The Eagles opened Day 3 of the NFL draft by selecting 5-foot-11, defensive back Jaylen Watkins (see bio) out of Florida with the first pick in the fourth round, No. 101 overall.
The 5-foot-11½, 195-pound Watkins, brother of former Clemson star Sammy Watkins, taken by the Bills with the fourth pick, played safety and corner at Florida will start out working at both positions, head coach Chip Kelly said.
“One of the things that led us to this pick is his versatility, because he has played both,” Kelly said Saturday. “He’s got extremely high football intelligence. [Defensive coordinator] Billy Davis was at his Pro Day, spent a lot of time with him, we had him in for a visit.
“He’s a kid who played safety, played corner, played nickel, obviously has the speed to play corner, but obviously we have evidence of him playing safety and doing it at a high level. He could be quarterback of the defense because of his intelligence.
“We thought it was a really good value, especially today. Really excited last night when we left that if we didn’t get a great offer, we’d have an opportunity to take him.”
It was a difficult season last year for Florida, but Watkins stood out. He was even named captain midway through the year, certainly an unusual move.
“We were going through a rough time, and I think at the time the coaches were trying to find guys who were consistently playing and fighting through what we were going through,” Watkins said.
“I was taking control of the secondary and trying to help us reach our goal of getting off the field on third down. I saw the goals, regardless of what we were going through.”
Watkins said he has no problem working in at both safety and corner right off the bat, something that’s very unusual for an NFL rookie.
“I did it in college, it’s a great opportunity for me,” said Watkins, whose high school home economics teacher was Nate Allen’s mother.
“I can play the corner position well and I can play the safety position well. I’m very knowledgeable, one of the few that can handle playing both. I did it in college and proved I can handle doing both of them. …
“I’m more comforable at corner, but over the years I got very comfortable at safety. I never played it before but it kind of just came naturally.”
-- Reuben Frank, CSN Philadelphia