Former Georgia LB makes list of NFL players set for breakout season in 2023

Former Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean closed out his collegiate career as a national champion, a unanimous All-American, and the winner of the Butkus Award – given to the nation’s top linebacker.

Despite dropping to third round of the 2022 NFL draft due to medical concerns, nobody is surprised to see such high expectations for Dean as he enters his second season in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.

In fact, CBS Sports named him one of seven NFL players who could have a breakout season in 2023.

After playing mostly special teams and as a backup linebacker in 2022 during his rookie year, Dean is likely to play a much larger role this season. With T.J. Edwards (Bears) and Kyzir White (Cardinals) gone, Dean will step into that starting role at middle linebacker.

Via CBS Sports:

It looked like the Eagles got a steal in Dean with him being selected in the third round, but that remains to be seen. He didn’t play a major role in his rookie season due to Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards, but both are on different teams now. Dean recorded just 13 combined tackles and one tackle for loss in 2022, but may be Philly’s starting middle linebacker this season.

He’s a smaller player, but Dean shined in arguably the best defense in college football history at Georgia. He is a smart player who can both play downhill and hold his own in coverage. Dean could be a three-down playmaking linebacker in 2023. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he’s working with so many former college teammates either.

The Eagles have drafted five former Georgia Bulldogs over the last two NFL drafts, plus they also added former UGA running back D’Andre Swift in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

The drafted players include defensive tackle Jordan Davis (1st round, 2022), linebacker Dean (3rd round, 2022), defensive tackle Jalen Carter (1st round, 2023), outside linebacker Nolan Smith (1st round, 2023), and cornerback Kelee Ringo (4th round, 2023).

That’s a lot of Dawgs in Philly next season, and Dean is a big fan of what Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman is doing with the roster.

“I think our GM, Howie Roseman, did a good job drafting those guys this year. I think he picked the best available guys,” Dean said during an appearance on Good Morning Football.

“I don’t think he’s got a thing for Georgia [players], especially being from Florida. I think he picked the best available guys. He called me a lot asking about those guys — Kelee, Jordan and Nolan. I want to feel like I had something to do with it. … After the draft, I sent him a little ‘Go Dawgs.’”

Lined up in front of Dean will be Davis and Carter. And behind him, depending on how he performs this offseason, will be Ringo at cornerback.

Kirby Smart once declared that the University of Georgia wouldn’t be the ones hunted, but instead, they would be the hunters. Fast forward to now, and Dean proudly stated the following:

“We don’t look at it like we’ve got the target on our back. We look at it like we’re the ones out there hunting.”

As a Georgia fan, you love to see that philosophy carried into the NFL. Dean’s statement was inspired by Smart’s 2022 SEC Media Days quote:

“People ask the question, ‘how does it feel to be hunted?’

We will not be hunted at the University of Georgia. I can promise you that. The hunting we do will be from us going the other direction.

We’re not going to sit back and be passive,” Smart said in July of 2022.

Dean finished his 2021 national championship-winning season at Georgia with 72 tackles. He led the Bulldogs in tackles for loss (10.5) and was second on team in sacks (6). He finished with 31 pressures and six pass breakups, while finishing second on team with two interceptions. He was the 2021 Butkus Award Winner, an All-America first-team member, captain of the 2021 AFCA Good Works Team and SEC Defensive Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus.

Story originally appeared on UGA Wire