In a different year, the NFL draft would have meant the Eagles' collecting someone else's first-round pick and trading quarterback Kevin Kolb.

Instead, the Eagles remained at No. 23 and chose Baylor offensive guard/tackle Danny Watkins, who turns 27 in November.

Coach Andy Reid said the Eagles project Watkins as a guard, but he said he was not sure which side. He also said he liked that Watkins can provide flexibility by playing all five line positions and will bring a toughness and blue-collar attitude to Philly. He called Watkins as good a player as there was in the draft. Reid said Watkins is capable of starting as a rookie.

"[Watkins] clock started a little later but he took to [football] right away and was so productive," Reid said. "He's a heck of a player in both the run game and pass game.

"I can't tell you how happy we are to have him in our program."

That the Eagles remained in their own spot is somewhat of a surprise, given their recent history. The Eagles have now selected in their spot only three times in the last nine drafts. Five of those were to move up, with the exception when they moved down to select Kolb in the second round in 2008.

Reid said the Eagles were not close to moving up or down and were confident in staying at No. 23 to get Watkins. The pick clearly reflects Reid's long-standing philosophy of the importance of play on the line.

He also pointed out how well Watkins played in his head to head matchup with Texas A&M's Von Miller, who was the second overall pick.

Reid said age was not a concern, because Watkins does not have a lot of "mileage" on him, given how recently he picked up the game.

"My body feels fresh and I feel good," Watkins said. "I've lived the life of a working man with a 30-hour a week job.

"I'm very surprised. This is unreal. I spoke with [the Eagles] at the combine and the Senior Bowl and on the phone a little bit, but that was a about it. A lot of teams talked to me and showed interest.

"I thought it was a wrong number when I got the call [from the Eagles.]"

Watkins joins offensive lineman Tony Mandarich, running back Tim Biakabutuka and offensive lineman Mike Schad as Canadians drafted in the first round.

Here is what Les Bowen wrote about Watkins at the Senior Bowl:

In Danny Watkins' sporting dreams, he was always Nick Lidstrom, not Nick Mangold. He was Chris Pronger, not Chris Snee. Larry Murphy, not Larry Allen.

Watkins grew up (and out) in Kelowna, British Columbia, playing hockey. But while there are many very large defensemen in the NHL, there aren't any that weigh in at 312 pounds, the number Watkins posted at the Senior Bowl this week.

There are always some odd, intriguing stories in the runup to the NFL draft, and this year Watkins' saga is front and center, especially after a strong performance in the South team Senior Bowl practices.

Watkins turns 27 next November. He was 22 before he ever played a down of football. Intent on pursuing a career as a firefighter back in B.C., he learned from his fire captain that he'd have better career prospects with a degree from a fire sciences program. There was such a program at Butte Junior College, in Chico, Calif. Watkins enrolled.

A friend suggested he should go out for football - maybe Butte would waive the tuition or something. Watkins found his way down to the field. Now, after 2 years at Butte and 2 more years at Baylor, he projects as one of the top guards in the 2011 draft, maybe not a first-rounder because of his age, but very possibly a second- or third-round pick.

"He is a strong guy,'' said Watkins' Baylor (and South Senior Bowl) teammate, defensive tackle Phil Taylor. "We call him 'Grandpa. ' He's a grown man out there. ''

Watkins, 6-3, acknowledged the obvious yesterday - "I didn't think anything like this would be happening'' when he went out for the Butte team "just for fun and recreation. ''

He said he "never really watched football or cared for it'' growing up, but after he figured out how to put on the pads, he found out he liked it just fine. And it liked him. After 2 years at left tackle for Butte, Watkins found he could continue his education for free at places such as Hawaii, Cal, Arkansas or Baylor.

Watkins chose Baylor, where he succeeded left tackle Jason Smith (the guy who was drafted second overall in 2009 by the Rams, not the former Flyers captain, with whose career Watkins surely was more familiar. )

One of the questions he gets a lot is whether he regrets not taking the game up earlier. If Watkins were turning 22 in November, instead of 27, he might very well be a first-rounder, looking forward to a much larger signing bonus.

"I love everything that's happened to this point,'' he said. "I wouldn't change a thing. ''

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock acknowledged he didn't know much about Watkins until Mayock started preparing for his Senior Bowl practice broadcasts.

"I put the tape on and he jumped out at me,'' Mayock said. "He's heavy-handed [meaning Watkins 'punches' well], he finishes, and he's nasty; he reminds me a lot of the [John] Moffitt kid from Wisconsin. I look at the two of them and I think they're both interior starters. I think they're centers or guards, and they're starters in the league. ''

Mayock said Watkins "has been coached really well . . . he can bend and he's really naturally strong. He's got what they call a 6-inch punch, and he can jar you with that 6 inches. ''


Here is a Danny Watkins bio:

Born: Nov. 6, 1984 (age 26)

College: Baylor

Position: Offensive lineman

Height/weight: 6-4/310 pounds

Hometown: Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

High school: Mount Boucherie Secondary. He did not play football in high school. He played hockey and rugby.

No spring chicken: Watkins is the oldest first-round pick since Oklahoma's Billy Sims, 25, was picked No 1 overall by the Detroit Lions in 1980. Watkins is older than half of the Sixers' roster.

Firefighter: Watkins was a part-time firefighter in his hometown in Canada. He brought his fire chief to the draft in New York last night.

CFL: Watkins was the picked fourth overall in May 2010 by the Canadian Football League's British Columbia Lions.

Baylor career: Started in 2011 Senior Bowl; was All-Big 12 in 2010, as a senior; started all 25 games of Baylor career; leader of Baylor's offensive line that ranked third in Big 12 and 24th nationally in rushing (194.6 yards per game) and fourth in conference in sacks against (1.54 per game); as a junior, he started all 12 games in first season at Baylor; one of 11 Bears to start all 12 games in 2009; averaged an 89 percent grade over season from offensive line coaches; totaled 103 knockdowns in 12 games.

A kick in the Butte: He transfered to Baylor from Butte College, a junior college in Oroville, Calif., where he studied in the school's fire academy. He didn't start playing football until he was 22 years old, in 2007 at Butte.

Quote: Watkins told the Daily News' Les Bowen at the Senior Bowl in January: "I didn't think anything like this would be happening" when he went out for the Butte team "just for fun and recreation."