NFL Draft: Biggest potential steal in this year’s class
Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling breaks down three prospects who could be drafted on Day 2 or 3 but have an immediate impact.
Georgian soccer All-America linebacker Nakobe Dean has been successful on every level. Dean won the Butkus Award — given to the best linebacker in the nation — in high school and college.
He also won a state championship at Horn Lake in Mississippi and helped the Bulldogs win their first national title since 1980.
The Philadelphia Eagles will give Dean the opportunity to continue that success after selecting him 83rd overall in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday.
Former Horn Lake coach Brad Boyette wasn’t surprised to hear Dean’s name called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Boyette saw Dean’s “detailed” work ethic and competitiveness as a freshman. Now Boyette expects Dean to make a difference in the NFL.
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“I expect in his first year he will have an impact on veteran players because of the way he runs his day and takes care of business,” Boyette said.
Here’s what Dean will bring to the NFL.
The positive points
Dean — at 5-foot-11 and 229 pounds — has the athleticism to play sideline-to-sideline and drop into coverage. The junior had 72 tackles, six sacks and two interceptions as well as six passes defended last season.
However, Dean having a knack for being in the right place to get a game going long before the game, according to Boyette.
“He has the instinct and he is diligent about studying the film and picking up every clue,” Boyette said. “He’s almost one step ahead of everyone at the snap of the ball because of the clues and (knowing) where the ball is going.
“He did that in high school and continued that in Georgia.”
Boyette thinks Dean’s work ethic is “contagious” and his selfless nature will make a noticeable difference in the locker room.
Small linebackers have become more valuable in the NFL, especially those who are above average in pass coverage. However, Dean’s size was a question before the draft. Dean’s stature hasn’t affected him with the Bulldogs, but Dean will be the smallest inside linebacker in the NFL.
It’s not a worry for Boyette, which is why Dean’s preparation habits are so important.
“The greats are able to deal with everything in a short time and when you do that you are one step ahead of your opponent,” Boyette said. “It levels the playing field for a guy who might not be as big as a 6-foot-3, 250-pound linebacker.
“You look at all the indicators that are important for a linebacker and he has them all. The most important thing is its competitiveness. Nakobe does not pride himself on being an All-American T-shirt. He is preparing and it is important for him but he is preparing to play the game.
Dean’s explosiveness and acceleration will also ease his transition to the NFL.
Dean — a former five-star recruit — has the pedigree and track record to be one of the best linebackers at every level. He was a key part of a Georgian defense considered the best in the country. Dean’s speed, athleticism and tackling ability should culminate in a productive NFL career.