Nakobe Dean might not be the biggest or fastest linebacker, but he has the talent, leadership and football IQ to hold down the middle of an NFL defense for years to come.
Remind you of anyone, Patriots fans?
New England currently is set to make the 21st selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night. While the Patriots could address multiple key needs at that spot, many believe they’ll grab a franchise middle linebacker, should one be available.
Don’t be surprised if Dean, who checks a ton of Patriots boxes, gets a call from Bill Belichick.
The Georgia linebacker has gone to New England in multiple mock drafts, and for good reason. Dean is relatively small at 5-foot-11, 229 pounds, but he has the kind of athleticism and explosiveness that New England must insert into its linebacking corps.
In a column published Thursday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN quoted an AFC executive who believes Dean could be the second coming of a Patriots linebacker-turned-defensive coach.
“Small and slow doesn’t help, but he’s a baller,” the executive told Fowler. “Could see him fitting in New England because of the traits and the ability to run the show.
“Similar to Jerod Mayo from that standpoint.”
Fowler, who added there’s “buzz” around the Patriots potentially drafting a linebacker in the first round, also included this remark from an AFC scout:
“One of the best people I’ve ever scouted. He will learn the playbook in two days. Minimal deficiencies.”
Whether Dean is available at No. 21 remains to be seen. Some experts believe he could be drafted near the top 10, while others believe Utah’s Devin Lloyd instead could go early, with Dean potentially sliding to the bottom of the first round.
Furthermore, there are cases to be made for New England prioritizing other positions Thursday night, such as receiver, cornerback, offensive line or nose tackle. But few will complain if Dean is wearing a Patriots hat by the time the first round closes.
That likely includes Dean’s mother, who apparently is a big Patriots fan, and Dean himself. When asked in early April what he, Matthew Judon and Bill Belichick could accomplish together, Dean offered a bold answer.