BR Scouting Report: CB Jaylen Watkins

The Bears are looking to get younger at cornerback and will likely address that need in the draft. We break down film of Florida's Jaylen Watkins, a skilled corner with much potential.

With Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, the Chicago Bears have two Pro Bowl cornerbacks. Yet Tillman is 33 and could be entering his final NFL season, while Jennings is 30. The Bears are old at nickel as well, where projected starter Kelvin Hayden is also 30.

As a result, the Bears will very likely address cornerback early in this year's draft. An intriguing option is Florida's Jaylen Watkins, who may be the most underrated corner in this year's draft.

Jaylen Watkins (6-0, 194)

40-yard dash: 4.41
Bench press: 22


Jaylen Watkins
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

Pros

-Good hands, like a receiver.
-Able to see both receiver and quarterback in zone coverage. Very good anticipation.
-Very fluid out of backpedal to turn and run. No stiffness.
-Aggressive fighting off blocks. Uses hands well. Extends arms. Initiates contact.
-Not afraid of contact. Can finish plays.
-Great read and react. Plants and flies to ball.
-Very good speed. Not going to get beat deep too often. Closes quickly on plays in front of him.
-Experience at safety and cornerback.
-Strongest corner at the combine.
-Special teams experience.

Cons

-Not a great tackler. Poor technique. Aggressiveness works against him at times. Drops his head to put shoulder into ball carrier, instead of wrapping up. That is going to hurt him at the next level.
-Not physical in press. Doesn't use hands well. Could struggle against big receivers.
-Can play man but is best suited in zone. Allows separation out of breaks.
-Not always assignment sound. Can be exploited when his zone is flooded.

Analysis

Athletically, Watkins is special. He has great speed and acceleration, and his 22 bench press reps at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine were the most at his position. No corner in this draft has his size/speed/strength combination. He also shows outstanding awareness and anticipation, particularly in zone coverage.

Watkins transitions out of his backpedal well and is at full speed in an instant. In press man he must learn to use his hands better but his acceleration makes up for his inconsistency jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage.

At the Senior Bowl, against some of the top receivers in the country, Watkins was completely dominant. In 1-on-1 drills, he got a hand on the majority of passes thrown his way, showing quick-twitch ability. He's able to keep eyes on both the receiver and quarterback, which helps him quickly diagnose and react to balls thrown at him.

His biggest negative is his tackling form, which leaves a lot to be desired. He's too quick to drop his head and lower a shoulder, instead of wrapping up. Yet he's a very willing tackler, one who enjoys contact, so his technique issues appear fixable.

Additionally, Watkins can play multiple positions, starting six games at safety his senior season. He was effective lining up out wide or in the slot. He also has extensive special teams experience, working in all four phases through his senior year.

There really isn't much not to like about Watkins, so it's very surprising that some consider him a third-round pick. At worst, he's a second-round selection, one who will likely outplay many of the corners taken ahead of him. His on-field confidence and bloodlines (his little brother is consensus Top 10 pick Sammy Watkins) will also serve him well at the next level.

Watkins is flying far under the radar and the fact Marcus Roberson, his teammate at Florida, is ranked higher than him on most draft boards is laughable. If Bears GM Phil Emery wants to find the club's next long-term starting cornerback, he'll run to the podium to select Watkins in the second round.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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