On April 30, 2022, the Kansas City Chiefs selected former Washington State cornerback Jaylen Watson with the 243rd overall pick in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Let’s take a closer look at the 23-year-old Washington State alumnus and how he could fit into a cornerback room that saw the departure of one of its most veteran players just a couple of months ago.
Watson was born on September 17, 1998, and is from Augusta, Georgia. He started his college career at Ventura College in Ventura, California. He transferred to Washington State in 2020, after originally planning on transferring to USC.
As a Cougar, he recorded 2 interceptions and 44 total tackles in 15 games over two seasons. Washington State recorded an 8-7 record in games where Watson appeared.
The Chiefs selected Jaylen Watson with the 243rd overall pick in the 7th round of the 2022 Draft. His average big board ranking, among 80+ NFL draft analysts, was 194th overall, per Arif Hasan’s 2022 NFL Draft Consensus Big Board.
Drae Harris of The Draft Network described Watson as a “high-cut player with sufficient athleticism who lacks elite movement skills” and also described him as more of an outside corner than a slot corner. In man coverage, he was effective in press and used his length to his advantage, while in zone he was productive while playing with vision and keying the QB. Also, Harris wrote that he was a “willing tackler in the run game but needs to improve his efficiency in this regard”.
Bleacher Report’s Cory Giddings wrote that Watson is a “long strider that can cover ground and has good straight-line speed when he is able to open up and run”. Also, Giddings described Watson as “calm with the ball in the air and was able to play through the catch point, even with his back to the ball”. Giddings also added that strength issues showed up occasionally and lacked flexibility at his hips and midsection.
It was also theorized by Giddings that if Watson doesn’t work out as a cornerback, safety could be an option since he’s aggressive in the run game and can cover ground quickly while in pass coverage.
Projection with the Chiefs
The Chiefs had a serious need at cornerback this offseason after losing Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes in free agency. While they still had L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton, the team drafted Trent McDuffie and Joshua Williams in the first and fourth rounds of the 2022 draft to strengthen the position.
Outside of Tyreek Hill, it can be argued that the Chiefs’ biggest loss this offseason was Ward—even more so than Tyrann Mathieu. Like pass rushers, teams need a plethora of options in the secondary to keep up with ever so increasing amount of quarterback and receiver talent in the NFL.
One trait that the Chiefs will miss in Ward is his arm length. Jaylen Watson was measured at the combine to have 32 1/4″ arms. Do you know who else had 32 1/4″ arms coming out of college? Charvarius Ward.
For a while, the Chiefs have been a team that values long, big, and physical corners, and Watson fits that profile. Under Brett Veach, the Chiefs have never been a team that invested a ton in the cornerback room, until this offseason when they tried to re-sign Ward at around $13-14 million/year and drafted Trent McDuffie in the 1st round of the draft. They’ve traditionally opted for lower-cost solutions, such as trading Parker Ehinger for Ward, drafting Rashad Fenton in the 6th round, drafting L’Jarius Sneed in the 4th round, and signing Mike Hughes/Deandre Baker to second-chance deals. That didn’t change with drafting Watson with what is essentially a dollar scratcher from Quick Trip.
In the end, Watson is not a day one starter and will likely need a year or two developing as a depth corner and special teams player before seeing full-time snaps as an NFL corner. In my opinion, he and Joshua Williams (32 7/8″ arms) were both drafted to give the Chiefs two chances to replace Ward as their long-term, long-armed, outside-only corner that they seem to covet. I see Trent McDuffie as a (relatively) safe starting option for the Chiefs’ cornerback room for the next five years, who can play almost any corner position that they need him to, whether it be outside or inside.
I project that he will make the Week 1 roster but it is very difficult to tell with a 7th-round pick. He could very easily be a player who is stashed on the practice squad his rookie year who then grows into a depth option his second year and finally becomes a starter in 2024. If the Chiefs can get any sort of positive production from Watson, it would be an automatic win for a player taken in the part of the draft where it’s typical for players to never even play a down of meaningful football in the NFL.
How do you project Watson will be in the NFL? Do you think he makes the Week 1 roster? Let me know in the comment section, or on Twitter (@StrozinskyLucas).