2022 Minnesota Vikings Draft Profile: LB Nakobe Dean

Over the past month, no one may have helped their NFL draft stock as much as Nakobe Dean. For much of the NFL season, he’s been viewed as a good player, but one that is likely a late-first or early second-round talent. With strong performances towards the end of the SEC schedule, and then an outstanding game against Michigan in the CFP Semi-Final, Dean now looks like a fringe top-10 pick. After studying a few games this year, here are some strengths and weaknesses of his that I have noticed as well as Dean’s fit into the 2022 Minnesota Vikings team.

Statistics

  • 2019 (11 Games): 25 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 2 PDs, 1 FF
  • 2020 (10 Games): 71 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks
  • 2021 (14 Games*): 68 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 6.0 sacks, 4 PDs, 2 INTs, 2 FFs

*: Prior to the CFP Championship Game

Strengths

Nakobe Dean is the 2021 Butkus Award winner for a reason. His athleticism is off-the-charts in terms of explosiveness as well as long-speed in pass coverage. These abilities have always made him a solid blitzer and run stopper, but there were times in 2019 and 2020 where he just didn’t finish the job. That all changed in 2021.

This season, Nakobe Dean has filled the stat sheet like no other in college football. He has the same speed and athleticism, but some noticeable improvements in both strength and instincts have turned him into an absolute beast at OLB. It’s not that difficult to find guys that can show great athletic ability in the NFL. Pretty much anyone that is worthy of being in the NFL is an athletic freak. That said, if Dean can find a way to pile up sacks and TFLs like a Micah Parsons, whoever drafts him will have someone special.

Weaknesses

There aren’t a ton of weaknesses on Nakobe Dean’s resume. He is a huge reason why the 2021 Georgia Bulldogs defense was one of the best in CFB history. As of now, he’s a bit on the light side for someone who spends a lot of time trying to get in the backfield and disrupt the run. Dean could certainly benefit from putting a few extra pounds on his frame, but that will happen regardless once he hits the NFL

The only other major concern is just something that most rookies go through. If you go off of his year-to-year production in Georgia, there will likely be a “figure it out” period for Dean. He may take a season to fully adjust to the NFL game before he can fully unleash his true potential. Depending on where the Minnesota Vikings want to go in 2022, that may not be something they’re willing to accommodate. That said, there’s also a world where Minnesota goes into a pseudo-rebuild where they aren’t super competitive for a season.

2022 Minnesota Vikings Fit

With much of Vikings talk surrounding the future of head coach, QB, and secondary, one of the positions that has gone under-the-radar regarding the 2022 Minnesota Vikings is the linebacker spot. With this next draft profile, that is exactly where I want to bring some of the focus. There is a high possibility that Minnesota will be forced to replace one, if not both, OLB positions this offseason. Both Anthony Barr and Nick Vigil have contracts set to expire.

Perhaps Minnesota sees some potential in a young player like Blake Lynch to take one of the spots, but do they have the money or talent to fill both? Nakobe Dean could be someone to keep an eye on. Additionally, Minnesota got eaten alive in mid-range pass game all year, especially with Eric Kendricks off the field.

It may take a little time to develop to his full potential, but Dean is a great option to help take some pressure off Kendricks in coverage as well as being a blitzer. Obviously, the top options for the first pick of 2022 Minnesota Vikings draft are likely a CB like Ahmad Gardner or Tyler Linderbaum to beef up the interior o-line. However, if for whatever reason those two players are taken early, Dean should be high on the list of the Vikings options.