PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles needed help at cornerback and safety in the 2014 NFL draft.
They got both needs filled with the first pick in the fourth round.
With the No. 101 overall selection, the Eagles drafted 5-foot-11 Jaylen Watkins from the University of Florida. Watkins is the half-brother of Sammy Watkins, the ultra-talented wide receiver from Clemson selected by the Buffalo Bills with the No. 4 overall pick.
Jaylen Watkins started at both cornerback and safety for the Gators last season and proved his mettle at both positions.
“One of the things that led us to this pick is his versatility because he has played both,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “Extremely high football intelligence, (defensive coordinator) Billy Davis was at his pro day, spent a lot of time with him there. We had him in here for an interview. He's played safety, he's played corner. He's played nickel. I think he obviously has the speed to play corner. But the fact that sometimes when you're drafting guys you try to project that maybe they can be this, but there is obviously evidence of him playing safety and doing it at a really high level. Could be the quarterback of the defense because of his football intelligence.
“So just thought that versatility, the football character, football intelligence part of it, the character part of it, we thought it was a really good value especially today. He was one of those guys looking at it that we were really excited about last night when we left that if we don't get a great offer, we're going to stay there and take Jaylen.”
Kelly was unsure where he would start Watkins when minicamps open.
“We'll work him out at both,” Kelly said. “That's the great thing about the offseason program, (you can) kind of get a feel. But just kind of how the rest of the draft falls and where we are instead of saying we have an idea exactly right now at noon on Saturday where he's going to be. Let's see where the rest of the people are that we bring in the secondary and figure that part of it out."
Watkins, who ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, was simply ecstatic to be drafted at any position. The next step is all a bonus.
"I did it in college all three years so it's definitely a great opportunity for me," Watkins said of getting reps at both positions. "I'm just really excited to get in and learn and I know that they have a bunch of older guys -- I played with (Eagles safety) Nate Allen in high school. I'll definitely be under his wing and he can help me with the safety position and maybe get under one of the other corners that can help me with the corner position."
Where is Watkins more at ease?
"I'm more comfortable at corner, but over the years, I've gotten very comfortable at safety and it’s kind of come second-hand,” he said. "I played it for two years at Florida so it kind of just came. I never played it before, but it just came naturally."