Eagles 2022 season: Nakobe Dean on list of most important players

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Steal of the draft ends up on list of most important Eagles originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2022 season.

25. Quez Watkins
24. Gardner Minshew
23. T.J. Edwards
22. Marcus Epps
21. Landon Dickerson
20. Jake Elliott
19. Brandon Graham
18. Jordan Davis
17. Kyzir White
16. Avonte Maddox 
15. Nakobe Dean

If the Eagles had used their second-round pick (No. 51) on Nakobe Dean, everyone would have called it a steal. The Eagles would have gotten a first-round talent well into the second round.

So the fact that they got Dean with the No. 83 pick (in the third round), makes the selection even more incredible.

Dean’s free fall during the draft was shocking. But teams were scared off by injury concerns that were likely compounded by the fear of how his undersized body will hold up in the NFL. But if you just watch the player Dean was at Georgia, the Eagles landed a really good one. There’s a lot to be excited about with him.

Sure, putting him so high on this list, ahead of his fellow linebackers, is a projection. Dean is going to have to earn his snaps and his position on this defense. But there’s no reason to think he won’t. That’s how good he was at Georgia.

“Nakobe is a high, high football character, highly intelligent, versatile, production was obviously through the roof,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said this spring. “Excited to add him to that room.”

During the spring, T.J. Edwards called Dean a “sponge.”

Versatility has been a theme for Gannon this offseason and Dean offers it because he can play both off-ball linebacker spots in this defense. Because of Dean’s advanced football IQ, he has been learning the MIKE and the WILL positions since his arrival at rookie minicamp. Why is that important? Because it gives the Eagles options.

If the Eagles are facing run situations, they can use Edwards at the MIKE and play Dean at the WILL. If they’re in pass situations, they can play Kyzir White or Davion Taylor at the WILL and slide Dean into the middle linebacker role. The Eagles would ultimately prefer to have one player with the green dot on their helmet, getting the calls from the sideline, and Dean is my best guess for that job.

Now, that’s a lot to throw on a rookie. Giving him the green dot, while also asking him to play multiple positions on a veteran-heavy defense on a team that has hopes to contend in 2022. I get all that. But something tells me Dean will be able to handle all of it.

He was known for his alpha personality in college as the leader of the Bulldogs’ defense.

“They give me that, right?” Dean said at Eagles rookie camp. “I don’t go around saying, ‘I’ve got an alpha personality.’ For me, I feel like it’s just me getting to know everybody.

“As far as running the defense or being the playcaller or doing my job, whatever that might be, to the best of my ability. So I feel like all them people around me getting connecting, get to know me more, it will begin to show.”

The reason Dean dropped so far in the draft is because teams were worried about injuries, so that’ll be something to monitor this summer. But if Dean is healthy and he looks like the same guy we saw star for the Bulldogs, how can the Eagles keep him off the field?

I think Dean is going to play an awful lot as a rookie and that’s why he’s so high on this list.

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