Nakobe Dean, the Eagles Future at Linebacker
16 May 2022 Eagles News
When Nakobe Dean fell to the 83rd pick in the NFL Draft, there was widespread speculation it was due to lingering shoulder, knee, and ankle issues. Once Eagles GM Howie Roseman selected Dean though, he made it clear that Dean wasn’t hurt (at least not to the extent many believed) and was ready for rookie mini-camp. To the delight and surprise of many (including myself), Dean was able to participate fully in the Eagles rookie camp and was able to show off his intelligence and football IQ. Eagles fans have been clamoring for a high level LB for a LONG time, and not only did Roseman select Dean in the draft, he also took a one-year flyer on LB Kyzir White which bolsters what was once a shaky LB unit and gives it two really good athletes. Even though Dean has yet to take an NFL snap, the excitement around the pick is palpable. Let’s take a look at the tape to find out what strengths and areas of growth Dean has.
Nakobe Dean going through drills. pic.twitter.com/DNtJuhuyGJ
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) May 6, 2022
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) May 16, 2022
Nakobe Dean– 5’11 229 lbs
- Run stopping
- Pass defense
- Tackling technique
- Block shedding
Nakobe Dean is an intelligent human being, and that transfers over to the playing field as well. He was the play caller and heart of the Georgia defense in ’21 and should be able to assume a similar role for the Eagles defense once he’s up to speed. Being undersized, it’s important for Dean to be able to process the game quickly and identify plays before they develop. He’s more than capable of doing just that, and he should be able to offset his size limitations playing quickly and using his football IQ and other intangibles at the heart of Philly’s defense.
Dean is the epitome of a playmaker at the LB position, able to cause fumbles, pick off passes, and sack the QB. in ’21 he racked up 6 sacks, 2 FFs, 2 INTs, and 1 TD. Dean will be a sight for sore eyes for Eagles fans, as we’ve struggled to see a consistent playmaker at the LB position for years.
Dean is a good pass defender, and he uses his IQ to identify route concepts and make plays against the pass. His short area quickness and speed allow him to cover RBs out of the backfield and TEs down the seam, recording 5 PBUs in ’21. A combination of Dean and Kyzir White on passing downs will be a huge boost for Philadelphia’s defense.
Dean brings it as a run stopper and he uses his speed and intelligence to diagnose gaps and get downhill to make plays on the ball. He recorded 10.5 TFLs in ’21, consistently making plays in the backfield against SEC competition.
While Dean is a highly productive and instinctive linebacker, he does have some work to do in regards to his tackling technique. There are multiple instances on tape where he either takes a bad angle, or does wrap up well, and misses a opportunity to bring the ball carrier to the ground. Missed tackles are a guaranteed way to have your playing time cut back, and with a bolstered LB room Dean has less margin for error.
When Dean is able to read the play and get down hill he’s able to make plays in the running game on a consistent basis. But when he’s unable to get to the ball carrier (or QB) unimpeded, he struggles to break free of blocks and may have increased difficulty with the bigger and faster blockers in the NFL. Dean needs to develop a secondary block shedding move to ensure that he doesn’t get swallowed up by opposing linemen or tight ends.
Dean would be the shortest starting inside linebacker in the NFL at 5’11, the same height as Steelers LB Devin Bush, and the only starter on the inside under 6 feet tall. Despite his lack of height, his arm length isn’t as short as you’d expect (31 7/8″) and is actually longer than Chad Muma’s (31 5/8″) arm length despite Muma being four inches taller. There hasn’t been a long history of successful sub six foot inside linebackers in the NFL, but Dean is a good enough athlete and playmaker that he should be able to overcome it.
Nakobe Dean falling to the 3rd round was fortuitous for the Eagles, giving them a chance to have a starting quality linebacker in the middle of their defense for the next 5-10 years. Dean embodies everything you look for in a starter on the inside: intelligence, speed, tackling, and playmaking ability, which isn’t easy to come by. The questions about his injuries seem to be at rest now since he was able to participate in rookie mini-camp, and seemed to be physically able to do whatever was asked of him. Whether Dean is able to become the next Pro Bowl level linebacker or just an above average starter remains to be seen, but his addition bolsters what has suddenly become a really strong linebacker group.
Considering Dean was a 1st round talent that Philly got at pick #83, it’s hard to argue that this pick is anything other than a home run. His size leaves a bit to be desired, and he absolutely needs to clean up his tackling and block shedding technique, but Dean has the opportunity in front of him to be a game changer for Philly.