Quick of foot and sharp of brain, Georgia LB Nakobe Dean has cemented himself as one of the top linebackers in the 2022 NFL Draft with an impressive final season for the Bulldogs. The program has had six linebackers drafted in the last four years, and Dean leads a cast of three more who should hear their name called in Las Vegas. Dean’s scouting report reveals why he is considered a first-round prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Nakobe Dean NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Georgia
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 5’11 1/4″
- Weight: 229 pounds
- Wingspan: 76 1/2″
- Arm: 31 7/8″
- Hand: 9 1/8″
Nakobe Dean Scouting Report
As the 2022 NFL Draft process has unfolded, two linebackers have asserted their control at the top of the class. Behind them is a group snapping at their heels, but it feels like these two prospects will be the only ones at the position that will penetrate the first round. One is Utah’s Devin Lloyd. The other is Dean, who has a scouting report packed with talent and next-level promise.
Starting Dean’s scouting report anywhere other than his football intelligence would be a grave error. To be truly successful at the linebacker position, you have to have a high level of intelligence. It is, after all, dubbed as being the quarterback of the defense. Dean demonstrates intelligence in multiple facets. He handles the play calls, communicating defensive shifts to his teammates. Unsurprisingly, he’s been a permanent team captain.
Dean reads the game to an exceptionally high level. Watching him diagnose the run game is a joy to behold. He’s adept at understanding multiple run concepts and — as we’ll get to shortly — has the athletic ability to quickly act upon what he sees. He works through traffic well to locate the ball carrier and make a play.
As a result, Dean has the football instincts to be able to play in the box at the NFL level. Furthermore, the Georgia LB shows an understanding of zone concepts in the passing game, allowing him to be impactful in coverage.
While his football intelligence is amongst the best in the class, Dean was lauded for his athletic ability and instincts coming out of Horn Lake High School. Those athletic traits have translated to the college football level, and help support the Georgia linebacker’s argument for being one of the top LB prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
From an athletic standpoint, 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. Athleticism isn’t just speed, however. Dean demonstrates explosion and lateral agility to ensure he can click and close with heat-seeking missile-esque ferocity.
As a result of the lateral agility, Dean can scrape across the formation to flow to the football in run support. He’s also able to overcome blockers with his combination of speed and lateral agility. With additional flexibility, Dean has the athletic profile to be able to rush the passer both from the interior and around the edge.
The aforementioned athletic profile enables Dean to add man coverage to his pass-disruption repertoire. He’s proven sticky when covering running backs and smaller tight ends out of the slot. With his combination of football intelligence, athletic ability, and multi-faceted usage, Dean has the ability to be a starting MIKE linebacker at the NFL level.
Areas for improvement
While some of Dean’s performances, particularly against the run, amount to teach tape at the linebacker position, other areas of his NFL Draft scouting report will prove problematic for NFL teams.
There is no avoiding the fact that Dean lacks the true size of an NFL linebacker. Of course, we’ve strayed away from the old-school LB archetype. However, at under 6-foot and 230 pounds, Dean is a smaller, leaner prospect than some teams would be comfortable with plugging in at the heart of their linebacker group.
It would be less of an issue if there weren’t examples of the size being problematic at the college level. While he’s shown improvements in this regard this year, Dean can be stonewalled when trying to overcome bigger offensive tackles with power alone.
Size isn’t the only issue where that is concerned. If you have the length to overcome offensive linemen by being the first to get a blow in, that can mitigate size and strength issues. However, Dean only has middling length. At present, he relies predominantly on his speed and lateral agility to overcome blocks.
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 campaign 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 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 visited 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. Two years after being named the High School Butkus Award winner, the Georgia LB was named a semifinalist for the college equivalent.
Dean’s NFL Draft ascension
With teammate Monty Rice departed for the league, the 2021 college football season allowed Dean to elevate his NFL Draft stock. Despite having offseason surgery, he made an immediate impact in the season-opening win over Clemson. With turning pressure into production one of the main elements of his summer scouting report, the Georgia LB registered more sacks in one game (2.0) than in his entire career.
It set the tone for a season in which Dean established himself as one of the top linebackers in the nation. After a season where he registered 72 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, the Georgia LB won the Butkus Award. He also earned All-American honors while achieving recognition for his work away from the football field as a team captain of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
In addition to showcasing his ability to be impactful in the ground game and in pursuit of the quarterback, Dean demonstrated pass-coverage disruption with 5 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. Meanwhile, he flashed special-teams ability with appearances and production on punt coverage.
Having demonstrated his playmaking ability, impressive athleticism, and even greater football intelligence throughout his final season, Dean is in the mix to be the first linebacker selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. He currently sits as the second-best linebacker and 21st overall player on the Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Nakobe Dean
Positives: Slightly undersized, fierce linebacker who makes plays all over the field. Very sudden, incredibly explosive, and plays heads-up football. Covers a large amount of area in a short time, displays outstanding speed in pursuit, and immediately gets to the spot to make the play. Gets depth on pass drops, sells out on the blitz, and is very forceful. Quickly locates the ball, effectively diagnoses plays, and slides off blocks to get to the action. Shows an outstanding closing burst.
Negatives: Lack of height leads to mismatches against bigger tight ends. Will struggle taking on blocks at the next level. More football fast than 40 fast.
Analysis: Dean is an explosive three-down linebacker who showed consistent improvement in his game. He has size as well as growth limitations and may not be a linebacker for everyone. Yet, Dean will be very productive as a run-and-chase linebacker in the proper scheme on Sundays.