How does Jaylinn Hawkins fit into the Falcons defense?

dmd1911230096 cal at stan

With their second pick in the fourth round, the Falcons selected a powerful safety out of Cal, Jaylinn Hawkins.

In five years with the Golden Bears, Hawkins developed into a physical player with a nose for the football. He came up with six interceptions as a redshirt junior and followed it up with three more as a senior while also forcing two fumbles. Here’s what he had to say to the Atlanta Journal Constition about his ability as a ball hawk:

“Man, my ability is there. Everything I want to do is get the ball. That’s just been my game. it can be from a strip or a pick aspect. I grew up playing offense, now I’m playing defense. My biggest thing is, ‘How can I get to the ball?’ Whatever it is. Rob something or go out there and line something up or strip something. It was a big emphasis not only with myself but with my team at Cal. That was a big emphasis. Get the ball back. Of course, shut down and lock down seams, but really get the ball back. That changes the game. My ability, I can do a lot of things from strips to picks. I have excellent ball skills. My skill set is there. Great football and football intelligence.”

Hawkins also proved to be a versatile piece for Cal, starting as a corner and switching to safety, where he became a full-time starter. That kind of versatility can be seen on his tape as he lined up all over the field, playing both strong and free safety, as well as cornerback.

According to draft scouts across the board, Hawkins in the fourth round was considered a substantial reach. Most had him going in the seventh round at the earliest, and others had him as an undrafted free agent. There are concerns regarding his coverage skills. He will be much better against tight ends than he will be on wide receivers, as he lacks ideal speed and burst for the position. However, it is worth noting that safety has been a position Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff have consistently nailed, and Hawkins isn’t too worried about his doubters. He told the AJC:

“Of course, everyone is going to use it as motivation, but honestly, to keep it 100, I just block out what people have to say. Internally, I’m motivated. Of course, everyone has something that motivates them, I can’t let the outside factors motivate me. I’m already motivated myself. With that, it just added extra fuel to the flame.”

In the NFL, Hawkins will likely contribute strictly on special teams as a rookie. The Falcons are currently loaded at the safety position, with Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal expected to be the starters. Damontae Kazee, who has been integral to Atlanta’s defense over the last two seasons, will also play a significant role. However, injuries have been a severe issue for both Allen and Neal, which could force Hawkins onto the field much sooner than the Falcons would like. Either way, he will have the opportunity to prove himself as a starting option for 2021, as Neal will be an unrestricted free agent, and Allen is a candidate to be cut.


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