HEIGHT: 5'11 1/4"
HAND: 9 1/8"
ARM: 31 7/8"
WINGSPAN: 6'4 1/8"
40-YARD DASH: DNP
— Great speed. Flies around as a blitzer, run defender and tackler in space.
— Brings physicality and energy.
— Smooth, comfortable mover in tight spaces. Quick feet and can redirect with ease.
— Good at beating blocks with quickness and agility.
— Great lower-body explosion and core flexibility. Can fight through contact and explode off a block to cover ground.
— Rare knack for finding work while sifting through chaos.
— Above-average tackler. Has the speed, strength and body control to consistently wrap up and run through tackles.
— Elite blitzer.
— Very good man coverage ability against RBs thanks to his eyes and speed.
— Small frame. Could become more of an issue against NFL OL.
— Not sure he has the power to knock blockers back in the NFL.
— Less-than-ideal length. Sometimes has issues being the one to initiate contact.
— Does not have the length or size to handle tight ends in coverage consistently.
15 G, 72 TOT, 10.5 TFL 6 SK, 2 FF, 2 INT, 5 PBU
— 2021 Butkus Award winner.
— 2021 first-team All-American.
— 2021 first-team All-SEC.
— Two-year starter.
— 5-star recruit in 2019.
Nakobe Dean has the best speed among linebackers in this class. Not only does he have easy sideline-to-sideline range, but he also has the explosiveness to fire downhill with great speed and the smooth hips to redirect himself in space, making him capable of finding the ball-carrier no matter the angle.
Dean also has rare ability when working in congested areas. He does best to beat blocks with quickness, but he flashes the ability to do so with violence. Additionally, Dean plays with short, controlled steps when playing tight to the line of scrimmage, giving him incredible range in short areas when paired with his explosiveness. That explosiveness and feel for navigating space is also what makes Dean an elite blitzer, both off the edge and up the middle.
Dean also brings solid fundamentals. Though he's prone to occasional false steps, particularly against splitters coming across the formation, he generally does well to see the picture developing versus a number of different run concepts and trigger on them.
Dean showed comfort shooting gaps and flowing over the top as the back-side player, as well as the trigger and violence necessary to take on blocks as a front-side player. He is also a strong tackler, showcasing the body control to adjust his angle properly and the strength to finish plays.
The questions with Dean come down to size and how many coverage tools he will need. He handled himself well from a physical standpoint in the SEC, but the NFL is a different level, and Dean's shorter frame could pose more issues than cropped up in college.
In addition, Dean's coverage ability was often limited to man-to-man on the running back or popping off the line of scrimmage to play a short zone. He did not showcase much ability to handle tight ends, which makes sense given his smaller frame.
Dean's speed, energy and craft for navigating congested areas give him an enticing foundation of traits to build upon. His size may make it difficult for him to ever cover tight ends down the field or blow up blocks the way he wants to, but he still wins in enough other ways to provide value. Dean could play both "Mike" and "Will in the NFL, and he has the potential to be a multi-time Pro Bowler.
GRADE: 8.2 (Year 1 Starter - Late 1st-2nd round)
OVERALL RANK: 21
POSITION RANK: LB1
PRO COMPARISON: Lavonte David