Jason Watkins was a two-year starter for the Florida. He showed his versatility by starting at left tackle his junior year and right tackle his senior year.
All told, he appeared in 41 games for the Gators in five seasons, was part of two National Championship teams, and played against a very high level of competition in the SEC.
"Watkins is a great person and leader type at UF who grew up a lot between his redshirt sophomore and junior season," Bob Redman of Fightin'Gators.com said. "He was never a bad kid, but just needed to mature mentally and understand what school and football were all about. He ended his career as a leader on the offensive line and a high character person all around."
Physically, he certainly looks the part to play either on the left or right side, measuring in at 6-feet-6 and 318 pounds at the Combine. However, he's currently ranked as the 11th player at his position and the 118th player overall, placing him somewhere towards the end of the fourth round.
Watkins in spring football at Florida
Watkins failed to improve upon those rankings in Indianapolis, where Scout.com's Ed Thompson confirmed to ColtPower that he spoke with the Colts. On the field, he posted a lackluster time of 5.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash and didn't dismiss any concerns scouts have about the fact that he needs to get stronger by only putting up 18 reps on the bench press.
"He is massive and powerful, but may lack some arm strength," Redman said. "Still, his long arms help him a great deal in pass protection as he can usually get his paws on defenders. He had very few glaring missed assignments as a senior and one or two early as a junior playing on the side he was less familiar with.
He has massive hands — at 10 1/2 inches, he had the third biggest hands of any of the tackles — and a tremendous wingspan, so, again, he definitely has the physical tools and potential to make it at the NFL level.
The issue with Watkins — and the reason he's ranked as low as he is — is that almost every prospect entering this year's draft has similar measurables and has the physical tools to succeed at the next level. Throughout high school and college, he was so much bigger than everyone else, he was able to stand up against the competition based simply on ability.
In the NFL, everyone is big and fast and he won't have that edge. He therefore needs to improve his technique and get considerably stronger if he wants to start in the league.
A good example for Watkins to follow would be another former Gator that has found success since being drafted, Pittsburgh's Max Starks. Starks played for the same school, had the same tools coming out — although he was a couple of inches taller and about 20 pounds heavier — the same ability to play both tackle positions, and the same questions about his passion, strength, and technique.
Starks started at right tackle for the Steelers in Super Bowl XL and left tackle for Super Bowl XLIII and was recently named Pittsburgh's franchise player, so Watkins is not facing an impossible situation that has never been overcome before.
However, Starks has also been benched throughout his career as well, so Watkins could learn a lesson there in terms of consistency and continuing to push himself even when he has ascended to the top of the depth chart.
Howard Mudd could have some long sessions with him and Jon Torine could spend some serious time with him in the weight room. If he bulks up and works on the finer points of his game, he has the potential to be a dominant left tackle some day.
It takes time and attention to school a player and get them into proper game shape — this will be a challenge, especially considering that Watkins will turn 24 in June and has to discover the work ethic necessary to succeed as a professional — but it is impossible to teach someone how to be 6-feet-6 and 318 pounds.
"Watkins got better every year, going from the Gators sixth-best lineman as a sophomore to a starter in his final two seasons," Redman said. "He always had size, but tuned his body a great deal in his latter years and really pushed himself to play as best he could. He is a perfectionist that does lack a little strength and a little quickness, but has enough of both to succeed and get better in the NFL."
In the fourth round, or possibly the fifth, Watkins makes a lot of sense for Indianapolis. At first, he'll add valuable depth, but he eventually has the potential to be a very formidable replacement for Diem or Ugoh down the line.
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