According to the Baylor athletic department, the Bears conducted a private workout with Baylor offensive tackle Danny Watkins last week. The 6-3, 310-pound British Columbia native grew up a hockey and rugby player and didn't begin playing football until four years ago. He transferred to Baylor before the 2009 season and started every game the last two years.
He spent his first four years out of high school as a firefighter. When he went back to school to advance his career, the football coach at Butte Junior College in California asked him to try out for the team. Watkins decided to give it a shot. Four years later, he's about to enter the NFL as a 26-year-old rookie, but he doesn't feel his age hurts him.
"Well, I don't have arthritis, so I feel pretty good," he said at the Scouting Combine. "I was doing my physical today and I was one of the first guys out of there. I don't have anything wrong [physically]."
Watkins thinks his age makes him more attractive to NFL teams.
OT Danny Watkins
Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty
"I haven't heard one negative thing about being 26," he said. "I'm a little more mature I think than the other guys. They're not going to have to worry about a younger player coming in and kind of having to babysit him. They know that I'm going to make the right decisions right away and they like that."
Watkins was named first-team All-Big 12 last season, registering 134 knockdown blocks and grading out at 90 percent on coaches' film as far as carrying out his assignments. He's a very aggressive and powerful blocker who shows great technique and versatility. He put up 29 reps in the 225-pound bench press at the combine – one of the best numbers at his position.
He can maul in the run game yet also has good enough feet to block the quarterback's blindside. He also demonstrates great leadership qualities.
His stock rose during the Senior Bowl, where Watkins not only dominated at tackle but also made a seamless transition to guard. That type of versatility is very attractive to a team like Chicago, which has needs help at nearly every line position.
Watkins is an early second-round pick in most scout's eyes. He looks like the type of player that is smart enough and mature enough to grasp the NFL system fairly quickly. His inexperience may not make him a starter from day one but he's definitely has starter talent.
If all the players the Bears are targeting come off the board before Chicago's 29th pick, it wouldn't be surprising for Angelo to trade down a few positions in the draft. That way, he could grab a guy like Watkins and also add another pick later in the draft.
Ryan Jones scheduled for visit
The Bears have scheduled an official visit with Northwest Missouri State cornerback Ryan Jones. At 5'11, 197-pounds, he has enough size to play in the Cover 2 system. He has very good speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds.
He is a gifted athlete. He started three games his freshman season in 2007 and led the team in interceptions, while also leading the team with three blocked punts. After starting three games his sophomore season, he became the full-time starter as a junior and senior.
In 2010, he returned two of his team-leading six interceptions for touchdowns. He was a Division II All-American last year and participated in the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game.
Chicago scouted that all-star game and would like another up-close look at Jones. He's scheduled to come to town on April 7. It's obvious the Bears are intrigued with his playmaking ability. Having played against somewhat weaker competition than many of the big-name prospects, it's doubtful he'll be expected to come in and produce right away. If the team feels good enough about Tim Jennings, they could then work Jones in with D.J. Moore in nickel and dime packages.
He has plenty of experience playing press coverage and his speed will allow him to make up for some inevitable mistakes. Most scouts have him as a fifth or sixth round pick. He worked out in Columbia, Mo. with Blaine Gabbert and the rest of the Missouri prospects.
If the Bears coaches and scouts like what they see out of Jones, it could mean they'll forego cornerback early in the draft and cover the position on the third day. Just them scheduling a workout with a mid- to late-round corner gives a hint into what their strategy is heading into the draft. It's looking more and more like Chicago will be shoring up the offensive and defensive lines on the first two days.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.