The Patriots’ Prospect Profile: Nakobe Dean

April 14, 2022
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There are a lot of defensive talents heading to the NFL Draft this year. Because the Patriots are one of the teams in need of major upgrades, a handful of players have been honed in on as good fits. But is there a more perfect fit for New England than Nakobe Dean?

The Patriots have a number of options when selecting their first-round pick. Last year, it was all but set in stone they would choose a quarterback with pick number 15. But this year it’s not that simple.

With a need for help on both sides of the ball, it’s unclear which way New England will go. But the recent addition of wide receiver DeVante Parker may swing the decision towards choosing a defensive player.

What Can Nakobe Dean Do?

There’s a reason Nakobe Dean is said to be one of the top linebackers in the 2022 draft. For the Patriots to need young, talented players on defense, he is a great choice for them to select.

Before his days at the University of Georgia, Dean was a top-15 overall recruit nationally. Fast forward to his three years at Georgia, he showed he was a monster on the field. His junior season in 2021 was by far his best; totaling 72 tackles, six sacks, and 10.5 tackles for a loss. He also tallied six pass-break-ups and two interceptions, one of which returned for a touchdown, and two forced fumbles.

It’s clear Dean has always been a star and only continues to get better with age. He’s consistently an explosive playmaker with quick feet and the agility to match. Many of the sore spots regarding their linebacking core are exactly why Dean would be a great fit; he would fill those voids immediately with his unmatched skills and awareness.

Because veteran linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Kyle Van Noy appear to not be returning to New England, Dean could bring a much-needed spark the team desperately needs. He checks nearly every box Bill Belichick looks for in a player and stands to only get better in the pros.

How Does He Fit With The Patriots?

Dean’s story immediately screams that of a future Patriot. Reading into what is being said about him throughout the draft process shows a clear pattern; he’s somewhat of an underdog due to his “lack of size for his position.” Has there been a team that has done more with “underdog” talent than Bill Belichick in New England?

At 5-foot-11 and 229 pounds, he’s smaller than the average NFL linebacker. But that hasn’t hindered his success during his college career whatsoever. His technique and toughness override any doubt about his size, allowing his play to speak for itself.

Much of the discussion about Dean has also been emphasizing his strong football IQ. How often has Belichick reiterated the importance of that before? He has a knack for attention to detail that will inevitably become a huge asset to any defense he joins in the NFL. Adding a player with incredible smarts and understanding of the game would be crucial during the Patriots’ current stage.

Although he has some room for improvement, Nakobe Dean appears to be a player you can start immediately with little to no worries. The passion he has is clear to see and given the opportunity to learn from Belichick would make him a star for years to come.

Quick Attributes and Skillset

Speed

An up-tempo and speedy player, Dean would easily add what has been lacking on the Patriots. His ability to break through defenders and make tackles can be attributed to that quickness. Not only is he successful in breaking down runners, but he also makes it look easy to get to the quarterback.

Dean has the speed to stop the run consistently, which has been a huge issue for the Patriots the last few seasons. And his ability to tally up sacks would be a massive benefit for the team as well.

With the AFC becoming more competitive in recent years, the Patriots will need to upgrade their defense to keep up. Selecting a player like Dean is not what most expect from Belichick. But building a fast and reliable defense for the team is the direction they need to go.

Playmaking

An instinctive, three-down player is just icing on the cake for what you get with Nakobe Dean. His range at the position makes his skills unapparelled amongst the others in the draft.

He’s outstanding on the blitz and always appears to be two steps ahead of his counterparts. His addition to the current Patriots’ defense would strengthen their biggest weaknesses, particularly that of rushing the passer. With the rise of mobile quarterbacks around the league, Dean’s athleticism and dynamic play-making would reinvigorate an already talented defense.

Mentality

Nicknamed, “The General” during his college days, Dean already possesses unique leadership qualities. His attention to detail has made him one of the best on the field pre-snap and post-snap. His natural instincts are reminiscent of a young Dont’a Hightower and he uses those to help his teammates get to where they need to be.

Because of his quick thinking during game time, Dean was a big contributor to the incredible success of the team overall. Many of his teammates will certainly make it to the NFL, but he is head and shoulders above the rest. With his innate leadership and intuitive play, Dean has skills that can’t simply be taught.

Notable Awards

During the 2021 season, Dean was named captain of the 30th annual Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. This award goes to players for their “remarkable remarkable commitment to community service.”

During his days at Georgia, he helped launch a program called Dawgs For Pups. The charity directly supports the youth of Athens, Georgia. Dean is only the 2nd player in the university’s history to earn this award; former Patriot Malcolm Mitchell won it previously in 2015.

“Nakobe is an exceptional example of what it means to be a well-rounded student-athlete who makes time to give back. It is an outstanding honor to be named captain of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and I believe that there could be no better person named to fill that spot than Nakobe

Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart

Following the 2021 season, he also earned the Butkus Award which is given to the “best linebacker in college football” every year. With this award, he once again became only the 2nd player in the school’s history to win. Dean had previously won the high school Butkus award in 2018, making him the best LB in the country twice during his football career.

Expert Opinions

“Dean might not have the measurables that NFL teams seek — he is 5-foot-11 with shorter arms — but his tape might be my favorite in the entire class because of his incredible effort on every play and the way he can impact the run defense, pass defense and pass rush on any given set of downs. I think he’d be a star in coach Bill Belichick’s system.” –Todd McShay of ESPN

“And while he played on the best defense in the country, don’t get it twisted — he didn’t ride on the coattails of a dominant Georgia defensive line — Dean was a huge reason for their success.” –Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports

“He can run with any player in the open field, creating plays every time he gets near the football.” –Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports

“His football IQ, instincts and speed allow him to play fast, and he’s always around the ball.” -Kevin Hanson of Sports Illustrated

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