LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia*

6’0” – 225 lbs.

Background:

Made twenty-five tackles over fourteen games as a freshman, then started all ten games the following year, finishing with a line of 71-1.5-1.5. Was named a team captain and won the Butkus Award this past season after breaking out to the tune of 68-10.5-6.0, running back one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, a play in which he happened to be lined up as a boundary cornerback.

Positives:

Highly productive weakside linebacker for one of college football’s premier programs. Patient, disciplined player who always seems to be around the ball. One of the rangiest and most explosive linebacker prospects in recent years; has true sideline-to-sideline speed and takes sound angles to the ball in pursuit. Closes very well when he finds a path to the ball, with outstanding burst. Better when he’s able to run free, or when using his quickness to avoid blockers, but shows the physicality to mix things up with blockers if needed. Generates some pop on contact and displays consistent, effective wrap-tackling technique. Very comfortable working in space on passing downs. Smooth transition from dropping to driving in zones. Easily carries running backs out of the backfield and into the flats, or downfield on wheel routes. Dangerous blitzer when he gets a lane to the quarterback; a heat-seeking missile who’s able to slip between blockers on delayed rushes or twists. Shows the ability to threaten the edge with speed, dipping his shoulder effectively to slip past opposing tackles. Very good spy who can force throws when quarterbacks flee the pocket.

Negatives:

Undersized even for the modern game. Can be engulfed by bigger offensive linemen; would like to see a little bit more hand use to disengage. Contact balance is below-average; can even be jolted by opposing receivers. Some relatively minor issues with gap discipline between the tackles; will overrun his spot periodically. Slips off tackles when he relies on hitting. Probably too small to match up with inline tight ends in man coverage.

Summary:

A prototypical weakside linebacker and sub-package defender who combines disciplined reads, a nonstop motor, and a physical temperament, with excellent speed, explosiveness, and range. Might not fit as well in odd defensive fronts or in schemes which ask their linebackers to take on blocks regularly, but could be a true difference maker if he’s protected and allowed to flow to the ball or work in space as a coverage defender. Looks likely to be one of the first linebackers off the board.

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