Steelers 2014 NFL Draft Player Profiles – Florida CB Jaylen Watkins
Good friend Dave-Te’ Thomas of Scouting Services has finished his player profiles of several of the top 2014 NFL Draft prospects and over the course of the next few weeks I will be posting the ones that the Pittsburgh Steelers will more than likely have interest in. While he hasn’t been brought in for a pre draft visit, Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins is a player that the Steelers could have interest in and they were present for his Pro Day back in March. Here is his profile. Thomas has done these profiles for the NFL for several years and I know that many of you enjoy reading them.
University of Florida Gators
Cape Coral, Florida
Cape Coral High School
When the Watkins family gets together for the holidays their flag football game more than likely gets pretty competitive. Despite the close bond that Watkins has with his brother, Sammy, an All-American receiver at Clemson and regarded as one of the best prospects in the upcoming draft, after all, Jaylen is a cornerback and wide receivers are their sworn enemies.
Less than a year separates the two and they have a close bond, with Jaylen wearing the big brother title like a “proud poppa” rather than a sibling. A typical Saturday starts usually with Sammy and Jaylen waking up with two games on each of their minds: their own and each other’s. Sammy will never leave his room to head to the stadium until he texts Jaylen. “Play today like it’s your last game.”
It’s same text he sends him every week of the college football season. Jaylen responds with a phrase Sammy has gotten used to in his three-year collegiate career. “Play hard and be safe.”
It is game day, Saturday, and now both of their days are in full swing as they act out childhood dreams rooted in their brotherly bond. Despite growing up in different houses and attending different schools, Sammy and Jaylen’s kinship has made them best friends. Each having a hand in the other’s rise to Division I football, their separation has only accentuated their connection as they continually push each other as athletes and as men.
“We’re competing all the time, and we also both know what it’s like to compete at such a high level,” Sammy said. “We can talk about anything. When I get in trouble I go straight home to him,” Sammy said. “He helped me realize what type of person I am and what type of person I was for Clemson and the community.”
“When I’m home training I get to cover the best receiver in the nation,” Jaylen said. “Every time I play with (Sammy) I take lessons and think I can learn from this ‘cause I’ll never see any player like him.”
Last summer the two kicked their workout regimen into high gear. There were lots of long days at Buckingham Community Park — the home of the Riverdale Wildcats, Sammy’s former Pop Warner team in Fort Myers — consisted of ball drills, 40-yard sprints and countless one-on-one match ups.
When Sammy beat Jaylen on a route, they stopped so he could explain how he was able to do so. When Jaylen got the better of Sammy, they did the same — an outdoor classroom under the beating Florida sun.
Anthony Dixon, Sammy’s track coach at South Fort Myers High School, explained why Sammy is an all-around nightmare that makes his competitors better. “He’s very fast, that’s obvious, but what people don’t recognize is how strong and physical he also is,” Dixon said. “He’s the kind of athlete that just pushes everyone around him all the time.”
After a game, each would spot something good that the other did and immediately take notice. After starting the day with a text, the half-brothers celebrate their wins with a phone call. Jaylen would tell Sammy that he made a strong double move and did a good job using his size on the touchdown play. Sammy would tell Jaylen he did a good job in coverage but could still be more physical. Then the conversation would end the same way that it always does, with one brother repeating the other before hanging up. “You played great, love you.”
At Cape Coral High School, Watkins was a dual threat, playing quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. He was rated the fourth-best cornerback in the nation, according to Scout.com and earned a spot on Prep Star’s Dream Team during his senior season. That year, he led Cape Coral to an 11-1 record, advancing to the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 4A Regional semifinals.
In 2009, Watkins passed for 1,230 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also rushed for 928 yards with 10 touchdowns, and had 29 receptions for 461 yards and five more scores. He was
Named the Florida Athletic Coaches Association District XVI Player of the Year and was selected to play in the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
As a junior, Watkins had recorded 71 tackles (36 solos), with three interceptions and a fumble recovery a junior, while also rushing for 329 yards and five touchdowns and passing for 419 yards and another five touchdowns as a part-time quarterback. That performance earned him all-area first-team and FSWA Class 5A second-team all-state accolades. In addition to starring on the football field, he also ran track at Cape Coral and advanced to the 4A Track Championships in the 4×100 relay.
Watkins enrolled at Florida in 2010 and performed mostly on special teams as a true freshman, recording eight tackles (5 solos) as the unit’s gunner. Throughout the rest of his Gators’ career, he would develop into one of the most versatile defensive backs in the country, shuttling from position to position, yet, earning twenty-eight starting assignments before embarking on an NFL career.
As a sophomore, Watkins started eight games, six of those assignments at left cornerback and two others playing the slot cornerback position. He posted 34 tackles with a stop behind the line of scrimmage, as opposing receivers managed to catch just ten of 52 passes targeted into his area.
Watkins continued to play all over the secondary as a junior, but would come out with the first unit at left cornerback for eleven of his thirteen appearances in 2012. He finished seventh on the team with 39 tackles (26 solos) and deflected eight passes, scoring once on three interceptions, as the other two pass thefts also set up Florida touchdown drives. He had 57 passes targeted into his area, but just eight of those balls (14.04%) were able to be caught by his coverage assignments.
Through all of the injuries and suspensions that saw Florida plummet to a 4-8 record in 2013, Watkins was one of the few bright spots. So much so, he was named an in-season team captain. He started nine games, including three at right cornerback and six at free safety, finishing third on the team with 52 tackles (31 solos) with two stops-for-loss. He also broke up seven passes and limited his coverage assignments to ten receptions on 65 targeted passes (15.38%).
The postseason would become Watkins’ “proving ground,” as he first impressed NFL decision makers while performing all week in Mobile preparing to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl. He was one of the few defensive backs to truly stand out from the rest, putting together a string of positive plays during drills, getting his hands on the ball on a few reps.
Watkins showed smooth feet and hip action to quickly redirect and get his body under control to mirror the movements of the receiver. He also did a nice job getting his head turned around to find the ball, elevate and break up the play. While he is noticeably lean, he would elevate any concerns about his power with an impressive strength performance a few weeks later at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Watkins was one of the top performers at his position during agility tests at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. He opened eyes in the weight room, where his he bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times, tying Keith Reiser of Florida Atlantic for the top berth among the corner-backs in attendance. Including the safeties at Indianapolis, it was the third-best lifting performance of all defensive backs. His 4.41-second clocking in the 40-yard dash was the fifth-best run for the safeties and cornerbacks.
Watkins started 28-of-48 games at Florida – seventeen at left cornerback, two at slot corner, three at right cornerback and his final six appearances at free safety … Recorded 133 tackles (88 solos) with four stops for losses of 16 yards … Gained 44 yards with a touchdown on three interceptions and finished ranked 11th on the school career-record chart with twenty-one pass deflections.
Watkins was the lone starter in the secondary to play in every game, lining up with the first unit at right cornerback to begin the season and then switched to free safety for his final six assignments … Recorded a career-high 52 tackles (31 solos) with two stops behind the line of scrimmage and deflected seven passes … Was the recipient of the Gators’ Gene Elleson Community Service Award … Closed out his career by being named captain on Senior Day vs. Florida State … Opened the season with four tackles, including one for a loss and deflected a deep pass near the goal line vs. Toledo … Delivered seven tackles (5 solos) with a pass break-up vs. Tennessee, followed by a career-high ten hits in the Kentucky contest … Broke up a pass and made five hits vs. Arkansas, collecting eight more stops (6 solos) while batting down a pair of passes vs. Missouri … One of his five tackles vs. South Carolina came from behind the line of scrimmage.
Watkins started eleven games at left cornerback, appearing in all thirteen contests … Was in on 39 tackles (26 solos) that included one stop-for-loss … Ranked seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference with eleven passes defended, breaking up eight tosses while gaining 44 yards with a touchdown on three interceptions … Named College Football Performance Award Defensive Back of the Week after he recorded his first career interception and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown vs. Kentucky, also had two tackles vs. the Wildcats … Broke up three pass attempts vs. Bowling Green, all coming inside the red zone … Had four tackles, a pass theft and two break-ups in the Louisiana State clash … Deflected two more tosses while coming up with a five-tackle performance vs. South Carolina … His third interception came on a third-down play vs. Missouri, advancing the ball 16 yards to set up a game-winning scoring drive … Posted five tackles with a stop-for-loss vs. Jacksonville State and made four hits vs. Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
Watkins appeared in all thirteen games, starting six contests at left cornerback and two at slot corner, as he registered 34 tackles (26 solos) with a stop for a 12-yard loss and five pass deflections … Recorded a tackle for a 12-yard loss vs. Florida State … Had a season-best six tackles at Kentucky, in his first career start.
Watkins appeared in ten games as the Gators’ gunner on the punt return unit, coming up with eight tackles (5 solos) … Notched three tackles in the 2011 Outback Bowl victory over Penn State … Recorded his first career tackle and pass breakup in the win over South Florida.
No injuries reported during the season, but did not participate in the jumping and shuttle drills at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine due to a right Achilles tendon injury.
4.41 in the 40-yard dash … 1.50 10-yard dash … 2.56 20-yard dash … 4.50 20-yard shuttle … 7.13 three-cone drill … 31 ½-inch vertical jump … 9’-10” broad jump … Bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times … 30 5/8-inch arm length … 9 5/8-inch hands … 75 ½-inch wingspan.
Watkins attended Cape Coral (Fla.) High School, playing football for head coach Mike Goebbel … Was a dual threat, playing quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back … Rated the fourth-best cornerback in the nation, according to Scout.com and earned a spot on Prep Star’s Dream Team during his senior season … That year, he led Cape Coral to an 11-1 record, advancing to the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 4A Regional semifinals … In 2009, Watkins passed for 1,230 yards and 13 touchdowns … Also rushed for 928 yards with 10 touchdowns, and had 29 receptions for 461 yards and five more scores … Named the Florida Athletic Coaches Association District XVI Player of the Year and was selected to play in the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas … As a junior, Watkins recorded 71 tackles (36 solos), with three interceptions and a fumble recovery a junior, while also rushing for 329 yards and five touchdowns and passing for 419 yards and another five touchdowns as a part-time quarterback … That performance earned him all-area first-team and FSWA Class 5A second-team all-state accolades … In addition to starring on the football field, he also ran track at Cape Coral and advanced to the Class 4A Track Championships in the 4×100 relay.
Watkins is a Sports Administration major … Son of Brandy Green and Samuel Watkins III …
Born 11/27/92 … Resides in Cape Coral, Florida.