PFF Mock Draft Simulator Sends National Champion LB to Falcons

Nakobe Dean

Getty Nakobe Dean celebrates for the Georgia defense.

The Atlanta Falcons have no shortage of options for the eighth-overall pick in 2022 NFL draft. A bluechip pass-rusher, standout guard or a dynamic wide receiver should all be priorities for general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith.

Yet, if some Falcons fans get their way, the team will add a national champion to the defensive front seven. This award-winning linebacker is the people’s choice, according to a mock draft simulator from a leading analytics site.

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Georgia Standout is Fans’ Most Sought After Pick

Recently, Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus put together a mock draft based on the website’s simulator. It offered fans the chance to make their own teams’ draft choices.

Sikkema collated the data and revealed the most popular players chosen. His findings showed Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean as the most frequent pick for the Falcons. Dean took 11.3 percent of the vote, just ahead of Purdue edge player George Karlaftis and Michigan’s pass-rusher, David Ojabo.

Sikkema sounded a note of caution about the choice: “Surprisingly enough, their most commonly mocked player is Nakobe Dean, whom Falcons fans are familiar with after watching him fly around and make plays for the Georgia Bulldogs this season. After that, it’s two edge rushers — this might be where they lean given how high they’re picking in this draft.”

His surprise is understandable since the Falcons have an obvious need for players who can put more heat on quarterbacks. The Atlanta defense registered a mere 18 sacks this season, the lowest tally in the NFL.

A lack of pressure has consistently undermined the smart schemes of defensive coordinator Dean Pees. The problem reared its ugly head during Week 18’s 30-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints, per ESPN’s Michael Rothstein:

Dean might not seem like the ideal remedy for a feeble pass rush, but his all-round skills should appeal more to the Falcons. He’s coming off winning the national championship after helping the Bulldogs beat Alabama, 33-18, on Monday, January 10.

The joy of winning may have led to a minor faux pas while Dean celebrated on the field. This photo from CJ Fogler, tweeted by Bleacher Report, showed the mixup:

Despite the brief gaffe, capturing the title completed a remarkable season for Dean. He also enjoyed the honor of winning the Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker at the collegiate level.

The Bulldogs’ official site carried these telling quotes from the award selection committee: “Nakobe Dean is a playmaker with a special combination of strength, coverage ability, playmaking flair and leadership skill. He consistently makes his presence felt on the field and in the community, elevates the defense with his command and is a complete linebacker who has made a tremendous impact on Georgia’s program.”

Those words aptly describe a player perfectly suited to quarterback a defense at the pro level. Dean has already showcased his ability as a signal-caller on an outstanding Georgia unit.

Some of his best plays have combined elite recognition skills with outstanding athleticism. Like this explosive stop against Notre Dame, relayed by’s Dayne Young:

Plays like this mean Dean would be a useful partner for the most active member of the Falcons’ linebacker corps.

Dean a Perfect Fit Alongside League-Leading Tackler

Pairing Dean with Foyesade Oluokun would give the Falcons an enviable double act in the middle. Having two sideline-to-sideline playmakers at his disposal would also expand what Pees could do with his system.

That same scheme has already helped make Oluokun a rising star. He proved as much by topping the league’s tackles charts this season:

Oluokun is a pending free agent, but he wants to return to Atlanta, according to The Athletic‘s Josh Kenall. That’s good news, because while Oluokun has thrived on Pees’ watch, veteran Deoin Jones has regressed.

Jones led the team in tackles when the Falcons went to to Super Bowl LI during the 2016 season. Things have changed since, thanks to injuries and a change in scheme after former head coach Dan Quinn was fired in 2020.

Now, Jones has become something of a liability, a struggling player many would be glad to see leave town this offseason. Among them, Falcoholic contributor Allen Strk is frustrated by Jones’ growing penchant for missed tackles:

Dean hasn’t had that problem. Although he was only in on four tackles against the Crimson Tide, Dean has been making his presence felt all season. His 72 tackles, two interceptions and six sacks reveal a linebacker adept against both run and pass.

Dean’s ability to wreck each phase of an offense has earned him top marks from PFF College Football:

The 21-year-old’s versatility has also been endorsed by B/R NFL Scout Derrik Klassen. He named Dean “an elite blitzer,” while also praising his ability to track running backs in man coverage.

That last attribute would be an obvious asset for the Falcons in the NFC South. The division contains two of the NFL’s best pass-catching running backs, New Orleans Saints’ star Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers.

Drafting Dean would also help the Falcons counter another divisional foe, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. Dean’s blitz skills would pose a problem for a classic pocket-passer like Brady.

Flexible linebackers are the keys to a varied scheme. Dean and Oluokun would make the Falcons’ defense worth the price of admission next season.

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