Danny Watkins Profile
Height, Weight: 6’3″, 310 lbs.
10 Yard Split: 1.82
Bench Reps: 29
Projected Round: 1-2
NFL Comparison: Daryn Colledge
My Take: If you didn’t know the story behind Danny Watkins, you will probably be surprised by the amazing road he’s taken to become a border-line 1st round NFL draft pick. Watkins grew up in Kelowna, British Columbia, playing hockey and rugby in high school. He actually was a firefighter in Canada and chose to attend Butte CC (Aaron Rodgers’ school before transferring to Cal) not to play football, but to enroll in their fire prevention academy. The football coach there happened to see him and suggested that he try out for the team. Luckily for him, he gave it a shot. That was the first time he had ever set foot on a football field, and now just four years later, Watkins should hear his name called in the first 40 picks of this April’s draft.
As you might expect from a firefighter, Watkins is one tough and mature individual. He’s actually getting a late start in the NFL, as he is already 26 years old. That’s about 5 years older than the average prospect in the draft, so some teams will shy away from him. However, I don’t see it as much of a negative. His body is more mature and he has only taken four years of abuse from playing football, so it’s possible his body has actually taken less of a beating than those younger prospects. Most teams don’t keep the guys they draft until they’re 40 anyways, so I wouldn’t let his age stop me from taking him. Watkins has a mean streak which he flashed at times, but I’d like to see even more. Senior Bowl week was a great example of what I’d like to see into the future, as he dominated most of his counterparts on a regular basis. I think he still may be just getting comfortable with all he is capable of on the football field, and give him a few more years of success and confidence and that ability to finish defenders will just come out more and more.
Many tackles move to guard because they do not have the feet to play tackle in the NFL. I can assure you, that is not the case with Watkins. He has excellent feet and does a great job in mirroring the defender, but many teams don’t like their tackles under 6’4″ or 6’5″, so expect Watkins to play a spot like left guard in the pros. Honestly, I wouldn’t feel bad about playing him at left tackle after watching how natural he is in pass pro. He has the agility, but at times he will lunge or over-commit, causing him to miss his block. He also appears lost at times, not consistently but I’d say a couple of plays a game. Usually it’s just standing around looking for somebody to block if nobody’s on him or having tunnel vision on the defender who just engaged and disengaged him and how has separation with him. I’d chalk these up to inexperience and are not a major issue, but it doesn’t help his case to play the most important position on the line.
Watkins can get to the second level well and can generate a push in the running game. He does get a little too upright at times, though, taking away his ability to get the defensive lineman rolling. Still, his technique is pretty good for someone who got introduced to the game so late. His ability to sustain blocks is top notch and defenders have a hard time getting him to let go. At guard he will need to work less in space and more in the phone booth, so it’s imperative that he keeps his pad levels low and uses the strength and attitude he possesses.
Watkins has skyrocketed up draft boards as teams project how much he still has to grow. I love his feet and the raw ability he can bring to the table, but don’t let the confuse you into thinking I don’t believe he can start now. He should be a day one starter depending on where he goes. The interesting thing with him is I see the skill set of a tackle in the body of a guard, which some people might see as ideal while others might see him as a tweener. I have him lower than most, but that is more a product of how highly I think of Rodney Hudson and Marcus Cannon than a bad feeling about Watkins. Despite all the room to improve, Watkins was still 1st Team All-Big 12 filling in for St. Louis’ #2 overall draft choice, Jason Smith, at left tackle. He can only hope to keep improving at the rate he has in the pros. Though it wasn’t how he imagined his life turning out, Danny Watkins will soon be making millions playing in the NFL.
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