The shock is not that the Eagles took Nakobe Dean. The Eagles have a pretty big need at linebacker and Dean was one of the best in the draft.
However, they didn't get him at 15 or 18. They didn't get him at 51. They got him all the way down at 83, probably a whole 63 picks below where he was on most people's big board.
I'll get into it in more depth later, but just what a job by Howie Roseman to get him in the 3rd round.
Nakobe Dean: The Player
Before talking about how Dean will fit into this team and what value the Eagles got at 83, I think it's important to describe him as a player.
Overall, what stands out from Dean's film to me is his speed and instincts. Georgia basically used him all over the place in SEC play but if we are talking specifically in coverage, he flies all over the field deflecting and picking off passes with ease. Teams simply didn't target Dean in coverage last season and who can blame them? Whenever the ball was thrown in his direction, the expectation was that he would be making some explosive play. Sometimes people just gloss over normal coverage and look for the pass rush qualities but I'm almost sure Dean will be an inside linebacker in this defense. That is not a bad thing, since I think most sites that do ratings will tell you that he was at least top 3 in coverage at the linebacker position last year. Check this Pick 6 he had against Florida to sure up any thoughts you may have about his ability in coverage.
In terms of rushing the passer, Dean has elite skill at doing that as well. His speed makes him almost impossible to block on blitzes, finessing around the offensive line on his way to the QB. 6 sacks last season really doesn't tell the whole story... Dean had so many plays on film where he ether freed up avenues for his fellow defenders or forced the QB out of the pocket on the way to a bad decision. I'll talk about how I think he'll fit into the Eagles defense slightly later but it's clear that he can play many different roles on this defense.
In terms of weaknesses, the thing I noticed most was tackling. Maybe it was just the certain games I was watching, but against Florida and Alabama Dean was absolutely brutal trying to tackle in run defense. He seems to get a bit overaggressive sometimes, something that will help him in coverage and off the ball but definitely not when he's trying to wrap up the dangerous running backs in the NFC East. I think this was probably just a one/two time issue but one other thing I noticed was his decision making was a bit off at times. It's something that's hard to gauge for me because some plays his decision making would be a really big positive and then others they would almost cost Georgia a chunk play. I'm not too worried about it but I just think it's something to keep an eye on early in Dean's career. Same with the tackling, that can be ironed out with experience and maybe easing him into the role he played in college.
Although the Eagles have a pretty solid linebacker tandem right now, it's far from locked in beyond this year. T.J. Edwards is under contract for one more year, Kyzir White signed a 1 year contract and Davion Taylor hasn't been able to stay on the field in his young career. Then you get to all the unproven guys: Shaun Bradley, Christian Elliss, Patrick Johnson and JaCoby Stevens. I'm not mentioning Hasson Reddick or Patrick Johnson in that group because they are definitely going to be SAM linebackers in Jonathan Gannon's defense(Johnson may not even make the team). Dean may not be a starter in his first season, but I'm sure he'll be playing a fair amount of snaps without even taking injuries that may happen.
Like I said earlier, although Dean does have the ability to rush the passer, I definitely see him being an inside linebacker in this defense. Sure, there may be packages where he plays the SAM but I think Reddick has that position solidified for the next couple years. If Dean can reach his potential, he could be the impact playmaker the Eagles have been searching for in the middle of this defense for decades. I know that's high praise, but people really have to realize that Dean was fully expected to be taken in the first round of the draft.
Getting Dean at 83 was sensational value from Howie Roseman. Like I've said multiple times already, Dean was projected to be a late first round pick and ended up sliding all the way down to the 3rd round. I'm not going to argue with anybody on the fact that cornerback and safety are dangerous needs right now; however, if you can get someone like Dean all the way down at this pick it's really tough to pass on him. Again, he has the potential to be the cornerstone of this defense and I can't wait to see how Jonathan Gannon uses him.
So I'm sure the question everyone is asking now is: if Dean is so good, why did he fall all the way to the 3rd round? Well, as it usually is with these things, there are some injury concerns. There were rumors swirling around from reporters tonight making some serious claims about Dean's injury history. I'm not going to go deep into rumors that have been de-bunked since then but Dean does have a pectoral injury that he chose to not get surgery on.
However, Howie Roseman and Nakobe both inisted that the injury was not as bad as people were making it out to be. Roseman said that he will be on the field this week for rookie minicamp, stating that Dean can play with any ailment that he may have right now. Then a couple hours later, Nakobe said "I'm healthy. I'm ready to go".
It's natural to still be worried about the Eagles drafting another player with some sort of injury history, but I really don't think this is going to be a long term issue. This isn't something ether of the two guys would just lie about to the media, so now it's on the team doctors and Dean to make sure that he's perfectly ready in time for training camp in August.
If I'm being honest I really wasn't a big fan of ether of the Eagles first two picks but Roseman absolutely pulled me back in with this one. When you can get a first round talent in the third round at a position of need, that is nothing lower then an A on the rating scale from me. The Eagles still badly need a CB2 and someone else in the safety room but for some reason I trust Howie to make the right move in the secondary. Wether that's Zech McPhearson or someone from outside the building, this defense may just be good enough to cover them up. Drafting two players from the best defense in college football last year is definitely not a bad idea.
If all the injuries check out then there is no reason that this won't be one of the biggest steals the Eagles have had in some time.