We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
After taking a look at the projected starters, we now turn our attention to the depth on the Falcons’ roster. Today, I’ll be discussing safety Jaylinn Hawkins—a versatile fourth-round rookie who will compete with recent free agent addition J.J. Wilcox to be the primary backup for strong safety Keanu Neal.
S Jaylinn Hawkins
Contract: $776K cap hit in 2020, rookie contract through 2023 ($990K APY)
Career Production: 48 games played | 156 total tackles, 9.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 3 FF | 7 PD, 10 INT (College)
2019 Production: 13 games played | 53 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 FF | 2 PD, 3 INT
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 4th round (#134 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2020)
The Falcons have been searching for a reliable, long-term backup for Keanu Neal for several years now, and may have finally found the answer in Jaylinn Hawkins. A fourth-round pick out of Cal, Hawkins played a versatile role for the Golden Bears. He spent time at both free safety and strong safety, lining up wherever needed and playing quite well. After redshirting his first season, Hawkins immediately found his way onto the field and played in every possible game from 2016-2019—showcasing his durability.
After a rotational role in 2016, Hawkins began to get more playing time in 2017, putting up 41 total tackles, 1.5 TFL, and his first career interception. He built on that season with a breakout 2018 which saw him lead the Pac-12 in interceptions (6 on the year), as well as post 4 PDs and 3.5 TFL. His senior season in 2019 was also quite strong, with Hawkins posting career highs in tackles (53), TFL (4.5), sacks (2.0), and forced fumbles (2). He also added another 3 INTs, showing off his ballhawking talents.
While Hawkins played a versatile role—including free safety and center-field reps—in college, he’s best suited for a box safety role in the NFL. Hawkins has solid size and length, but he’s a fairly average athlete and lacks the deep speed and range to succeed as a center field option at this level. However, Hawkins has exceptional instincts in zone coverage and is an excellent underneath lurker. He’s also got strong tackling skills and the physicality you want from a box defender, making him a logical backup for Neal. His strong football IQ and instincts should help him see the field early in his career.
Projection: Jaylinn Hawkins will compete with veteran J.J. Wilcox for the backup job behind Keanu Neal. Hawkins has solid size, good physicality, and exceptional instincts. He’s got the potential to be a future starter in the box, but the truncated offseason may give the edge to an experienced veteran like Wilcox. Either way, I’d expect Hawkins to make the roster as one of the rotational safeties, as he’s got strong special teams value and long-term potential.