Nakobe Dean Spotlight

One of the biggest stories in the draft was the fall of  Nakobe Dean. Dean was a key piece of the National Champion Georgia Bulldogs’ historical defense. In 2021, Dean had 72 total tackles, 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles. He was also a Consensus All-American and the winner of the Dick Butkus award, an award won previously by LB’s who were selected highly in the draft like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Isaiah Simmons, Devin White, and Roquan Smith.

Due to Dean’s production, many projected him to be the first linebacker off the board. Instead, he fell all the way to the third round, where he was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles. So why did this happen? How did a player who was projected by many to go in the first round, and was touted as one of the best defensive players in the class leading up to the draft, fall so hard? What does this fall mean for Dean, the Eagles, and the league? This piece will answer all that for you and more! 

Injury Background

Dean has been a big-time player since his high school days. Coming out of Horn Lake, Mississippi, Dean attended Horn Lake HS and was a top-15 national recruit. Dean was labeled a 5-star recruit and received offers from the likes of Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss. Dean ended up committing to Georgia and made an immediate impact on the team. He won the Co-Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award in his true freshman year. His sophomore year in 2020 was looking promising, but unfortunately was derailed by a torn labrum injury that Dean suffered during the season.

He missed Georgia’s 2021 spring practice, but was ready to go for the 2021 season. In 2021, Dean had an amazing season that was topped off by winning the College Football National Championship. After the season ended, and we were getting closer to the draft, the hype for Dean was immense. Many were saying that he would be the first linebacker off the board. But, as we all know, that did not happen. Dean continued to slide and multiple linebackers were taken ahead of him. At first many were confused, myself included. However, Ian Rappaport shared the news  that Dean had suffered a major pectoral injury and he declined getting surgery for it. 


On top of this, Dean didn’t attend the NFL’s combine. The reason for this was because Dean had just recently acquired the aforementioned injury while training for the combine. Dean has great instincts, football IQ, blitzing ability, speed, quickness, and leadership. However, one of his biggest knocks is his size. Standing at 5’11 and weighing in at 229 pounds, Dean is a lot smaller than the average middle linebacker in the NFL. The combine was an opportunity to show off his other measurables like his speed and agility. Due to his inability to attend the combine, he wasn’t able to show off said measurables, so one can see how that hurt his draft stock. However, I don’t believe his size is much of a concern. These days, NFL teams are slinging the rock more than ever.

Lack of Size

Georgia LB Nakobe Dean

Georgia LB Nakobe Dean

As a result of this, defenses have to adapt. We are now seeing teams sacrificing height and weight for speed and agility. If you look at some of the top young middle linebackers in the league, you’ll see a common trend amongst them all. They are smaller, more agile, and faster than their older contemporaries. Roquan Smith was taken by the Chicago Bears 8th overall in the 2018 NFL draft. He stands at 6’1 and weighs 232 pounds. Devin White was taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5th overall in the 2019 draft. He stands at 6’0 and weighs 237 pounds. Patrick Queen was taken by the Baltimore Ravens with the 28th overall pick in the 2020 draft. He stands at 6’1 and weighs 232 pounds. All of these guys are around the same size as Nakobe Dean, and share some similar traits like football IQ and speed.

My point is that we are seeing a continuing trend of smaller middle linebackers entering the league and seeing success. Although Dean is slightly smaller than these guys, I believe he has enough tools at his disposal to succeed at the next level. 

The Slide

Fear is one of our species biggest enemies. It can keep us from making decisions that could positively alter the course of your trajectory. I believe every NFL franchise that passed on Dean multiple times will share this sentiment in a few years. In a few years, seeing a middle linebacker with the size of Dean coming of college may not even cause an eye to be bat. The game is constantly evolving. If we take a look at the other side of the ball, we’ll see that the quarterback position is one that has gone through the most evolution in the NFL. 20 years ago, size was a big factor when it came to evaluating quarterbacks.

Nowadays, we have guys like Kyler Murray(who stands at 5’10 and weighs 207 pounds) going first overall in the NFL Draft and being mentioned in MVP talks. If you told this to someone in the year 2002, they would think you were crazy. But nowadays, seeing a quarterback with that type of size come out of college isn’t anything of much note. It’s something that the game had been trending towards for years. I believe we’re seeing the same thing with linebackers. The evolution of the position has been a necessity for defenses to keep up with the everchanging and innovative offenses of the modern NFL. Teams shouldn’t fear the change. They should be ready to embrace it and try to evolve quicker than other teams. 

Grand Theft Nakobe Dean

In all, I believe that the Philadelphia Eagles got themselves great value on a great player. Dean’s leadership can not be understated. He was the leader of one of the greatest defenses that college football has ever seen. On a defense with multiple draft picks, Dean was the standout, both as a player and as a leader. As a player, Dean’s speed, playmaking, and instincts shine on film. He’s a sharp guy who’s great against the run and shows a great ability to blitz versus the pass. As a leader, he commanded a locker room full of top players with big personalities. His coaches and teammates could go off for hours on how much they love him. That’s the kind of guy you want in your locker room and that’s certainly the type of upside you’d love to have fall to you in the 3rd round.

Due to Dean’s injury, his rookie year will likely be treated as a redshirt year. However, this may end up helping out Dean. It gives Dean a year to properly heal from his injury and time to learn about the intricacies of the league. With all that being said, I believe Dean has the potential of being the biggest steal in this draft. I will certainly be rooting for that to be the case. With the all-around upside that Dean has, He could be the Jewel of the Draft. How could you not root for the guy?

Nakobe Dean Spotlight by Andrew Angelina.