The Eagles finally drafted a first-round linebacker. They just did it in Round 3.
After watching Georgia standout Nakobe Dean slip out of the first round, out of the second round and then deep into the third, the Eagles finally drafted the Bulldogs linebacker with pick No. 83 overall.
Dean, 21, had some injuries — including ones to his pec and knee — entering this draft and they caused his free fall into the third round. The Eagles have wiped players off their board for medical concerns before, but they felt comfortable enough to make this move.
While some reports have intimated that Dean's pec strain is serious enough to require surgery and perhaps even a redshirt season, the Eagles say Dean checked out medically for them.
“People had some concerns but Nakobe Dean is going to be on the field this week when we have rookie minicamp,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said. “And we had a thorough exam of Nakobe. This guy played in the SEC and, sure, you get bumps and bruises in the SEC. But all the things he has are things he’s going to play football with for the Philadelphia Eagles. There’s no surgery scheduled. We feel very fortunate that he was there in the third round.”
Roseman admitted the pec injury is what likely caused Dean to slide, but he said several times on Friday evening that they don’t believe Dean will need surgery. He’ll have a physical upon his arrival to the NovaCare Complex but Roseman said they don’t anticipate his missing any time. And they don't fear those injuries worsening.
"I'm healthy. I'm ready to go," said Dean, who added that he'll be a full participant for rookie minicamp.
For Roseman, the draft is all about value. And the value of landing Dean in the third round is undeniable.
This is the highest the Eagles have drafted a linebacker since they took Mychal Kendricks in the second round back in 2012.
In Philadelphia, Dean will reunite with his Georgia teammate Jordan Davis. The two of them helped the Bulldogs win a national title in 2021 and were arguably the two biggest standouts on the best defense in the nation.
Back in February, Dean said he thinks he’s the best middle linebacker in this draft.
What separates him from the rest?
“I feel like my mindset,” Dean said at the combine. “I feel like my mindset and my mentality that goes into things separates me from everybody else.”
Dean (5-11, 229) has a slight frame but is incredibly accomplished as the leader and captain of the best defense in college football. Dean was a consensus All-American and Butkus Award winner in 2021. He had 72 tackles, 10 1/2 tackles for loss, 6 sacks and 2 interceptions during his final college season. In 2020, he had 71 tackles to lead the Bulldogs in his first year as a starter.
Dean’s size can be viewed as a negative but it didn’t hold him back from flying around the field in college. Maybe Devin Lloyd projects as the best linebacker prospect but it’s hard to watch Dean in 2021 and think that.
Here’s what NFL.com’ s Lance Zierlein wrote about Dean:
“Explosive, three-down linebacker with the demeanor and quickness to become a volume tackler while holding down third-down duties at a high level. Dean's play recognition is a work in progress, which limits reaction time and forces him to deal with more blockers than he'll see as he gains more experience. Quick feet and plus agility will bring him to ball-carriers at a high rate but a lack of size and length means he'll need to fine-tune his approach as a tackler to make sure he finishes what he starts. He might lack measurables, but he has the toughness and technique to see a boost in his performance once his play becomes more proactive.”
Since 2010, when Roseman became general manager, the Eagles had selected a total of nine linebackers and just two of them were Day 2 picks: Kendricks in 2012 and Davion Taylor late in the third round of the 2020 draft.
Dean will join a linebacker room that already includes T.J. Edwards, who is coming off a career year, and free agent pickup Kyzir White. They also have Taylor and Shaun Bradley coming back as top backups. The Eagles are listing Haason Reddick as a linebacker but he’s expected to fill the SAM position as a pass rusher.
The Eagles had an eventful day on Thursday, trading up to pick No. 13 to draft Davis. Then they used the No. 18 pick in a trade for wide receiver A.J. Brown. They began Day 2 with center Cam Jurgens in the second round at No. 51 before picking Dean at 83.
The Eagles have two picks on Day 3 Saturday: No. 154 in the fifth round and No. 237 in the seventh.
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