Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean has declared for the 2022 NFL Draft following a standout three-year career with the Bulldogs. Dean, the 2021 Butkus Award winner and projected top linebacker prospect in the draft, made his announcement on 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 weren’t for Him, I would not 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 have received from the greatest fans in college football.”
Dean was one of the primary catalysts for one of the greatest college football defenses in recent memory. The Lake Horn, Mississippi, native posted 72 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, 28 quarterback hurries, six pass breakups and two interceptions in a monstrous final season. He posted four tackles and three quarterback hurries in the Bulldogs’ College Football Playoff National Championship victory over Alabama.
The celebrated defender joins a wave of Georgia players who have announced for the draft in the past several days, including running backs Zamir White and James Cook, defensive end Travon Walker, receiver George Pickens and cornerback Lewis Cine. The deadline for players to announce for the 2022 NFL Draft is Monday, Jan. 17.
Dean became just the second Georgia linebacker to earn 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 replacing Dean’s 168 career tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss.
Behind Dean, Georgia listed true freshman and former five-star recruit Smael Mondon Jr. as next in line at the middle linebacker position. The Dallas, Georgia, native played in all 15 games in 2021 and earned 12 tackles. The Bulldogs are also expected to lose Quay Walker, Channing Tindall and Robert Beal at linebacker, making the position group one of the biggest questions on the defense heading into UGA’s title defense next season. Luckily, the absurd defensive front seven has historically been Georgia’s speciality.
Dean came into college as a consensus five-star recruit and the No. 2 inside linebacker in his class. He leaves as the No. 1 linebacker prospect and a contender to break into the top 10.
The CBS Sports NFL Draft Prospect Rankings rates Dean as the No. 11 player on the board and the No. 1 linebacker prospect. CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Chris Trapasso projects Dean to the Denver Broncos with the No. 9 pick in his latest mock draft, describing him as a “cerebral lightning bolt on the field.”
Listed at 6-foot and 225 pounds, Dean has the explosiveness both vertically and laterally to be an instant contributor in any role or system in the NFL.