Cornerback Jaylen Watkins watches game tape with a motive.
The former Florida cornerback understands the benefits of diagnosing the opponent’s tendencies. Being able to anticipate what’s coming before it does, gives the six-foot, 188-pound Florida native a succinct advantage on his competition.
"Jaylen works so hard,” Watkins’ former teammate Trey Burton told FOXSports.com. “He studies so much film and does so much extra stuff that has made him great."
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That attention to detail coupled with his athletic ability makes him one of the most coveted cornerbacks in this year’s NFL Draft.
Watkins, who is former Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins half-brother, takes what he learns in the film room and applies in on the field.
“In college a lot of offenses are not that complex,” Watkins told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. “A lot of times if a guy lines up on the numbers or on or off the ball that can give away a lot of stuff. You just watch where they line up the most. For example when we played Vandy, every time (wide receiver) Jordan Matthews lined up in trips, most of the time he was getting the ball.”
While Watkins played primarily at safety during his senior year in Gainesville, he caught several talent evaluators’ eyes playing cornerback at the Senior Bowl last month.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp makes cornerbacks playing press coverage a priority and over time, it became “second nature” to Watkins. When he lined up against other top-line talent in Mobile, Ala. he was able to show his comfort playing press-man.
“He has really good patience in the whole process when he’s lined up in press,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said at the time via Jacksonville.com. “I can imagine he’s done it many times.”
Unfortunately, Watkins sustained an minor ankle injury during practice that week. Even though he continues to monitor his ankle and treat it with ice, it won’t stop him from running a blazing time at the 40-yard dash.
“I think I’m going to run pretty good,” said Watkins, who plans to do all the drills at next week’s Scouting Combine. “I’ve been testing really good here. I know I’ll go 4.4 or lower. That’s going to be good because I know any time someone can run a 4.4 that’s pretty good.”
Watkins, who has been training at XPE Sports with Tony Villani in Boca Raton, Fla., has been working on speed training and positional drills. He also has been able to pick the minds of Hall of Famer Cris Carter and former Pro Bowl cornerback Samari Rolle.
Versatility in the secondary is also one of Watkins’ strong suits. He has lined up as a cornerback, safety and nickel during his time, which gives him an advantage on other prospects who have strictly played one position.
“The coaches put a lot on my plate last year,” Watkins said. “They knew I could handle a lot of information at once. That edge allows me opens a lot of doors for me as far as learning a lot of schemes.”
Off the field, Watkins is learning what being a professional means. Villani suggested to everyone attending his camp to read “Rich Man, Poor Man,” an international bestseller, which explores social and political issues of capitalism.
“I just finished it today this morning,” Watkins said. “It teaches you a lot of things that the school system doesn’t about money. Being that I may come into some money in the next couple months I want to inform myself as much as I can because I don’t want to become a statistic.”
If preparation is the key to success, Watkins will do just fine at the next level.
“I’ve always been the type to set a goal and achieve it,” Watkins said. “I set my goals and do whatever I have to do to make it. if I don’t make it then I look back at why and I go from there.”