2022 Minnesota Vikings Draft Profile: LB Nakobe Dean
Over the past month, perhaps no one has helped his NFL Draft supply as much as Nakobe Dean. For much of the NFL season he’s been seen as a good player, but he’s likely a late first or early second round talent. With a strong showing near the end of the SEC schedule and then an outstanding game against Michigan in the CFP semifinal, Dean now looks like a top 10 pick. After studying a few games this year, here are some strengths and weaknesses that I noticed as well as Dean’s integration into the 2022 Minnesota Vikings squad.
- 2019 (11 games): 25 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 PD, 1 FF
- 2020 (10 games): 71 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks
- 2021 (14 games *): 68 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 4 PD, 2 INT, 2 FF
*: Before the CFP championship match
Nakobe Dean is the 2021 Butkus Prize winner for a reason. His athleticism is out of the ordinary in terms of explosiveness as well as high speed pass coverage. These abilities have always made him a solid blitzer and race stopper, but there were times in 2019 and 2020 when he just didn’t finish the job. Everything changed in 2021.
This season, Nakobe Dean has filled in the stats sheet like no other in college football. He has the same speed and athleticism, but some notable improvements in strength and instincts have made him an absolute beast at OLB. It’s not that hard to find guys who can show great athletic ability in the NFL. Almost everyone who deserves to be in the NFL is athletic freak. That said, if Dean can find a way to stack sacks and TFLs like a Micah Parsons, whoever drafts it will have someone special.
There aren’t a ton of weaknesses in Nakobe Dean’s CV. He’s one of the main reasons the 2021 Georgia Bulldogs’ defense has been one of the best in CFB history. Right now he’s a little light for someone who spends a lot of time trying to get into the backfield and disrupt the race. Dean could definitely benefit from putting a few extra pounds on his body, but it will still happen once he hits the NFL.
The only other major concern is just something that most rookies go through. If you quit his year-to-year production in Georgia, there will likely be a “guessing” period for Dean. It may take a season to fully adjust to NFL play before he can fully unleash his true potential. Depending on where the Minnesota Vikings want to go in 2022, this may not be something they’re willing to accept. That said, there’s also a world where Minnesota goes into a pseudo-rebuild where they’re not super competitive for a season.
2022 Minnesota Vikings fit
With much of the Vikings’ talk about the future of the head coach, QB, and high school, one of the positions that has gone under the radar regarding the 2022 Minnesota Vikings is the linebacker position. With this next profile project, this is exactly where I want to focus. There is a strong possibility that Minnesota will be forced to replace one, if not both, OLB positions this offseason. Anthony Barr and Nick Vigil both have expiring contracts.
Maybe Minnesota sees some potential in a young player like Blake Lynch to take one of the spots, but do they have the money or the talent to fill both? Nakobe Dean could be someone to watch out for. Plus, Minnesota have been devoured alive in a year-round mid-range passing game, especially with Eric Kendricks off the field.
It may take a little while to develop to his full potential, but Dean is a great option to help relieve Kendricks in cover while also being a blitzer. Obviously, the best options for the top pick in the 2022 Minnesota Vikings Draft is probably a CB like Ahmad Gardner or Tyler Linderbaum to strengthen the inner o line. However, if for some reason these two players get picked up early, Dean should be at the top of the Vikings options list.