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– 5’11 229 lbs


  • Intelligence
  • Run stopping
  • Pass defense
  • Playmaking


  • Tackling technique
  • Block shedding
  • Size



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.

It’s such a plus to have a player that can split out wide and make plays versus the pass. Here Dean reads the QBs eyes and makes a great jump on the ball to record the INT and take it to the house.
Dean takes the RB out of the backfield into the flat and is able to make a diving INT off a bobbled pass.
Dean is a really good pass rusher who is able to use his speed to get by blockers and pressure QBs in the pocket. Here he’s able to beat the Arkansas center to sack the QB.
Dean pressures the QB and beats the center, forcing the QB to scramble outside of the pocket. Dean is then able to use his speed and athleticism to run down the QB from behind for the half sack.
Dean again is able to get the sack on Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson, after driving the RB into the backfield and then disengaging from the block.

Pass defense

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 takes the receiver on a crossing route and is able to get underneath the receiver to break up the pass and almost make an INT.
Dean picks up the Bama TE late crossing the middle as Georgia LB Channing Tindall misread the play, but Dean was able to recover and make the pass break up.
Dean is really an asset against the pass, especially when he’s able to mirror RBs coming out of the backfield. Here he makes the read on the swing pass to the Auburn RB and closes in on the RB to make the hit and prevent the reception.

Run stopping

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.

Dean uses his speed and athleticism to work his way through traffic and make an excellent downfield run stop.
Dean reads the run, identifies the hole and gets down hill to make a great run stop versus Bama RB Brian Robinson Jr.
Dean does a good job here fighting through an initial blocker and the traffic to make first contact on the RB in the backfield leading to a short gain.
Dean does an excellent job as a QB spy on this play identifying the scrambling QB and making a play to limit an even bigger gain. This will be a valuable skillset in the modern NFL as many QBs have a dual-threat ability.


Tackling technique

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.

Dean has the TE in coverage and follows the TE to the sideline but uses bad technique to bring down the pass catcher and gets stiff armed and missed the tackle.
Dean does a good job of spying the QB and takes a good angle to limit a big play, but he doesn’t break down in space and ends up over running the play missing the tackle.
On this play Dean reads the play correctly but goes high on the ball carrier, which is something you see him do a number of times. He falls off of the runner and is unable to stop the play before it turns into a 1st down.
Dean doesn’t use proper technique on this play and goes for a big hit instead of a more technically sound wrap up,

Block shedding

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 gets swallowed up by the Bama center, who is able to turn Dean’s shoulders and block him out of the play allowing the RB to get to the 2nd level for a 1st down.
Dean is again overwhelmed by the blocker, this time it’s the center from Florida who stands Dean up and prevents him from being able to make a play on the ball carrier.
Dean is demolished by Bama’s left guard and is pushed almost 10 yards down field with no chance whatsoever of making a play on the ball. These things happen, but these types of plays happened far too often on tape.
Dean again is unable to shed the blocker and is pushed out of the hole despite making the right read. For Dean to really succeed in the NFL he will have to work on his technique and leverage to keep blockers from overwhelming him.


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.

Final analysis:

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.

Grade: A+

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.