Andy Reid has never been one for the sexy pick, the phan favorite. Draft preparation is very methodical and very CIA-like without wanting anybody to figure out your method of operations. It’s like trying to guess the next time Raul Ibanez will get a hit, nobody knows. Case and point Donovan McNabb when the entire world wanted the next Jim Brown in Ricky Watters. Or what about head case Shawn Andrews when we traded up perfectly to snatch Steven Jackson. You can now point to 2011 when most phans were screaming for some pass defense help, Reid followed true to his “build the trenches” mentality and snatched offensive lineman, Danny Watkins, with the 23rd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
With the NFL still surrounded by questions regarding the lifted lockout one thing is for certain. Eagle phans will continue to bash Andy Reid for every decision he makes. There seems to be an ever growing animosity towards the head coach for every added year he goes without bringing home a Lombardi trophy to Broad Street. Danny Watkins, a 26-year old rookie, is big enough, mean enough, and versatile enough to quiet those critics. And simply put he is a good character guy. The type of players the Eagles build teams around.
Danny Watkins at 6’4 310 pounds is hardly anything to scoff at. You can knock his age being the oldest 1st round pick in history, or you could knock his lack of football experience being that before 2007 Watkins played no organized football.
After playing rugby and hockey in high school Watkins tried his hand at football when he went to Butt College a junior college in California. Watkins was only at Butt College to further his fire fighter career. A part-time firefighter Watkins quickly showed his worth on the football field becoming one of the best junior college players in the country. His transfer to Baylor gave him a chance to shine on the D-1 level immediately as he replaced left tackle Jason Smith starting 12 games for Baylor in 2009.
Last year with Watkins protecting the blind side of QB Robert Griffin Baylor ended their 16-year bowl drought and Watkins was a major reason for their success.
It is easy to look at his lack of experience and look at his age and think that there is a ceiling for Watkins. But Watkins is a smart player who is detail-oriented. Considering he has only played organized football for four years there is still a ton of room for him to grow. Let’s not get carried away and hand this guy an old man’s rocker because he’s 26! If anything his age comes with maturity and the ability to start right away on an Eagles line desperate for some help.
In the Pro Football Weekly 2011 Draft Preview, PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki writes that Watkins has "the physical skill set to start readily.”
Pro Football Weekly voted Watkins as the 5th best offensive lineman in the draft. He was projected to be a late first round to early second round pick.
The cons are very clear with his age and lack of playing experience but the pros greatly outweigh that. Watkins is extremely athletic, strong, and versatile. He has the potential to be a Pro Bowl guard in the NFL. Watkins impressed coaches at the Senior Bowl with his play on the interior part of the o-line. Reid said on Thursday night that he thinks Watkins could step in immediately at any guard spot. The fact that Watkins played tackle in his collegiate career is an added bonus considering the magnitude of the left tackle position and protecting franchise QB Michael Vick.
"We felt he was as good a football player as there was in the draft," Reid said at the NovaCare Complex. "It's not a glamour position, but it's a position that is crucial to us. He's got a toughness and a blue- collar attitude."
With a tough-nosed hockey mentality there is no doubt that Watkins will bring an edge to a somewhat soft offensive line. Since the departure of Jon Runyan the Eagles o-line has missed the tenacity that Big Jon brought to the field.
"I like playing physical and tough and that's just the only way I've really grown up in sports is being physical and tough,” Watkins said. “In hockey, you have to go out looking for a hit. In football, the guy's six inches from your face. Someone's got to win that battle and I like winning."
Watkins tough, smash mouth play will fit in perfectly with new offensive line coach Howard Mudd a self-proclaimed hardnosed guy himself. Watkins thrives on physical play and a never stop till the whistle blows mentality and that was something that Mudd praised Watkins for at the Scouting Combine earlier in the year.
"He'll bring a toughness, which I know the city of Philadelphia, they thrive on," said Reid. "He brings a toughness and blue-collar attitude to that offensive line."
In the long run age only means a fresher body for the 26-year old part-time fire fighter. There seems to be plenty of upside for a highly motivated, tough, smart, ready to go to work with his lunch pail in hand “young” man. Watkins is the kind of blue-collar guy that will not take long to catch the adoration of Philly phans alike.
It is clear that Reid and the Eagles were high on Watkins from day one. He may not be Prince Amukamara or Cameron Jordan but the truth remains he fills a major hole on this football team. He is a guy who will come in right away and make a difference.