Potential Draft Steal: Can Miami Dolphins Land Linebacker Gem?

In the later rounds of the draft, when the hidden gems are unearthed, the Miami Dolphins might just have their sights set on a linebacker that could defy odds and critics alike. Despite the more glaring needs on their roster, the chatter around taking Nathaniel Watson out of Mississippi State with their sixth-round pick is growing louder. Surprisingly still available, Watson is praised as one of the draft’s top linebacker talents, a sentiment echoed by analyst Phillip Dillingham who ranks him as the premier linebacker of his class.

Addressing the Linebacker Need

The Dolphins face the impending free agency of standout linebackers Jerome Baker and David Long Jr. after the 2024 season. With a notable performance drop to their next in line, Duke Riley, bolstering this position now seems not just favorable but necessary. Stepping into this opportune scenario is Nathaniel Watson, whose collegiate career at Mississippi State demonstrated not only sterling on-field performances but also an aptitude for stepping up when it mattered. His robust tackling numbers, which saw a year-over-year increase culminating in 137 total tackles in his final year, underline a pattern of growth and resilience. Furthermore, his accolades, including a spot as a Butkus Award finalist and a first-team All-SEC nomination, spotlight his elite status at the college level.

Concerns and Considerations

Watson’s draft stock, however, hasn’t been without its hurdles. An off-field DUI arrest in 2023 has cast shadows over his draft valuation, coupled with on-field critiques regarding his balance, agility, and the lack of explosiveness at the point of attack. These factors have contributed to Watson’s slide down the draft boards, turning him into a potential late-round steal for teams willing to look past the blemishes.

Fit with the Dolphins

The integration of Watson into the Miami Dolphins’ playbook could herald significant improvements, particularly in an area flagged last season – physicality. Under the tutelage of new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver, who brings a pedigree from the linebacker-rich environment of the Baltimore Ravens, Watson’s inclination towards a hard-hitting, gap-closing style of play could be just the tonic Miami needs. Measuring in at 6-foot-2 and weighing 245 pounds, Watson’s frame and playstyle mirror the rugged demands of NFL play.

Looking Ahead

As the Dolphins look forward, the addition of Nathaniel Watson could represent a savvy investment into the heart of their defense. Despite the roster’s current needs elsewhere, the potential value Watson brings as a late-round pick might be too enticing to pass up. In a league where the margins between success and failure are razor-thin, a calculated gamble on a player of Watson’s caliber could yield dividends, both on the field and within the locker room. The draft, after all, is as much about the future as it is about the present, and Nathaniel Watson’s future could very well be in Miami blue and orange.