A few years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles took a third-round flyer on a linebacker out of Texas. Injuries overshadowed his excellent collegiate play and he dropped down into the lap of Howie Roseman who snatched him without hesitation. History may well repeat itself with the selection of Nakobe Dean.
Nakobe Dean was an NFL Draft steal
As many know by now, Dean was regarded by many as the most talented linebacker in this year’s NFL Draft. But when the most exciting weekend of the offseason rolled around, the Georgia product tumbled…and tumbled…and then tumbled some more.
The Eagles had been crying out for linebacker help for what feels like forever. In fact, they’ve needed help ever since Jordan Hicks departed to greener pastures in Arizona. Despite some solid efforts from players like Nigel Bradham, there was a lack of stability in the middle of the defense, but the cycle is now complete. Howie Roseman selected Nakobe Dean one pick later than where Hicks was selected back in 2015, in the hopes that the Eagles not only drafted a first-round talent in the third round, but that he can solidify the corps for years to come.
Similarities to Jordan Hicks
Jordan Hicks burst onto the scene for the Eagles back in 2015 and tallied 7 interceptions for the Birds in his first two years, learning under DeMeco Ryans. Dean won’t really be afforded that level of direct mentor, but he may not need it. Having said that, he does project as more of a WILL than a MIKE and with Kyzir White playing alongside him, there is bound to be a bucket full of knowledge to dive into. Oh, and then there’s a little-known player called Haason Reddick.
The Georgia product has long been touted as a vocal leader and became the heart of that fearsome defense. Hicks took on those qualities in Philadelphia. Dean’s Football IQ sticks out on tape and it’s very clear he has all the upside in the world. The Eagles have frequently made their confidence in Dean’s availability for his rookie season clear. They’re not concerned with the concerns that plagued his preparations for the NFL Draft, and that has to count for something. If he can hit the ground running, he may well be the most exciting player in what promises to be a revamped defense.
A new hope
Hicks rapidly became a fan-favorite as one of the few truly great linebackers the team have had in recent times. Hicks had his problems with durability early on, but a 91-tackle season in 2018 saw him play well enough to earn a big contract on the free-agent market.
Many fans pleaded for the return of Hicks this past offseason after Arizona decided to move on. Instead of bringing a now older version of the once-beloved linebacker, Roseman simply hit reset on the process. The Eagles have a player on their hands who has every chance of becoming a stalwart in this defense for years to come alongside his former Bulldog teammate, Jordan Davis.
It would be unfair to place the expectation on Nakobe Dean that he develops into a linebacker of Hicks’ caliber, but the similarities are clear. The difference lies in the fact that Dean’s upside is scarily higher than Hicks’ ever was.
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire