With the NFL Combine behind us and the 2022 NFL Draft just a month away, the final stages of the scouting process are starting to take shape. I’ve been hard at work grinding the tape to bring you detailed breakdowns of some of the top prospects available to the Atlanta Falcons throughout the draft, and I’m excited to finally share them with you now that the athletic testing has been finalized.
First, if you’re unfamiliar with my scouting reports from previous years, you can read about my grading system here. Please keep in mind this system is still in development, and may be adjusted as more data points come in.
Next up is another high-end linebacker prospect from Georgia: Nakobe Dean. An electric playmaker with elite instincts but a lack of ideal size for the position, the big question is how early Dean will go in the 2022 NFL Draft.
LB | Nakobe Dean | Georgia | #17
Games watched: Clemson, Florida, Alabama (SECC), Alabama (CFP)
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean is one of the top defensive prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft, and also one of the most fun to watch. Dean’s instincts and aggressiveness immediately pop on tape, as he’s constantly making plays around the football. An explosive player with good lateral mobility and long speed, Dean has the traits to be an impact 3-down MIKE at the NFL level. The only issue is his size: at 5’11, 230, Dean is certainly on the low end of NFL thresholds.
Physicality, however, is not an issue for Dean. He hits hard and is a good, reliable tackler–although his tackle radius suffers due to his lack of length. Dean’s exceptional instincts and football IQ help him make up for the size discrepancy, however, as he seems to play a step faster than the competition. He’s also an absolute terror as a blitzer, piling up 6.0 sacks and 10.5 TFL in 2021.
Dean is an experienced player in coverage and looks very comfortable in zone. He has some upside in man coverage against RBs due to his athletic traits, but is at his best using his instincts and short-area quickness in zone. Dean’s lack of ideal size limits his ability to match up with NFL TEs, and he’ll never be looked at as a true thumper or block-shedder. Still, if Dean can be protected behind a quality defensive line, he can be an incredibly disruptive force against both the run and pass. It’ll be interesting to see how the NFL values Dean, but I’d be shocked if he makes it out of the top-50 and he’s got a very good chance of going in the first round.
Good tackler. Hits with a lot of power and finishes reliably. Doesn’t have the widest tackle radius due to below-average size.
Run Defending: 6
Good run defender. Plays with controlled aggression against the run. Trusted with a lot of responsibilities and blitzes. Hits hard, but doesn’t have the biggest tackle radius. Good at getting skinny and avoiding blockers, but struggles to shed blocks once engaged.
Excellent coverage player. Primary coverage linebacker for Georgia. Deployed frequently in zone coverage and very comfortable there. Quality movement skills, instincts, and ball skills. Also reliable in man coverage against RBs, but not enough length to be an asset in man against NFL TEs.
Blitzing/Pass Rush: 7
Excellent blitzer. Disruptive pass rusher and impactful penetration player as a run defender. Comfortable executing all manner of stunts, twists, and delayed blitzes. Terror through the A-gaps with very good explosiveness and a tenacious motor.
Flexibility/Lateral Mobility: 7
Excellent lateral mobility. Changes direction well and with ease. Very comfortable zone coverage player with good range as a tackler and pursuit player.
Football IQ: 8
Elite football IQ. Trusted with a huge number of responsibilities and played them all reliably. Plays gap sound and knows his responsibility. Does his job on every play and is consistent with his reads. Elite instincts and always around the ball.
Competitive Toughness: 8
Elite competitive toughness. Fiery personality on the field and always gives tremendous effort. Plays with a physical edge which helps make up for his lack of ideal size.
High-end leadership qualities. Heartbeat of the defense and trusted to make the calls and get the unit set. Vocal and emotional team leader.
Good versatility. Capable of playing all three downs and making plays against both the run and pass. Very effective blitzer and zone coverage player, with some ability in man. Too small to be an asset on the line of scrimmage or in man against TEs.
Excellent production. One of the most productive blitzers in college football with 6.0 sacks. 10.5 TFL show his ability to create havoc against the run. Quality overall tackle production with 72 total (36 solo). Good ball production in coverage with 2 INTs and 6 PD, along with 2 FF.
Athleticism: RAS N/A, 7.5 projected | 15/20
Very good athlete at linebacker who is likely to be held back from elite RAS by his size, which is well below-average at 5’11, 229 . Good projected long speed. Very good projected agility and explosiveness. Did not test at Combine, using projection from tape study.