by Ryan Myers
Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics.
At Draft 412, the NFL draft talk never ends. We will keep you ready for the next set of gridiron stars—from today and all the way until draft night 2024. We will bring you mock drafts, player profiles, individual team needs, and everything else you may need related to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Today’s Spotlight - Mississippi State, Linebacker, Nathaniel Watson
Name - Nathaniel Watson
Pos - LB
Team - Mississippi State
HT/WT - 6’2” 245 lbs.
Home - Maplesville, AL
Nathaniel Watson played his high school football at Maplesville High School. As a junior, he made 70 tackles and 4 interceptions. Two of these interceptions were returned for touchdowns. As a senior, he made 45 tackles and three more interceptions. He helped his team to three state championships over his high school career and earned himself 3-star ratings from ESPN, Rivals.com, and 247Sports. Watson was highly recruited and chose Mississippi State over other offers from schools such as Ole Miss, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Illinois, and Indiana.
In his first college season in 2018, he appeared in 2 games making 3 total tackles, and redshirting. He played in 7 games in 2019 making 2 total tackles once again receiving limited playing time. His first consistent action came in 2020 during the shortened season where he played 11 games, making 3 starts. He had 39 total tackles coming off the bench for most of the year.
In the final three seasons of his college career, Watson made 12 starts each season and showed consistent improvement over every year. In ‘21, ‘22, and ‘23, he accrued 83, 113, and 137 tackles respectively and this season, his 137 tackles was good for a top 10 finish in the country. He also had 10 sacks this season which was a career high, and one interception in each of the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
Watson possesses good speed for the position and is able to make plays in the flat against running backs. He is best when playing downhill and using his good instinct to shoot gaps at the line of scrimmage. He plays with exceptional physicality and strength which is valuable when combined with his speed and range. He is a great and reliable tackler with good technique.
While Watson is speedy, he lacks the quick twitch ability and fast feet that are desired at the NFL level. This leads to his struggles in the open field. He also is not as lengthy as other linebackers in the class, but still shows the instincts, and athleticism to bat down passes when rushing the QB. His lack of quickness leads to him struggling in coverage at times against most pass catchers as he typically does not keep up with their routes. For this reason, he is used mainly in zone and as a pass rusher or run stopper.
Watson is a decent athlete for the position as is able to make plays vertically by batting down passes in a pass rush and horizontally with good lateral movement and run stopping ability. He may not have the quickest feet, but his great tackling and run stopping ability will find him a home on day three.
Draft 412 Draft Prediction - 5th round or 6th round