April 29 CSNPhilly.com:
Danny Watkins figures he’s spent enough time not playing football. He’s ready to play right from Day 1.
“I’m making a personal expectation of myself to come in and start,” said Watkins, a Canadian firefighter-turned-offensive lineman. “I’m a highly motivated guy, and I’m looking forward to coming in there and get started.”
The Eagles moved to beef up their beleaguered offensive line Thursday night by drafting the 26-year-old Watkins with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft.
Watkins, 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, spent five years working as a firefighter in his hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia, before entering a California junior college, where he began playing football when he was 23. After learning the fundamentals of the game at tiny Butte College, a junior college in Oroville, Calif., he transferred to Baylor, where he blossomed into a top NFL prospect.
“This is a guy that is a tough, tough guy,” Eagles head coach Andy Reid said. “He’s also a good football player and he’s got phenomenal character on and off the field. He’s a class act. The thing that jumps out at you is that he’s a relentless worker and one tough nut. And I like that.”
Reid said that even though Watkins is new to the game and never played a snap of football on any level until 2007, he believes Watkins will be able to start as a rookie.
“He’s talented enough to do that,” Reid said. “This guy physically is ready to go.”
At what spot? Right guard is the obvious position, but Reid said nothing is settled yet. Watkins played tackle in college but will start out here as a guard.
“I just wanted to make sure we got the best football player to bring in here, and we did,” Reid said. “We’ll find a spot for him. That’s the easy part.”
Reid left open the possibility that Watkins could work in at left guard, with Todd Herremans moving to right tackle. Presumably, Mike McGlynn could get a shot at right guard, assuming Jamaal Jackson is healthy after two serious injuries.
“I have a lot of flexibility there,” Reid said. “Right now, I’m looking at guard, but he can really play any position you need him to play. He’s that kind of an athlete.
“We’ve got a group of guys who played tackle in college and they can all move around. Todd’s played both sides, Danny’s played both sides, Todd’s played tackle, left and right, so we’ve got some flexibility there, which is a neat thing.
Reid said he and general manager Howie Roseman have had Watkins targeted as their top prospect for several months and nothing happened to change their mind.
An NFL front office source said the Eagles picked Watkins at 23 instead of trying to trade down and get him early in the second round because they had reason to believe the Seahawks at 25, the Patriots at 28, the Bears at 29, the Steelers at 31 and the Packers at 32 were all seriously considering landing Watkins with their late first-round picks.
“Howie had this guy right from the get-go at the top,” Reid said. “This was a guy that he really wanted and liked, and so when I looked at him, I said, ‘This guy is as fine a football player as you have in the offensive line in this draft and then Howard (Mudd, offensive line coach) came back and said the same thing, that this guy was a top-quality player.
“The guys at the Senior Bowl saw that. You saw this guy go out and dominate in the one-on-ones, you saw him dominate in the game, and it was the first time he played guard. He lit it up. But that’s what he’s been doing all year. That’s how he plays.
“This is one of those guys that you can’t help but like when you look at him. He knows how to play the game.”
The biggest knock on Watkins is his age, but Reid said the Eagles have no concerns about Watkins being four years older than most players in the draft.
“I know there’s been a lot of things said about Danny’s age, but we felt Danny was as good a football player as there was in the draft,” Reid said. “His body hasn’t gone through that beating up process when you’re playing football, so his clock started late to this sport. …
“I know it’s not a glamor position, but it’s a position that is very crucial in this sport, and we wanted to make sure we maintained a strong offensive line.
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