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5 things to know about LB Nathaniel Watson

Watson was named the 2023 AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year

NEW Nathaniel Watson 5 things

The Browns drafted LB Nathaniel Watson with the 206th pick in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

Here are five things to know about the Browns' newest addition to the linebacker room.

2023 AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year

After setting career highs during the 2023 season in total tackles (137), tackles for loss (13) and sacks (10), Watson was named the Associated Press SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He was the leading tackler in the SEC and had a league-best 10-sacks. Watson was also the only FBS player in 2023 with 100-plus tackles and 10-plus sacks.

He also finished the 2023 season with two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two passes defended and an interception.

Finalist for the Butkus Award

Among his accolades for the 2023 season, Watson was also named a finalist for the Butkus Awards in 2023, which is awarded to the nation's top linebacker. With the nomination, Watson became the first player in Mississippi State's football program history to be named a finalist for the Butkus Award.

Family ties to the NFL

Watson had a family member play in the NFL. His uncle, Harold Morrow, played collegiate football at Auburn, and then continued his professional career with the Vikings from 1996-2002, the Ravens from 2003-04 and the Cardinals in 2005.

Check out photos of Browns 2024 sixth round pick Nathaniel Watson

Potential to develop into specific role on defense

The Browns saw the depth in their linebacker room deplete during free agency as their free agents signed with other teams. Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry said that specifically when Sione Takitaki signed with the Patriots, they lost a player who played both MIKE and SAM and brought a stoutness to the middle of the defense, especially at the point of attack.

It was a skillset they were looking to fill. Berry believes that Watson can develop into that type of role for their defense because of his particular skillset, especially in the run game and how he uses his strength.

"We think that Nathaniel, he's got good range, he's incredibly smart, and he has good instincts, but he provides maybe a little bit of a diverse profile in that linebacker room because he does have a little bit more strength and power at the point of attack," Berry said. "So, we see him as a player that has the potential to maybe develop into that type of role – MIKE, SAM, FLEX and ultimately be someone who's a candidate to call the defense after he gets his sea legs out from under him."

Special teams experience

Not only did Watson excel in the SEC on defense, but he also played an important role on special teams during his time at Mississippi State. He played 576 snaps on special teams in college, according to the draft guide of The Athletic's Dan Brugler.

"Especially a linebacker position, you obviously want those guys to play just because they're bigger bodies and you hope they can play all phases," area scout Matt Donahoe said on April 27. "The nice thing is that he was a productive starter on their defense, and he also had played special teams throughout his career. So, you kind of get best of both worlds in his regard. The versatility of Watson is one of the more impressive parts of his kind of whole package."