The Georgia Bulldogs have had six linebackers drafted to the NFL in the past four years. Can junior linebacker Nakobe Dean keep the momentum rolling in the 2022 NFL Draft? Dean was a Butkus Award semifinalist last season and is hotly tipped to be one of the best linebackers in college football this fall. However, what does his scouting report tell us about his potential as an NFL prospect?
Nakobe Dean NFL Draft Profile
Current Year: Junior
Weight: 225 pounds
Nakobe Dean Scouting Report
Dean was lauded for his athletic ability and instincts coming out of Horn Lake High School. Some of those traits have transitioned to the college football level and serve as a good starting point for his scouting report.
Dean has impressive football instincts as a run-stopping linebacker. He has a remarkable knack for diagnosing the play, working through traffic, locating the ball, and making a play. The Georgia product can scrape well along the formation to find the ball carrier and end the play.
Dean does his best work against the run. He regularly uses his play speed to come downhill with force to impact the run game. Furthermore, that same speed allows him to be impressive in pursuit downfield. In addition to his speed, the Georgia linebacker demonstrates solid pursuit angles when chasing his man downfield. Although he primarily uses these abilities dangerously in run defense, Dean has also proven to be a threat as a pass rusher off the edge.
In pass coverage, his athletic ability allows him to stay relatively sticky in man schemes. It allows him to make up ground quickly and make a play to limit yardage.
Areas for improvement
At 6’0″ and 225 pounds, Dean won’t be the tallest or heaviest linebacker in the 2022 NFL Draft. He doesn’t appear to have the frame to add much more muscle mass, either. Thus, this is unlikely an area where he can improve.
As a result, Dean often struggles to impact the game when blitzing inside. There were too many examples of him being stonewalled by offensive linemen when attempting to get to the backfield from the interior.
Although Dean has demonstrated excellent football instincts as a run defender, his reading of the passing game requires some improvement. For instance, he can be drawn in by play fakes. And despite exhibiting stellar play speed, he doesn’t possess the elite change of direction ability to recover from a misread play.
Dean’s Player Profile
High school athletes like Dean don’t come around too often. During his time at Horn Lake, the multi-talented standout shined on the diamond, hardwood, and track. Although he was a gifted baseball and basketball player, he was a phenom on the football field. Dean compiled a mind-blowing 438 tackles, 61.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, and 6 interceptions during his high school career. Not content with dominating on defense, the Horn Lake linebacker also rushed for 9 touchdowns.
In his senior season, Dean helped Horn Lake achieve an unbeaten season and led them to their first-ever MHSAA Class 6A title. Unsurprisingly, his production and leadership earned him considerable accolades — too many to enumerate in a scouting report. Those accomplishments were headlined by the 2018 High School Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. Furthermore, Dean was invited to the 2019 Under Armour All-American Game.
Bubbling under the outer shell of his outstanding high school career was a wild recruiting ride. A five-star prospect and a top-20 overall player in the 2019 recruiting class, Dean attracted over 40 college offers. Although Georgia and his in-state team Ole Miss were the first to make their interest official, the talented linebacker also took visits to Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Texas A&M.
In a decision that went down to the wire and appeared to be trending towards Ole Miss, Dean announced his commitment to the Bulldogs on National Signing Day. When asked about the main factor behind his destination, Dean replied: “Development on and off the field, academically and athletically.”
Dean’s career at Georgia
With a reputation for being an insane high school athlete, it didn’t appear like Dean needed too much athletic refinement. However, inside linebacker isn’t often a position where a true freshman can come in and make an immediate and dominant impact.
Despite this, Dean played in 14 games during the 2019 season. In his debut against Murray State, he contributed his first tackle for loss, while just three games later, he had a standout game against Kentucky. The young linebacker led his more experienced teammates with 6 tackles in the win over the Wildcats. Additionally, he secured his first career forced fumble, flexing his ability to be disruptive.
Dean earned a share of the team’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award as a true freshman after registering 25 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble. He also added pass breakups against Georgia Tech and LSU to flash some moxie in pass coverage.
Dean takes a step up in his sophomore season
Although he’d been solid in 2019, there was an expectation from Georgia fans that the Mississippi native would take a step up as a sophomore. Dean did not disappoint. Making 10 starts and playing 76% of the team’s defensive snaps, he led the team with 71 tackles and 13 quarterback pressures.
A tackling machine in high school, Dean replicated that ability with a three-game stretch where he registered double-digit tackle numbers. Amid that stretch, he set a new career-high of 15 tackles against Florida. In the game preceding that span, he secured his first career sack against Alabama. Two years after being named the High School Butkus Award winner, his sophomore performances saw him named a semifinalist for the college equivalent.
With Monty Rice departed to the NFL Draft, Dean will be expected to take a step up this season. Although the Georgia linebacker missed spring practice following surgery to repair a torn labrum, he should be fully fit for the start of his junior campaign. If he leads the team in tackles again this fall and can turn some of his pressures into production, Dean could elevate his 2022 NFL Draft stock.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.