Day three of the NFL Draft is usually reserved for teams to stockpile players that, at the very least, possess enough of a desired skill set to shore up depth. Being able to pull a starter from day three of the draft is always a plus but for most teams, this is how rosters are truly built.
Day three of the NFL draft has been fairly well to head coach Dan Quinn and his regime in Atlanta. Players such as Grady Jarrett, Kendall Sheffield, Ito Smith, and Russell Gage have all turned out to be solid contributors at a minimal after being taken in the fourth round or later, and obviously Jarrett is elite.
This past draft, the Falcons decided to add more athleticism and hard-hitting ability to their safety position. Let’s be honest, it is something that is a need for the Falcons going forward. With that being said, here is the scouting report on 2020 4th rounder, taken 134th overall, Jaylinn Hawkins out of the University of California.
Jaylinn Hawkins Scouting Report
Weight: 208 pounds
Career stats: 156 career tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, 10 interceptions, seven pass deflections, three forced fumbles
Games watched: 2018 vs. UNC, 2018 vs. USC, 2018 vs. TCU, 2019 vs. Washington
Hawkins comes from a lengthy family lineage that played at Cal before him. His 2019 campaign earned him All-Pac 12 honorable mention honors with career highs in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and forced fumbles. In 48 games played during his collegiate career, Hawkins started 39, so there is plenty of experience being brought to the table.
Physicality will never be questioned when it comes to describing his ability. Possessing a solid NFL frame, Hawkins knows how to use his frame to tackle ball carriers aggressively as an imposing hitter. Interestingly, Hawkins was recruited to Cal as a wide receiver/athlete, which means the ball skills are somewhat natural.
At the conclusion of the 2018 season, Hawkins recorded six interceptions, which was tied for third in the FBS. Hawkins is versatile as a defender, playing both strong and free safety at times during his career. Because of that versatility and experience, Hawkins has plenty of instincts and football IQ that allows him to me deployed in different manner within the defense.
With that physicality also comes the need to hone it a little better. Hawkins’ aggression can set a tone on the football field and can be an asset, but it can also lead to unnecessary roughness flags at the NFL level. At times, Hawkins tends to take unnecessary angles when in pursuit, which can be cleaned up at the next level.
The speed element is not always seen on film, as well. While Hawkins has played free safety a bit, it may be best to deploy him in more 2-safety looks with split zone coverage responsibilities instead of single-high duties.
The Falcons had to endure another season-ending injury to starting strong safety Keanu Neal in 2019, one that places a cloud of concern in regards to Neal’s return and his future as a Falcon. So it was easy to approach the offseason with the mindset to have a contingency plan.
Which is where Hawkins comes into play. As mentioned earlier, Hawkins has shown the ability to play both safety spots in a pinch, but his best role may be to roam the line of scrimmage and be the physical safety that he is. Year one for Hawkins will likely be seeing the Pac-12 defender inserted on special teams and maybe the occasional playing time on defense if called upon.
One thing is for sure about Hawkins, he has plenty of intriguing traits, based on his aggressiveness and the confidence he has while on the field. If he is able to be more refined as a tackler, Hawkins has the skill set to be a nice puzzle piece for the Falcons.