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NFL mock draft: Detroit Lions select Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

The Detroit Lions pick land another Georgia defender in the first round of the POD community mock draft.

University of Georgia vs University of Alabama, 2022 CFP National Championship Set Number: X163902 TK1

The Detroit Lions are closing out the first round of POD’s Community Mock Draft and after taking Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker with the second overall pick, there were several different ways to approach pick No. 32.

Before we get to that, let’s get caught up on how things have played out up until this pick.

POD Community Mock Draft picks so far:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
  2. Detroit Lions: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
  3. Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
  4. New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
  5. New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
  6. Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
  7. New York Giants: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
  8. Atlanta Falcons: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
  9. Seattle Seahawks: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
  10. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
  11. Washington Commanders: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
  13. Houston Texans: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
  14. Baltimore Ravens: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
  15. Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
  16. Philadelphia Eagles: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
  17. Los Angeles Chargers: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
  18. New Orleans Saints: Drake London, WR, USC
  19. Philadelphia Eagles: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
  20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
  21. New England Patriots: Zion Johnson, iOL, Boston College
  22. Green Bay Packers: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
  23. Arizona Cardinals: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
  24. Dallas Cowboys: Kenyon Green, iOL, Texas A&M
  25. Buffalo Bills: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson
  26. Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
  27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
  28. Green Bay Packers: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
  29. Kansas City Chiefs: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
  30. Kansas City Chiefs: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
  31. Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Thought process

After seeing how the rest of the first round played out, there were a few ways I could go with this pick, and honestly, most of the talent remained with the players coming out of Georgia. Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker would both be instant upgrades at linebacker, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt represented tremendous value at a low key position of need, Lewis Cine is a perfect fit in the Lions' split-zone safety scheme, and wide receiver George Pickens could be the Lions’ WR-X of the future.

Penn State’s Jahan Dotson (wide receiver) and Jaquan Brisker (safety), as well as UConn defensive tackle Travis Jones also received some consideration.

At the end of the day, I believed the two most impactful players on the board were Wyatt and Dean, and they were close enough together that I sided with Dean because of the current state of the Lions’ linebacker corps.

With Alex Anzalone likely to secure a starting role, the other starting job will see competition from Derrick Barnes, newly signed Chris Board, and newly re-signed Jarrad Davis, and I’m not sold on any of them starting this season.

Furthermore, the draft is a resource to build for the future and as things currently stand, the only linebacker signed beyond this season is Barnes, which makes this position a priority in my eyes.

What Nakobe Dean would bring to the Lions

A two-year starter, team captain, and unquestioned leader of the nation's top defense, Dean is a potential culture changer that can anchor the middle of the Lions’ defense for the next five years.

Dean gets recognized and praised for his elite athleticism but it’s his high level of intelligence—on and off the field—that is the catalyst for his success.

The Butkus Award winner (the award for the nation's best linebacker) is familiar with both two and three off-the-ball linebacker concepts, is comfortable operating in multiple fronts, and is a master at diagnosing plays pre-snap. His understanding of what is happening in front of him—frequently before it even happens—which allows him to attack downhill and get ahead of the play.

He understands gap assignments and how to read and react to with little-to-no delay. His ability to anticipate where blockers are headed, combined with his athletic traits, allows him to get to spots first. This helps versus the run, when blitzing, and when the offense utilizes screens (clip below) and misdirection plays.

In coverage, his anticipation allows him the opportunity to break on the ball and make plays.

And while Dean can be a matchup weapon on defense (like in the above clips), his ability to work between the tackles is truly special.

Dean possesses true sideline-to-sideline range, is fluid, explosive, patient, willing to fight through traffic, and closes with purpose. He stalks the ball and attacks when given any daylight. When he gets his hands on an offensive player, he secures the tackle with proper technique and drives through the ball carrier, both in traffic and in the open field.

We don’t have an official athletic profile for Dean, as pectoral and knee injuries kept him from participating in measured events, but injuries rarely limit him on the field, and he played in all 25 games as a starter over the last two seasons. He did participate in Georgia’s pro day drills, which were run by Lions’ linebacker coach Kelvin Sheppard, and Dean was the first one through each activity, once again, leading by example.

The biggest knock on Dean is his lack of ideal frame (5-foot-11 1⁄2 231 pounds) which can lead to issues getting off blocks when he gets caught by an offensive lineman. This presumed issue with size has reportedly scared teams away from him, which is why he could potentially fall to the Lions at pick No. 32. But his size shouldn’t be an issue for the Lions and their coaches.

“We did not want to put an emphasis on size, like, ‘How big can you be?’ That’s not what we want,” Lions’ coach Dan Campbell said last June. “I would rather have somebody that was 220 (pounds) and could freaking fly as an inside linebacker. That just fits what we’re doing.”

While Dean can get walled off if he is too overaggressive, this is another situation where his intelligence allows him to be in the right spot more often than not, and he avoids or leverages his way to stay clean and free.

Overall, Dean would be a game-changer for the Lions' defense, and if he is available at pick No. 32, general manager Brad Holmes may be smacking more desks at the end of Day 1 of the NFL Draft.

Now it’s your turn. Vote for a grade and sound off in the comments.


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