Through the 2014 NFL Draft, which will be held in New York, NY from May 8-10, Florida Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins will be keeping you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft with exclusive blog entries here at OnlyGators.com.
Florida’s third-leading tackler with 52 takedowns last season, Watkins played safety for the Gators after being primarily used as a cornerback – the position he will play as a professional – during his first three years. Watkins started 28 of the 48 games in which he participated but saw the field for starter’s minutes in many of those other contests.
His fourth entry comes just over a week before he heads to Indianapolis, IN to compete in the 2014 NFL Combine. Watkins is currently training in South Florida and rehabilitating a sprained Achilles he suffered during practice for the 2014 Senior Bowl.
Even though I sprained my Achilles and was unable to play in the Senior Bowl, I actually stuck around and watched the entire game. I was already there and my entire family already drove up, so I stayed and watched Solomon [Patton] and Jon [Halapio]…and Matt Patchan was there, too, so that was pretty cool.
We all hung out and ate meals together with Matt. We went through some hard times and good times together at Florida, so it was nice to reconnect. We actually didn’t know he was coming at first until we saw him walk into breakfast one day, but it was definitely good to catch up with him. It was like old times with the Gators.
Back to the game though, it was kind of frustrating not to play because I was having such a good week competing, getting balls, knocking some guys down. I was looking forward to the game and actually putting some film out there. But I did three days – all the days scouts and teams were there – so that was really good. The week was great overall and at the end of the day, it was really beneficial for me.
Some of the notes my agent and I got back were that I excelled in man coverage and press coverage – which we do a lot at Florida – but I also played off better than they thought I would. I think I proved I’m a better cover corner than everyone thought, which was my goal going into it.
I flew back into South Florida after the game and have been taking it slow with my injury because the last thing I want to do is aggravate it with the combine right around the corner. I’ve been working on different parts of my body because I got sorer than I expected at the Senior Bowl. So I’ve been taking it slow, doing a lot of stretching and icing, getting a bit more time off than during a normal week.
I just started jogging on Tuesday, actually. The pain is now gone, but it’s about getting the flexibility back and doing maintenance to make sure it does not reoccur. I’ve been able to walk for a while now – and if a dog was behind me, I can get away from him – but I want to get back to 100 percent with no more setbacks. It’s better to be conservative now and make sure I’m a full-go with no limitations for the combine.
The combine drills will start for me this weekend. We’ll practice the cone and shuttle drills at a slower speed to tweak on my starts and technique. Every day is something different. One day we’ll work on back-end speed, another power, another turn-over speed, another stride length. And then next week, we’ll run a couple of 40-yard dashes and then do a lot of work on maintenance so I can run the time I want at the combine.
There are a bunch of former Gators working out here but Marcus Roberson has stood out the most to me. He has amped up his speed already, and Solomon has always been fast so he’s just working on some small things to get better for his workouts. We compete sometimes and Solomon is of course the fastest, but I’m a bit quicker off the start so I can get him…but he usually wins. We’re just all down here getting better, getting faster and getting ready.
One topic I’m sure you all are interested to hear about is Cody Riggs deciding to transfer away from UF to a new school. Cody and I were in the same recruiting class and also roommates my sophomore year on campus – so we’re actually really, really close – and even I had no idea whatsoever that he was thinking about leaving.
When I saw it, it was definitely a shocker. I actually went to Gainesville this past weekend and was able to talk to him and stuff, but before the decision I had no idea. I think it was just something he was keeping within his family. It definitely seems like it was a hard decision for him. He told me he wants to go to graduate school at a different school and expand his network, like he said in that report.
I haven’t really been able to sit down with him and discuss it at length, but I think a lot contributed to his decision including wanting to play cornerback. Next time I get to Gainesville, which will probably be for Pro Day, I’ll talk to him about it more and get a better understanding about his decision.
There’s not much more to say right now because I’ve been spending so much time rehabbing, but I plan to check in again next week before I leave for the combine on Feb. 22. Thanks again for following along!