2022 NFL Draft: Georgia LB Nakobe Dean declares after award-winning junior season with Bulldogs

Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean has declared himself for the 2022 NFL Draft after a stellar three-year career with the Bulldogs. Dean, the 2021 Butkus Award winner and the top linebacker prospect projected in the draft, made his announcement Friday on his Instagram page.

“I would first like to thank God, for blessing me to be able to be in this position,” wrote Dean. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here today. The past three years at the University of Georgia have been nothing short of amazing and I will never forget the unwavering support I received from the most big fans of college football.”

Dean was a key catalyst for one of college football’s greatest defenses in recent memory. The Lake Horn, Mississippi native had 72 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, 28 rushing quarterbacks, six pass breakups and two interceptions in a monstrous final season. He posted four tackles and three quarterbacks in the Bulldogs’ College Football Playoff National Championship win over Alabama.

The famous defender joins a wave of Georgia players who have announced themselves for the draft over the past few days, including running backs Zamir White and James Cook, defensive end Travon Walker, receiver George Pickens and cornerback Lewis Cinema. The player announcement deadline for the 2022 NFL Draft is Monday, January 17.

Historical career

Dean became just the second Georgia linebacker to win the Butkus Award, joining Bears All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith. While Georgia has recruited the linebacker position exceptionally well under coach Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs have their work cut out to replace Dean’s 168 career tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss.

Behind Dean, Georgia listed true freshman and former five-star rookie Smael Mondon Jr. as the next in line at middle linebacker. The Dallas, Georgia native has played in all 15 games in 2021 and has 12 tackles. The Bulldogs are also expected to lose Quay Walker, Channing Tindall and Robert Beal at linebacker, making the positional group one of the biggest questions on defense ahead of next season’s UGA title defense. Fortunately, the absurd defensive front seven has always been Georgia’s specialty.

Draft

Dean entered college as a consensus five-star freshman and No. 2 inside linebacker in his class. He leaves as a No. 1 linebacker prospect and candidate to enter the top 10.

CBS Sports‘ NFL Draft Prospects Ranking lists Dean as the No. 11 player on the board and the No. 1 linebacker prospect. CBS Sports NFL draft analyst Chris Trapasso pitches Dean to the Denver Broncos with the No. 9 pick in his latest mock draft, describing him as a “brain lightning bolt on the pitch”.

Listed at 6-foot, 225 pounds, Dean has the explosiveness both vertically and laterally to be an instant contributor in any NFL role or system.

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