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 fifth entry was submitted on Friday, one day before he flew out to Indianapolis, IN to compete in the 2014 NFL Combine. Watkins has been rehabilitating a sprained Achilles he suffered during practice for the 2014 Senior Bowl and hopes to be able to compete in the full combine workout on Tuesday.
Over the last week I’ve continued to spend a lot of time rehabbing from my Achilles sprain at the Senior Bowl. I’d say I’m probably about 90-95 percent right now. I’m completely over the pain, but the Achilles is still tight sometimes, so I’m working on stretching and getting the flexibility back in the ankle. The doctors have been working on it, getting it back to normal, so I’m confident that I’ll be OK.
I’ve seen a little more of [Dominique] Easley recently as he spends most of his days rehabbing and is still unable to do many of the workouts. He is progressively getting better and doing some work in the gym, making his upper body stronger while doing whatever the trainers will allow him to do. He’s taking everything pretty well, knows it’s a long process and that he’ll eventually be able to show off on the field.
We’re in final preparations for the combine now. I know that I will be running the 40-yard dash for sure, but I have not yet decided about all the other events.
I’m going to mostly be rehabbing the next couple days and while I’m there, so I’ll be able to figure out what else I’m going to do. My trainer [Tony Villani] and his staff are already there, so it will be nice that the people helping me out will be giving me the same treatment I’ve had the last few weeks. Like I said, running the 40 is a definite but everything else I probably won’t decide until Tuesday when I’m out on the field.
Leaving Saturday for the combine, I’m definitely starting to get excited. I have spent the last week breaking down the 40, working on my 10-yard start, the first 20 yards. Tony’s strategy is not to go full-blast on the 40, so we break it down into increments and then try to work on our backend speed. I’ve seen the biggest improvement in my start and the 10 yards after the start, which should result in a fast score from me next week.
My fastest unofficial 40-yard dash time came at Florida, which was a 4.39 in a hand time. I told FOX Sports in an interview that my goal was to run a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, and I still think I can get there, but I really don’t want to throw any numbers out there because you never know what can happen.
After the Senior Bowl experience, when it comes to meeting with the coaches, taking tests and going through the process, I’m very confident heading into the combine. I know everything will be much more intense this week but that experience definitely helped get rid of any nervousness and has allowed me to be confident heading into this event.
I have not really spoken to any NFL guys about the combine outside of a couple former Clemson players working out with me at the facility in South Florida. They have basically said that most of it is just about going through the process, but the actual workout on the last day is fun and allows you to show off what you can do.
Throughout this combine process, and probably throughout the draft, I know I’m going to get compared a lot to my teammates. So Adam asked me to break down what I thought each of us brought to the table individually.
For myself, my strengths aside from being versatile, I’d say I’m quick and very smart, which I will show at the combine in meetings and interviews. I can slide inside and play safety and play cornerback, nickel, and pick it all up very quickly.
Marcus [Roberson] is very smooth in his transitions. He’s tall and he’s long. And then Loucheiz [Purifoy] is just a freak athlete, very athletic. He can do a lot of things. Whatever he does not have technique-wise he makes up for with his athletic ability. We’re all different when it comes to the type of cornerbacks we will be at the next level.
Teams that interview me, I want them to come away from the process thinking I’m a standup guy. They’ll be able to ask all of my coaches and trainers at Florida and whoever else I’ve dealt with that I’m going to do whatever I’m asked to do. I’m a team player, obviously moving to safety my senior year, even though I’m my best at cornerback. I’m very intelligent on the board and on the field, too.
From the workout, I hope I can build on what I did at the Senior Bowl, running a good time in the 40, though I don’t know if they’re questioning my long speed. I am confident I answered any questions about my cover ability at the Senior Bowl, so hopefully there are fewer hurdles to climb now.