Area Scout, Matt Donahoe (4.27.24)

Specifically, with (Nathaniel) Watson, what was the singular trait that really kind of drew you most to him?

I think with him, his just toughness and intelligence. He’s been a very productive player at Mississippi State throughout his career. He’s one of the smarter guys they had on their defense. A lot was required out of him. [The] reviews on him were good the last couple years going in there. So I think when you get a guy that’s tough, physical, loves the game of football, I think that’s a great guy to add to the program here.”


Nathaniel had a lot of experience on special teams. How do you see that skillset fitting in on the next level, especially with new kickoff rules and whatnot?

Nice thing about Watson is, he’s a bigger build for linebacker. A lot of times now you’re seeing those undersized linebackers in college just with the way the game’s going. I think with him he’s had experience. He’s a tough kid. He’s got length, he’s got strength. I think he actually runs pretty well for his size as well. So I think all those – just the combination of his entire package, I think will make a good transition to play [special] teams at the next level.”


He lasted 206 picks. Why would he be around so long?

“That’s a good question. I don’t know. You might have to ask some other teams, but I think when you get a guy at that price, I think you’re just happy to add him to your team. And I think that’s where we were comfortable with and he was still on the board and I think we made the decision that it’s best for the Cleveland Browns to add him at that time. But as far as why he lasted so long, I can’t really point my thumb on that.”


Yesterday, there was that run of D tackles. You guys obviously come away with one, but it just seems like this interesting shift in a position and how free agency is going and the contracts those guys are getting. So how overall in recent years has that maybe shifted your evaluation of these college kids and how has that maybe trickled down into the college game? The pass rushing element of D tackles now especially?

Yeah, I think it’s just like you said, you see it every year just when the runs start going. I don’t think it really changes either myself or any of the scouts way of kind of going about things just because we’re required for our schools and the senior draft eligible players at every program we go to. So I don’t know if it really changes kind of how we either grade or value guys just because we’re kind of grading as what we think, you know, what their value is to the Cleveland Browns. But again, obviously, you know, pass rushers, interior d tackles that can rush, all those are probably valued more just because it’s hard to find those guys more. But I don’t think it really changes kind of the process of kind of how we look at things.”


Was he mostly at MIKE at Mississippi State?

He was very versatile in their defense. So I think that’s another thing to why it’s a good value to bring in a guy like that just because, like I said, he was probably, if not one or if not the, one of the smartest guys on their defense. Like I said, they required a lot. He had to learn one of their linebacker positions in the parking lot before one of their games because one of their other kids was, I think, under the weather – I forget the exact detail, but they lost one of their other linebackers. So I think that goes a long way at the next level. Being able to play multiple spots and being versatile in that regard.”





How much stock do you put in an NFL pedigree? I see he has a couple uncles who were in the league for a while, and just to follow up on the second part is how did he check out from a character standpoint with a couple of arrests on his background?

Obviously, it’s always great if they have background of people in their family that played at least you know they kind of come from an athletic background, so I don’t think that ever hurts. As far as the character thing. I mean, guys make mistakes. I mean, no one’s just, no one’s perfect. I think the nice part about that is, or at least with him, is going in there for a couple years, you kind of get to know the whole background about the kid. So probably going on two, three years now, you kind of hear different stories, different ways he goes about things, what type of leader he is, type of character he’s got. And then even through the spring process here, seeing him at All Star games, you get comfortable enough with them. Like I said, I don’t think anyone’s perfect in any regard, but I think at the end of the day, we felt comfortable that this kid is a country kid who loves to play the game of football, and he’s tough and smart, and I think those things go a long way.”


Mississippi State played a very unique, or they had played while he was there, a very unique scheme with that three, three stack that they run. How does that translate? I mean, you were watching a guy in a scheme that is as unique as that. How do you project that into, I know defenses are multiple at this level, but do you try to project a player when they’re coming from a scheme like that?

Yeah, I mean, you always, obviously, whatever position or player, you obviously want to project them to the team, at least the Browns in this case, the team that he’s going to. So I think the good thing about him playing in a defense like that, I think he was asked to do a lot. So I think, like I said, at least with the linebacker position, the intelligence stuff is very important. I think that guys that are smarter, I think, has a tendency to play the game faster. And like I said, he’s played multiple spots. He’s been asked a lot of him. So I think, like, the versatility is only going to help him at this level. If he’s going to start off at one spot now, the coaches will decide where’s best for that, but I think the fact that he can play multiple spots and is intelligent enough to do so, I think that’s only going to help him.”


As a player who was in college for six years, he’s going to be 24 in September. Is he pretty close to his final form as a football player or is there still a lot of room for development?

“I think there’s always room to develop. Whether you’re talking about football players or just people in general, I think there’s always room to grow in that regard. I think it’s helped him that he’s played a lot of football and he’s been productive in the SEC. I mean, he’s made a lot of tackles throughout his career, so he knows how to play the game of football. He’s made a lot of plays and I think those things should translate pretty easily for him to the next level. And he’s played special teams as well through college, so he’s done a lot throughout. I know he’s been there a while, but he’s done a lot throughout his career.”


Do you get excited to see some of these guys and hoping that they turn into gems throughout the development as well but hoping that you might really land on someone in this part of the draft?

“Yeah, it’s always nice, too. I mean, ideally, you’d want to hit on every pick and hopefully become great players in the league, but yeah, I mean, it’s nice just because you spend so much time watching these guys and spending time getting to know them, getting characters, so you always kind of have a soft spot for your own guys, but when it comes down to it, as long as they’re helping out the Cleveland Browns, I think that’s the best thing. But yeah and if you guess any of our scouts, probably we all have our favorites that we hope, you know, end up in Cleveland but doesn’t always happen. But that’s just the way it goes. But, you know, as long as they become a good, productive Cleveland Brown and they help our team, I think that’s what’s best in the end.”


And on the special teams that he played in college, how much of that factor is your guys interest in him? And also, just as you kind of evaluate the new kickoff situation?

“Especially a linebacker position, you obviously want those guys to play just because they’re bigger bodies and you hope they can play, you know, all phases. I think it’s just part of the process, really. It depends really by guy. But 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, but you’ll see guys every year that are kind of just mainly special teams players that make a career out of being special teams players. But like I said, I just keep going back. Kind of just the versatility of Watson is one of the more impressive parts of his kind of whole package.”


How much impact did that new kickoff rule for you as scouts as your kind of trying to provide Andrew (Berry) with, you know, players now, but just they threw such a significant change to, you know, a major play. Just what type of challenge does that present for you as a scout and how much did that, you know, impact what you do?

“Well, I think it’s going to be something that’s going to, we’re going to continue to have to understand more, really, just because it’s so new and that was kind of thrown on to us, I guess, after kind of the college season, too. But again, if you have good athletes, you got big bodies, you got strong guys, you know, those guys probably will translate on to special teams regardless of what the rules are. But I think that’s kind of going to be an ongoing process of just kind of getting a feel for what type of guys we want playing on those units. So, I think it’s almost too new to really give a definite answer to that.”


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