ATHENS — The NFL took note of the talent in the Georgia football program, selecting nine Bulldogs in the first three rounds.
But too many teams in search of a linebacker missed the memo on Nakobe Dean.
The Philadelphia Eagles have gotten themselves a third-round steal with the 83rd overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Dean will be ready for some football after what had to be a frustrating and painful Friday night of playing the waiting game.
One can only imagine what was going through Dean’s mind as he slipped deeper and deeper into the 2022 NFL Draft.
Dean never gave anyone any reason to doubt him at Georgia.
Dean proved up to the hype as a can’t-miss 5-star recruit after signing with UGA out of Horn Lake, Miss.
So why wasn’t he being given the chance to prove himself as the can’t-miss projected first-round NFL pick he started this process with after winning the national title?
It was the NFL Combine, and specifically, the way some teams interpreted the medical examination portion.
Never mind that at Georgia, Dean had proven a gamer, starting every game in 2020 despite dealing with a labrum injury for much of the year.
Dean underwent surgery following the season, after helping the Bulldogs to what was then their fourth-straight Top 10 finish.
Dean was limited in 2021 spring drills, but he was not completely sidelined.
Coach Kirby Smart, who’s constantly looking for creative ways to keep players in development, allowed Dean to stay in the center of the action.
Dean, despite his debilitating physical injury, remained mentally strong by dressing out for spring practices — pads and all — and staying in the huddles to call plays.
Of course, it was all mental reps once the ball was snapped and Dean was safely out of the way.
But Dean didn’t miss a rep from a mental standpoint, and his Georgia teammates stayed in sync hearing his voice and checks.
The proof played out in 2021, with the Bulldogs’ defense turning in a historic performance throughout an undefeated regular season.
Georgia, with Dean calling the shots from the middle, allowed fewer points in the regular season (6.9) than any college team since 1986 Oklahoma.
Smart referred to Dean as the defense’s “Commander in Chief.”
NFL teams, however, did not have the benefit of knowing Dean as an established leader and defender as Georgia did.
To some of those 32 franchises, Dean appeared as an injury risk, as eight linebackers were selected ahead of him.
From 10,000 feet, Dean went from a torn labrum in 2020 to a pectoral injury that hampered him into the 2022 NFL Draft evaluation process.
Then, he wasn’t healthy enough — or didn’t consider himself healthy enough — to compete in the NFL combine drills.
Many other players — completely healthy players with lesser medical histories — were available on the draft board.
NFL teams, with their 52-man rosters, can’t afford a selection in the first three rounds who might not make an immediate impact on account of injury.
Is a player with an injury history more likely to suffer a setback in a faster, even bigger football league than a prospect with a clean medical slate?
General managers get paid a small fortune to decide on which risks to take.
The read here is that Dean has bounced back from injury before, and his genius football IQ will ensure the Philadelphia playbook will quickly be imprinted into his mind.
Certainly, Philadelphia first-round pick Jordan Davis was pleased to know Dean’s familiar voice will likely soon be lined up behind him.
“Delayed not denied,” Davis said of Dean’s entry into the NFL.
It’s a twist of sorts, as Davis was the lower-rated player entering the college ranks, a 3-star that ranked No. 424 in the nation in the 2018 class per the 247Sports composite.
Dean, one year later, was ranked No. 19 in the nation in his recruiting class, another one of Smart’s slam-dunk 5-star prospects.
The hard-core football fans from Philadelphia will soon understand what made Dean such a fan favorite — and coach favorite — at Georgia.
Dean, a Butkus Award winner who knocked out virtually every other achievement within reach — consensus All-American and Captain of the AFCA Good Works Team, to name a couple — will figure it out.
The Eagles’ defense, with Davis and Dean, will soon be flying high.
#Nakobe #Dean #thirdround #steal #NFL #Draft #cleared #Philadelphia #Eagles #rookie #camp