Eagles’ general manager Howie Roseman may have topped the best two rounds of drafting in his career by landing Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean with the 83rd overall pick in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Friday night.
Dean, who carried a 3.55 GPA as a mechanical engineering major at Georgia, was projected by many draft prognosticators to go late in the first round. What may have scared teams away was his size. Though generously listed at 6-foot, 225 pounds on the official University of Georgia football website, Dean is actually closer to 5-11.
“Why I dropped, there is nothing I can do, I can’t control it,” Dean said. “It was nerve-wracking especially why I was falling like that. At the end of the day, I’m glad I got picked by a great organization. I’m very excited (to be joining Eagles’ first-round pick and fellow Georgia teammate Jordan Davis).”
Dean suffered a strained pec while training for the NFL Combine, which apparently scared some teams off. Roseman said the Eagles’ team doctors did a thorough examination and felt the pec strain has healed.
ESPN’s Todd McShay had Dean selected at 19th overall, but he said the feedback he received from NFL teams was the thought the pec injury would require surgery and force Dean to miss the first month of the season, pushing him down to the third round.
“If we didn’t take him, (Dean) was gone (off the board),” Roseman said. “They clearly did (back away because of the medical). For us, we obviously didn’t have that many picks. We had three picks. In the second round, those were the two guys were deciding between (Cam Jurgens, the Eagles’ second-round choice and Dean).
“We picked how we build this team, inside out. We got lucky. That’s what it sounds like (the pec injury scared teams off). He’ll be on the field. And I will tell you, talking to Nakobe tonight, you’re going to have to hold his ass back.”
His size didn’t diminish the fact what Dean did on the field, chosen SEC Defensive Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus, after starting all 15 games of the season for the national champion Bulldogs.
He finished with 72 total tackles and led Georgia in tackles for loss with 10.5 and second in sacks (6.0). He also finished with 31 quarterback hurries and six pass breakups and was second on the Bulldogs with two interceptions.
Many compare Dean to Chicago Bears’ linebacker Roquan Smith, another former Georgia Bulldog. There is a lot to like about Dean. He’s quick, strong, aggressive, has a great motor, good lateral movement, has shown an ability to cover running backs swinging out of the backfield, can fill and shoot gaps. He also has what many experts say is strong spatial awareness and gets off blocks well when coming forward.
Above all else, he’s a leader who is highly intelligent and was the heart and soul of probably the greatest defense in college football history.
“I think I’ve said this 50 times in the sense of what are we looking for in players, we’re looking for high-character guys, we’re looking for guys who love football, we’re looking for guys that are tough, we’re looking for guys that have high football IQ,” Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni said. “(Dean) checks every single one of those boxes. He’s a leader on that field for Georgia. His football IQ is so high. His instincts are so high.
“My experience with players is that guys that are highly instinctive they find a way to make plays over, and over, and over again. It’s so hard not to get excited about it. This guy loves ball. We have two guys (Jurgens and Dean) that fit exactly what we want.”
Dean said he spoke to the Eagles a couple of times before the draft.
“That was the nerve-wracking part about it, listening to things that aren’t true, that cost me a lot of money,” Dean said. “That was the thing that was so surprising, no one said I should have surgery, for that thing to come up the day of the draft, but like I said, I’m glad to be an Eagle and I’m ready to work.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.