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Jaylen Watson
NFL Draft

Jaylen Watson: NFL Draft Prospect Interview

  • Justin Melo
  • April 15, 2022
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NFL franchises that value size and athletic ability at the cornerback position will be paying close attention to Washington State’s Jaylen Watson throughout the 2022 NFL Draft. The Augusta, Georgia native put forth underrated NFL Scouting Combine and Pro Day performances that deserve your undivided attention.

The 6-foot-3, 204-pound Watson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds, an excellent result given his imposing size and stature. Watson carried that momentum over to his Pro Day, where he leaped a jaw-dropping 38-inch vertical.

Watson recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network regarding his combine and Pro Day performances, how he uses his terrific size to his advantage in coverage, what working at Wendy’s alongside his hard-working mother taught him about life, getting pranked by NFL quarterback Jared Goff, and so much more.

JM: You actually began your career in JUCO via Ventura College. What was your JUCO experience like?

JW: Being from Georgia, it was a huge culture shock for me. I ended up gaining a real brothership with all of my teammates. We went through and embraced the struggle together. It was definitely an experience that brought us closer together. It was a difficult, but fun time. It was tough moving away from my mom at such a young age. It taught me a lot of hard life lessons at the end of the day.

JM: The JUCO ranks certainly represent a struggle. Something hilarious happened to you while you were there, though. You were pranked by Detroit Lions starting quarterback Jared Goff, who showed up to the program as a student in disguise to help film a video for Red Bull. What was that like?

JW: Let me tell you, that was really something (laughs). We were told we had a new quarterback transfer. We came out to practice and it didn’t take very long for us to realize this “kid” so to speak had an absolute cannon of an arm (laughs). We’re starting to think we might have a new starting quarterback. It was a great, funny time. We didn’t have a clue in the world that it was Jared Goff.



JM: That’s hilarious. You’ve been training at Sanford Power’s excellent facility throughout this pre-draft process. How have they helped get you ready for what’s next?

JW: We spent a lot of time working on explosiveness and whatnot. They did a great job with me. They’re very experienced. They’ve trained a bunch of high-level NFL players and athletes. They helped with our 40-yard dash, agility, and short shuttle times. I gained another brotherhood with everyone training out there throughout my time at Sanford Power. We had so many great prospects prior to the combine that were all working together for the same goal.

JM: Your training paid off. You ran a 4.51 in the 40, which is a terrific time at your size. You also leaped a 38-inch vertical. Do you feel like you’ve surprised some people with your athletic testing results throughout the process?

JW: Yeah, I definitely have. Running a 4.5 wasn’t my goal. I hit a verified 4.47 at my Pro Day, and that was the number I was expecting to reach at the combine as well. It was a bit of a better result that best reflects my ability in the 40. I definitely think I’ve improved my draft stock and helped myself along the way.

JM: You’ve done just that. Your mother runs her own Wendy’s franchise in your hometown of Augusta, Georgia. She’s an incredibly hard-working woman. At one point, you went to work for her at minimum wage in your younger days. What did that experience teach you about hard work?

JW: Working at Wendy’s with my mother quickly showed me that wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I only had two options in my mind. That was to put up with that life and do it for the rest of my life, or change my mindset and do something about it. It was an easy choice at the end of the day. I put my head down and went to work. I changed my life.

JM: I love that she paid you minimum wage. You didn’t get any preferential treatment.

JW: No, I certainly didn’t receive any preferential treatment (laughs). I was getting paid $7.25 an hour. You would never even think of working for that on the west coast. That southern minimum wage hits differently (laughs).

JM: $7.25, that’s crazy. You have great length for the position at 6-foot-3, 204 pounds. How do you use your size and length to your advantage in coverage?

JW: Being a longer corner makes it easier for me to get my hands on dudes at the line of scrimmage. I’m a long, physical, and aggressive cornerback. I’m typically stronger than the receiver lined up opposite from me as well. I try to use all of these things to my advantage in coverage. I like to get hands on them early in the rep. I aim to aggravate my opponent. I’m very aggressive in coverage.

JM: It pops on tape. Have you met with any teams virtually or via Top 30 visits throughout the process, and do you have any more of those coming up?

JW: I have a Top 30 visit with the Kansas City Chiefs coming up. Virtually, I’ve met with the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders, and New York Jets to name a few. I have a few more meetings coming up as well.

JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. I’ve really appreciated your time today. What kind of impact is Jaylen Watson going to make at the next level?

JW: I plan to prove that I‘m the best cornerback in this draft class. I think I’ve always been underrated and overlooked. I play the game with a chip on my shoulder. Everything that’s done in darkness will come to the light pretty soon.

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Justin Melo