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May 10, 2014

Watkins highlights final day of draft

Friday night at the National Football League Draft came and went without a single Florida Gator's name being called. It didn't take long to assure viewers Saturday's concluding rounds would not have the same fate.

The Philadelphia Eagles selected defensive back Jaylen Watkins with the first pick of the fourth round - No. 101 overall - to open the third and final day of the 2014 draft.

Watkins became the second former Florida player selected in this year's draft after defensive lineman Dominique Easley was selected No. 29 overall in Thursday's first round. His stock skyrocketed following a senior season in which he willingly moved to safety to allow the Gators get maximize the potential of their defensive lineups.

At the NFL Combine and UF Pro Day, it was Watkins who outperformed fellow Florida defensive back prospects Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson - both players who had once been considered first-round prospects. Watkins registered a 4.41 time in the 40-second dash and benched 225 pounds 22 times at the NFL Combine.

Meanwhile, Roberson and Purifoy tumbled to lows that once would have seemed inconceivable just months ago. There were 35 cornerbacks selected during the draft. Roberson and Purifoy were not among them; both going undrafted after sputtering at the combine. Purifoy also dealt with legal issues last month when he was tied to reports of alleged drug charges in which he was caught with marijuana and bath salts. Both Roberson and Purifoy served a suspension for a violation of team rules during the 2013 season.

Two Gators were selected in addition to Watkins during Saturday's portion of the draft. Linebacker Ronald Powell - a fourth-year junior in 2013 who left after battling two ACL tears in his UF career - was picked No. 169 overall in the fifth round by the New Orleans Saints.

Offensive guard Jon Halapio was selected 10 picks later - in the sixth round - by the New England Patriots. Halapio will join former Florida teammate Easley in New England and the two exchanged tweets shortly after Halapio's selection.

Other prominent Florida prospects who were not selected by a team during the draft's seven rounds include wide receiver Solomon Patton, tight end Trey Burton and center Jonotthan Harrison.

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