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.
Watkins’s 10th entry on his long journey covers his recent travels, brother Sammy Watkins and final preparations as the process nears an end.
I’m back in Gainesville after a busy couple of weeks and finally have some time to catch everyone up on my Path to the Draft.
The past two weeks have been much of the same – working out, training and rehabilitating my Achilles, which is almost back at 100 percent. I’m very close.
I was actually planning on heading home Monday, but I had to stay in Gainesville this week because one more team wants to work me out and interview me before the draft.
So instead of going home, I’ve been hanging out with some of my teammates here and will leave on Saturday. First, I’ll stop in Orlando to see my dad, brother and sisters, and then I’ll head home to Cape Coral from there.
Last time I checked in, I was on my way to Washington for a visit with the Redskins. My visit there was very similar to my time with the Philadelphia Eagles. You watch film, check out the facilities and get shown a good time. The visits give the coaches and front office a great opportunity to get to know you as a person; you only really get 15 minutes when you’re at the Senior Bowl or NFL Combine unless you get into a more in-depth meeting.
The way the visits normally work is you fly in the first night and go out to dinner as long as your plane is not delayed. The next morning you wake up early, see the facilities, meet the coaches, eat breakfast and lunch and mostly just watch film. They may ask you some in-depth questions about your family or a situation that occurred in your life, or they could ask you to break down their film and provide your own unique thoughts.
I’ve been very comfortable in all of the interviews. I’m fortunate because I don’t have any off-the-field issues and all the feedback for me has been positive. The conversations are all about football – strictly football – whereas other guys the coaches might spend longer trying to feel out their personalities.
One thing I should clarify is a report out there that I also went on a visit to Atlanta – not true. I think I was somehow confused with Solomon [Patton], who did visit the Falcons.
Everything has been calm and relaxed since my Washington visit. I’ve been staying in shape and my Achilles is getting better by the day. I feel really, really good for the first time in about three months. My confidence has improved – not that it was ever lacking – but I finally feel great on the field again.
I am also very happy with how all of my visits and interviews turned out. Teams have been getting a better understanding of the type of player I am and how versatile I can be in the right system. Coaches that look at the film have seen my ability, so they’ve focused on testing how quickly I can grasp their system and adjust to all of the positions they roll out on the field.
One other topic that has been discussed in my interviews on occasion – and I know fans ask about it all the time – is my brother Sammy [Watkins].
[Editor’s Note: Jaylen and Sammy are half-brothers who share the same father. They grew up in the same neighborhood with different families but were still close. Sammy declared early for the NFL Draft as a junior wide receiver out of Clemson and is expected to be an early first-round selection.]
Every team asks me about him because it is a neat topic – two brothers going in the draft and two pretty good players. Nobody has every drilled me about him though, just asked about our relationship and would I rather play against him or with him. They make it into a joke, have some fun.
I would actually love to play with him because I’ve never played with him on the same team. I also would like to compete against him because I feel like he’s one of the best coming out this year. He’s going to be a great receiver. I’d get a rush going against him – guys like that – big-name wideouts. It would be the same for anybody, not just him, but being my brother it would definitely be special.
We played against each other before in Pop Warner, but we were both quarterbacks so it was not really the same. Since then, all we’ve done is drill against each other at times – in the offseason, when school is out, during summer, spring breaks. The battles are usually 50-50 every time. There is no one person that gets the best of the other, but he’s definitely tough to cover. He’s big, strong, fast. He’s got a big catch radius. That’s pretty tough to stop.
I’m pretty excited to get back home and see my family, especially during a time like this. I’m having fun, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking. I thought I would be able to just kind of chill, but every day it gets closer. I hear people say, ‘Nine more days.’ It gets kind of nerve-wracking, so I’m ready for it to be over.