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2022 NFL draft scouting report: Georgia LB Nakobe Dean

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Georgia LB Nakobe Dean

6-foot
229 pounds

Yahoo Sports' 2022 NFL draft grade

6.08 — possible first-rounder; possible immediate-impact prospect

Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2022 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2022 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

TL;DR scouting report

Undersized, energetic playmaker who flies around the field and fills up the stat sheet as a three-down performer

The skinny

A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 31 nationally) in the Class of 2019, Dean chose the Bulldogs over several SEC schools. He was UGA's co-Defensive Newcomer of the Year as a true freshman in 2019, earning a starting role the following season and leading the team in tackles. In 2021, Dean was named the Butkus Award winner and to various All-America teams, leading Georgia to a national title victory over Alabama. After the season, Dean declared early for the 2022 NFL draft.

Though undersized, Nakobe Dean is the top linebacker in the 2022 NFL draft class. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Though undersized, Nakobe Dean is the top linebacker in the 2022 NFL draft class. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Upside

  • Play speed is exceptional — can beat some skill-position players to the corner

  • Elite athletic traits for a linebacker — burst, quickness and body control all top-notch

  • Box-score stuffer — 72 tackles (10.5 for losses), 6 sacks, 2 INTs (one pick-six), 2 FFs in 2021

  • Takes on blocks like a player 30 pounds heavier

  • Also has the speed to run around blocks — hard target to hit squarely

  • Tough, gritty style — big hitter and intense from first snap to last

  • Outstanding football IQ and instincts — sniffs out the play before it materializes

  • Clear three-down value as blitzer and in coverage

  • Times up blitzes well and closes fast

  • Extremely well-versed in coverage duties, more than 750 career drops

  • Can be used to neutralize pass-catching backs or spy athletic quarterbacks

  • Seemingly racks up 2-3 hustle plays per game

  • 100-plus special-teams snaps each of past two seasons

  • Was unquestioned leader on national champions' defense

  • Natural leadership skills show up on field and off

  • Eventual "green dot" defender who will get everyone lined up

Downside

  • Size is a hindrance — height puts him close to the bottom for LB position

  • Showed up at NFL combine at 229 pounds but likely isn't getting an ounce bigger without losing speed

  • Sub-32-inch arm length makes it even tougher to disengage from NFL blockers

  • Will guess wrong at times and put himself out of position (see Kentucky, Missouri games)

  • Gets caught up in the trash, neutralizing playmaking ability

  • Got a little wild and sloppy in tackling technique last season

  • Over-pursues and overruns plays

  • Not a true stack-and-shed linebacker — and might never be

  • Will stay flat-footed in zone coverage at times and can lose sight of the ball in man coverage

  • A tick late diagnosing throws in his area of the field (see both Alabama games)

  • Hasn't had as much success covering tight ends

Best-suited destination

Certain teams don't mind employing undersized linebackers, such as the 49ers, Raiders, Jets, Titans, Dolphins, Bengals, Steelers and Texans, although some of those teams underwent coaching changes this offseason or will be running different defensive schemes. Either way, we think Dean fits as a starting "Will" linebacker (or "Jack" LB in an odd front), ideally in a system where there are block occupiers up front to help give him clearer lanes. It also wouldn't be stunning to see Dean land in a division with athletic quarterbacks, such as the AFC North, AFC West, AFC East or NFC East.

Did you know

Dean's older brother, Nikolas, played tight end at Ole Miss.

Player comp

Dean shares a lot of traits with Buccaneers LB Lavonte David.

Expected draft range

If Devin Bush can go 10th overall, there's no way Dean shouldn't be a first-round pick.