2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jaylen Watson

Jaylen Watson

While everyone is finalizing more of the big-name guys, some of the smaller names are lost in the woodwork, including Washington State’s Jaylen Watson. Watson has met with 22 NFL teams and counting, so far in the pre-draft process. He’s an uber-long corner with the prototypical size to lock down in man coverage while providing value in zone. The three games watched on Watson all showed similar traits; however, throughout this report, we will be highlighting his matchup with USC star Drake London the most, as this game showed Watson’s true colors. 

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Draft Scouting Reports.

Player Bio

Name: Jaylen Watson
Jersey: No. 0
Position: Cornerback
School: Washington State
Class: Senior
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 200 lbs

Games Watched: USC (2021), Washington (2021), Utah (2020)

Major Injury History: None

Player Breakdown

Man Coverage (12/15)

Does Watson have the talent of a very good man corner right now? No. But he possesses a ton of tools that look very promising. Watson likes to feel out the route. He uses his length to tour over the defender and long strides to get within striking distance to knock the ball away or prevent a target. Watson has shown flashes of great mirroring, especially the deeper you go downfield. He is best in the deep areas but needs work in the shorter ones. Releases off the line are what kill Watson when in shorter areas, and it’s something he needs to work on quickly. 

Zone Coverage (11.5/15)

Watson is not going to be a man coverage corner at the next level, though he’s got a solid foundation of how to play it. When facing the boundary, the Washington State product backpedals nicely, seeing the ball and receiver. He does well to filter guys through his zone and often chips receivers. Watson could be a little quicker to react to the man in his area, though it hasn’t really cost him yet. 

Instincts (6.5/10)

The first thing you see with Watson’s instincts is that you wish he broke to the ball a half-second earlier. Otherwise, his instincts work differently across the field. Going deep, Watson is cool and can read the receiver’s hips for their next move. In shorter areas, it’s harder for him to read the game, and a good release makes the route Watson is facing to be super unpredictable.

Ball Skills (5/10)

As we just mentioned with the instincts, Watson needs to break to the ball sooner, and it hurts him most in the ball skills department. In the two other non-USC games, Watson’s ball skills were great and looked very promising, especially with the physicality. Against USC and London, they were bad. On the first jump-ball we saw, Watson was able to knock the ball away, though he didn’t turn his head at all. Then, it just got worse and worse. He constantly held blanketing coverage on London, but London just snagged every football, and Watson couldn’t fight back. Watson got mossed, out-muscled, and quite frankly dominated by London in the second half of that game, even though he had nice coverage.

Press/Physicality (8.75/10)

This is Watson’s calling card. Washington State used Watson in press coverage a ton. While he wasn’t assigned to jam much, Watson is up in the receiver’s face and physical throughout the route. He’s not grabby to the point where it’s constant flags, but Watson’s physicality can solely win him a rep. He’ll need to apply this more in the shorter areas, but Watson can shut down any route deep with that physicality and is a perfect option to fight bigger receivers in the NFL.

Long Speed (8.5/10)

Watson ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which looks about right for what’s on film. That length allows Watson to be super long stridden and clamps guys deep. If he’s beaten off the line, though, it gets tougher for Watson to chase and recover, which leads to him often being a step behind. This is definitely an underrated aspect of Watson’s game, one that will become something he uses to his advantage at the next level. 

Tackling/Run Support (7/10)

Some of the hits Watson makes are lethal. He’s able to lay the boom out in space, but there’s more to it than just rocking players. Watson doesn’t have the best technique out there. However, he’s willing to get involved, and with that frame, he can get a lot better. Right now, Watson tends to dive at legs. He sort of throws his body at the ball carrier, which can lead to a missed tackle and possibly injury with the way he can get hit. 

Athleticism (8.5/10)

Watson is a rare case of a player who doesn’t fully match up with his raw athletic score. Back at the NFL Combine, he posted a 9.82 RAS. This did not involve agility testing, but we did see some serious explosiveness scores. This explosiveness does show on film, but not completely in the way it really does on film. The agility is also a bit of an issue, and you’d like to see more numbers from Watson before making the full judgment in this regard. 

Change of Direction (3.5/5)

Agility plays a big part in this ranking, and it’s not great to the naked eye. What you do like, though, are some ridiculous flashes. Watson isn’t always the best against curls, but in each game, he made some plays to flip his hips that just wowed us. He’ll need to sink those hips more to switch to the inside, as it would create a significant advantage for Watson as he already struggled to win initially on inside leverage. 

Length (4/5)

Obviously, the measurements show that Watson is one of the longest corners out there. He uses this length very well, for the most part. The only negative comes back in the ball skills. While Watson is able to cover most routes, he doesn’t knock balls away. Watson even gets his hands on some balls, though they just get taken from him. This is where Watson will need to use that length to his advantage, as every other aspect is great.

Player Summary

Watson is one of the most underrated players in this entire draft. Sure, the flaws are there; however, this is a player who had tight coverage on one of the draft’s best receivers (London) throughout an entire game and only lost due to ball skills. Those ball skills are more than teachable with Watson’s length, as he should have a ton of time to develop in the NFL. As for the draft stock, Watson is a guy who will go on Day 3. Talent-wise, if he were to slip into Day 2, there would be no issue with that on this end, but he still fits better as a Day 3 guy.

Rookie Projection: Depth Boundary Corner

Third-Year Projection: Rotational Corner

Player Grade (75.25/100): Fourth-Round Pick

Pro Comparison: Brandon Browner

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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