple options this offseason in relation to depth at cornerback and safety. One of those options has been Florida nickel defender Jaylen Watkins. According to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post, Watkins has had workouts for the Falcons.
Watkins is a senior leader for the Gators and the older brother of all-world wide receiver Sammy Watkins, from Clemson. The Falcons could be in great position to land the Florida star in the mid-rounds for added depth to their secondary.
University of Florida
Combine/Pro Day Measurements
Height: 5'11-1/2" Weight: 194 pounds
Arm Length: 30-5/8" Hand Measurement: 9-5/8"
40-yard dash: 4.41 sec. 10-yard split: 1.50 sec.
20-yard shuttle: 4.50 Three-cone Drill: 7.13 sec. Bench Reps: 22 reps
Vertical Jump: 31.5" Broad Jump: 9'10"
2013: 12 Games Played, 52 Tackles, 2.0 Tackles for Loss, 7 Pass Deflections
2012: 13 Games Played, 39 Tackles, 1.0 Tackles for Loss, 3 Interceptions, 8 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown
2011: 13 Games Played, 34 Tackles, 1.0 Tackles for Loss, 5 Pass Deflections
2010: 10 Games Played, 8 Tackles, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Punt Return, -2 Yards
Watkins has a solid build and frame for most defensive back positions at 5’11" and 195 pounds. He’s got great fluid hips, and his top-level speed allows him to match up with almost any receiver in the country. He’s got great agility, and that helps him when playing the nickel more than outside.
He doesn’t take many false steps and can play either safety or cornerback depending on what his team needs him to do. He rarely got burned and isn’t afraid to smack a receiver around on the field. He understands how to play multiple different coverages and will do well in a scheme that utilizes that.
Watkins hasn’t focused on just one spot during his entire time at Florida. So, in the pros, it may make more sense to let him learn one spot before he tries to show versatility. His frame is a bit slight, but at 195 pounds, there isn’t much more to gain.
He has trouble dissecting routes and anticipating when the ball will be thrown. Because of this, he doesn’t cause many turnovers. He plays the receiver instead of the ball too much and ends up getting in trouble for it sometimes.
How does he fit the Comrade Filter?
Watkins was never arrested nor suspended when he was at Florida. He was a team captain for the Gators and even switched positions from cornerback to safety due to injuries within his unit. He would do anything for his team as long as it was beneficial for it, on or off the field.
As a senior and team leader, he’s the perfect fit for the Comrade Filter. But, more than that, he was one of the guys the Falcons got an extensive look at when they were in Mobile, AL. for the Senior Bowl in January. His unique athleticism definitely doesn’t hurt him when looking for a fit here.
Watkins is a rangy defender who is experienced at both cornerback and safety. His best fit will be at free safety for some schemes and as a nickelback in others. He could end up eventually being effective as a right cornerback in the right schemes if given a shot.
He has the top-end speed to keep up with almost anyone and understands different coverage concepts. He just has to learn how to maintain eye discipline when playing at safety and how to judge routes better when playing at cornerback.
How he would fit into the Falcons' plans
If the Falcons want Watkins on the roster, they will have to take him with a mid-round selection. They would easily be able to put him on the depth chart at both cornerback and free safety and try him out at each spot for depth.
Watkins’ skill set may look best when applying it to safety for the Falcons. He isn’t afraid to hit someone, and he does have some experience in similar roles. However, he’s a bit of a project and would have to compete with Dwight Lowery and Zeke Motta for playing time.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All combine and pro day info is courtesy NFL Draft Scout. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.