The Eagles started the fourth round by selecting Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins, who will play both safety and cornerback for the Eagles.
“One of the things that led us to this pick is he has played both,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “Extremely high football intelligence. …He’s played safety, he’s played corner, he’s played nickel. He has the speed to play the corner, but sometimes when you’re drafting guys, you’re trying to project them, but there’s obviously evidence of him playing at safety and doing it at a high level.”
Update: Howie Roseman clarified on Saturday night that the Eagles will start Watkins at cornerback, but that Watkins can play both and could play safety with more weight as he develops.
Watkins is 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds. He ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the combine while nursing an Achilles injury, and Watkins believed he would have been the fastest cornerback at the combine if he was healthy.
Kelly said the Eagles need their safeties to play man coverage, which Watkins can do. He started three years at Florida, and split time in 2013 between safety and cornerback.
“I’m more comfortable at corner, but over the years, I’ve gotten very comfortable at safety,” Watkins said. “It’s kind of come second hand. I’ve played it for two years at Florida. It definitely just kind of came naturally.”
Watkins said he is one of the few cornerbacks who can handle playing both, and he has proven he can handle “a lot of information at once.”
However, his injury at the Senior Bowl slowed him during the pre-draft process. Watkins did not do positional drills at the combine, and his Pro Day did not go as he anticipated.
“I wasn’t able to work out at the combine,” Watkins said. “I ran [the 40] hurt. My Pro Day wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I thought I was at 100 percent, but when I got out there, I wasn’t as healthy as I thought I was. …It definitely slowed me down a little bit after the combine at the Senior Bowl.”
Kelly said Watkins is healthy. The Eagles considered moving the pick they used on Watkins, but they were excited about the player. The versatility is similar to what Malcolm Jenkins presents, although Watkins does not have the same body type.
Watkins is the half-brother of Sammy Watkins, who went No. 3 overall on Thursday.
“We’re both excited for each other,” Watkins said. “Can’t complain about anything that’s happened this year for us.”