Jaylen Watkins: Path to the NFL Draft: Pro Day

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 eighth entry was submitted shortly after his participation in Pro Day in Gainesville, FL. Watkins also began private meetings and workouts.

Heading into Pro Day, I was hoping to be 100 percent recovered from my Achillles injury. I felt good that day, good enough to do the broad jump, vertical jump, shuttle drills and on-field work, which I did not anticipate doing all of those heading into the day. I ended up aggravating it doing those activities, and it definitely started bothering me, but I got some good notes back on how I performed.

The weather played a factor, too. It was nasty last year but dried up before the guys got out on the field. We didn’t know what to expect. The earlier part of the day, looking outside, it was pouring and we didn’t expect to go outside at all. I know it was rough for Marcus [Roberson] and Loucheiz [Purifoy] and the rest of the guys having to run on the indoor track and having things off-schedule. “Out of all the days, it had to rain this day.” You know? It was warm the day before, right after it cleared up as well. But just for it to happen like that was a stroke of bad luck for all of us.

Before Pro Day even began, the night before, I had my first meeting since the combine and linked up with the Indianapolis Colts at the Florida football facility. It was very similar to all of my other meetings. We went over film, got to know each other and they picked my brain on some things over about 20-30 minutes.

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Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

Freshman power forward Chris Walker announced Wednesday that he intends to skip the 2014 NBA Draft, continue playing college basketball and return to the Florida Gators as a sophomore for the 2014-15 season.

“This year has been a great one, and I’m happy to say I will be joining the gatornation again for one more year!” he wrote Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.

Walker, an athletic frontcourt player who joined the team in mid-December after being declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, did not play his first game until Feb. 4 while serving an NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits.

He averaged 4.8 minutes over the 18 games he did play, amassing a grand total of 34 points, 24 rebounds and eight blocks on the season.

As he neither went through the offseason strength and conditioning program nor spent the summer and fall practicing with the team, Walker was far behind when he eventually became eligible for the Gators.

His length and athleticism were apparent in his rebounding and shot blocking, but he often rushed shots when getting post touches and was considered a liability on defense.

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Next for Chris Walker: NBA or Donovan process?

One way or another, the 2014 NCAA Tournament comes to an end in less than two weeks and a number of Florida Gators will need to sit down and evaluate their basketball-playing careers at that time.

That future remains somewhat decided for Florida’s four seniors, all of whom will first look to the NBA but almost certainly play professional basketball somewhere next season.

A number of other Gators will have a variety of options on the table.

Junior guard Eli Carter must determine whether he believes he will physically be able to play next season when he will be 19 months removed from a broken leg. Sophomore G Dillon Graham, coming off surgery for bone spurs in his hips, will also have to reevaluate his situation at Florida. Even if completely healthy, will he see much playing time in 2014-15 after an infusion of talent arrives at UF in the fall?

Then there’s the five-star freshmen. Though it was point guard Kasey Hill who opened the season as a starter and has seen extensive playing time throughout the campaign, leaving early for the NBA does not appear to be in his cards at this time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is power forward Chris Walker, who has averaged 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in just 5.1 minutes over the 15 games he has played since joining the team late and first taking the court on Feb. 4.

Once considered a sure-fire lottery selection, Walker’s sometimes-haphazard play and lack of collegiate practice time (just over three months) has exposed holes in his game.

Scouts now have questions about whether he could even be a productive rookie – and therefore a worthwhile first-round selection – which has most projecting the draft mocking him in the 20-30 range based purely on athleticism and upside.

As it turns out, Gators head coach Billy Donovan feels the same way.

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Jaylen Watkins: Path to NFL Draft – Gainesville

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 seventh entry was submitted on Wednesday, the day he arrived back in Gainesville, FL to begin preparations for Pro Day, which is open to the public and set for Monday, March 17 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Coming out of the NFL Combine, I’ve spent the last two weeks continuing to rehabilitate and train in South Florida. It was nice to have a break from everything for a bit, but I’m glad to be back in the swing of things.

I actually just got back to Gainesville on Wednesday morning. It feels a little weird to be back, but the first thing I did was go to the stadium even before I went to my place. I went and saw my teammates, Coach [Will] Muschamp and T-Rob [defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson], and everybody in the training room. They were all excited to see me, and it was definitely mutual.

My 4.44-second 40-yard dash was definitely the topic of conversation. A lot of the guys and coaches were saying they were proud of me for what I was able to do in the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine. It was really nice to feel the support.

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Jaylen Watkins: Path to the 2014 NFL Draft – Showing out at the NFL Combine (Part II)

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 sixth entry was submitted on Wednesday, one day after he returned to South Florida from Indianapolis, IN, where he participated in the 2014 NFL Combine. Watkins continued to impress and came away with some of the most noteworthy scores in the events in which he was physically able to participate.

Part I: Arrival, testing, interviews, bench press

On Tuesday, the day of the workout, we woke up at 7:30 a.m. to take some still pictures. You had the option to go see trainers to get taped up or start warming up, or you could just head out onto the field.

My group (11) was the second group of defensive backs, so we were able to watch the other group (10) do the 40-yard dash and position drills while we were waiting to do the broad jump and vertical jump. There was a lot of downtime because the jumps go pretty fast, but you have to wait until the first group is done with their 40-yard dash and positional work before you can even get on the field and compete.

A lot of guys were getting up to run and then sitting down and stretching some more. Being the second group to go was kind of a drag.

I felt pretty good going into the 40-yard dash because I knew I was going to be one of the last guys to go in my group considering my last name begins with a “W.” Instead of warming up and cooling down over and over, I did a lot of sitting around and relaxing in the beginning but began getting ready when my group began to run.

Continue Reading » Jaylen Watkins: Path to the 2014 NFL Draft – Showing out at the NFL Combine (Part II)

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Jaylen Watkins: Path to the 2014 NFL Draft – Showing out at the NFL Combine (Part I)

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 sixth entry was submitted on Wednesday, one day after he returned to South Florida from Indianapolis, IN, where he participated in the 2014 NFL Combine. Watkins continued to impress and came away with some of the most noteworthy scores in the events in which he was physically able to participate.

Part II: 40-yard dash, free swag, departure

We flew out of here on Saturday morning and had a two-hour layover in Atlanta before we could make it to Indianapolis. A bunch of us met up in Atlanta – Marcus Roberson and I were both working out in South Florida but flew out at different times for some reason. Also on the flight with us was Dontae Johnson (North Carolina State), Tre Boston (North Carolina) and Jabari Price (North Carolina), who wound up being my roommate for the entire four-days at the combine.

Once we got there, the second you get there, you have a bunch of forms to sign and then you go to your room, put things down and go straight for medical testing. You get your blood checked, have a urine drug test and take a bunch of X-rays and MRIs if you have or had injuries. Because there are so many players and MRIs especially take a long time, there can be a lot of waiting around.

By the time we got out of there, we went to dinner and were able to relax for a little while. Afterward there are informal interviews with teams from 8-11 p.m., which was very similar to how they did it at the start of the Senior Bowl.

The next morning was an early wake-up because of the second drug test, which they start taking people at 4:15 a.m. But I got up at 3:30 a.m. so I could be the first in line and they let me take it at 4:05 a.m., so I was able to go back to my room afterward and get some sleep.

Continue Reading » Jaylen Watkins: Path to the 2014 NFL Draft – Showing out at the NFL Combine (Part I)

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Eagles ink Riley Cooper to five-year, $25M deal

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, locking up the team’s second-leading pass catcher before he was eligible to hit free agency.

Cooper, who was paid $2.11 million over the four years of his rookie deal, will earn $10 million guaranteed with the fifth year serving as a team option.

After reeling in 46 receptions for 680 yards and four scores during his first three NFL seasons, Cooper bested all those numbers in 2013 alone with 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns.

He was heavily featured in head coach Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense and was obviously an important piece that Philadelphia was worried about losing.

Just seven months ago, Cooper was embroiled in controversy when a video of him yelling an obscene racial slur at a bouncer who was working at a Kenny Chesney concert leaked online. He took full responsibility and apologized profusely but had the incident hanging over him throughout the offseason.

Thanks to support from his teammates, Cooper was able to overcome the obstacle and have a career year. Many believed the incident would keep another team from bringing him into their locker room, but the Eagles obviously believed there was enough interest to pay Cooper, the No. 159 overall pick in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, well in order to keep him from reaching free agency.

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports

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Florida Gators at 2014 NFL Combine: Tuesday

For the fifth-straight year, OnlyGators.com continues our coverage of the eight former Florida Gators participating in the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.

The event, which is held for six days from Feb. 19-25, consists of more than 300 players being put through a series of drills, tests and interviews while more than 600 NFL personnel in attendance (including coaching staffs, executives, player personnel and medical staffs) look on and evaluate each of them. It amounts to a major job interview for these athletes to participate in ahead of the start of the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8.

Defensive backs Loucheiz Purifoy* (Group: 11 | Camp: DB44), Marcus Roberson* (Group: 11 | Camp: DB48) and Jaylen Watkins (Group: 11 | Camp: DB58) concluded their combine experience on Tuesday with the full workout, though Watkins only participated in one event.

* Junior

Check out Tuesday’s results from the 2014 NFL Combine…after the break!
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