Potential Jets Draft Target Reminds Expert of Jonathan Vilma

Nakobe Dean

Getty Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean pushes past a Vanderbilt blocker on September 25, 2021.

The New York Jets have two draft picks in the top 10 in 2022 and with that comes a ton of speculation, being that they also have many positional needs.

NFL free agency should clear up which direction the Jets plan on going in the first round but until then, everyone has their own opinion on which way makes the most sense. One underrated need is at linebacker, where the unit had a combined Pro Football Focus grade of 41.7 in 2021. This group ranked dead last for New York.

Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh may not prioritize a linebacker in the first round but if they do, there are two clear prospects that are worthy of pick No. 10, and one was just compared to a former Jets’ first-round selection in 2004.

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Dean Draws Vilma Comparison

According to NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah, Georgia’s Nakobe Dean is the top linebacker prospect in this class. In the analyst’s most recent top-50 big board, Dean ranked eighth — just one spot behind edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Jeremiah detailed the prospect:

Dean is an undersized linebacker with exceptional instincts and play-making ability. Against the run, he is quick to read, flow and fill for tackles. He is two steps ahead of everyone on the field because of his combination of knowledge, vision and instincts. He has excellent speed and range. He is a firm, chest-up tackler with a high batting average in space. Against the pass, he has the athleticism to match up with RBs and TEs underneath. He has good feel and burst to close as a zone dropper. He is an outstanding blitzer, utilizing timing and the ability to slip blockers for sacks/pressures. The Georgia staff raves about his leadership. Dean reminds me a lot of Jonathan Vilma coming out of Miami.

The sports news website, uSTADIUM, agreed in a recent tweet.

“Now, if a more prototypical [4-3] OLB is more your speed, Georgia’s Nakobe Dean is your guy. Speedy, rangy, and a pure gamer built in the mold of Jonathan Vilma,” uSTADIUM wrote.

Just one year after Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons lit up the NFL as a rookie, Dean may be the next explosive game-changer at the position and the Jets could really use that alongside C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams — who would slot into the LB3 role.

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Devin Lloyd Presents an Alternative

Vilma, Parsons, it doesn’t matter who Dean’s most similar to. What’s clear is that the Jets have a major hole in the middle of their defense and they might be able to fill it at No. 10 in the draft.

Of course, there is also that second LB prospect that we mentioned in the open — Utah’s Devin Lloyd.

Jeremiah has Lloyd ranked one spot below Dean on his big board at No. 9. He explained:

Lloyd is a tall, rangy linebacker with excellent versatility and production. He split time between lining up on the edge and at inside linebacker. Against the pass, he can run and mirror TEs all over the field. He is very instinctive as a zone dropper, able to anticipate, drive and make plays on the ball. His ball skills are special for a linebacker (SEE: pick-six against Stanford). Lloyd is an effective blitzer off the edge, displaying a burst to close and wreak havoc in the backfield. Against the run, he plays downhill and uses his length to play off of blocks and collect tackles. He has excellent lateral range. He does have some stiffness in space, but is a reliable tackler. I love Lloyd’s play speed, passion and aggression. He has Pro Bowl potential.

If Dean is Vilma, Lloyd may have a bit more Demario Davis in him. The coverage expert would fill a major hole in a Jets’ passing defense that was picked apart over the middle and in the flat last season.

The major knock on Lloyd is his age, which is exceptionally hard to find on the internet considering we are living in 2022. The common belief on Twitter is that he’s 24 years old, although I still can’t find a single concrete source that is willing to put that in writing.

Dean’s is clear for all to see at 21 years of age. Those extra “football years” add a lot of value to a draft pick, especially one joining a team like the Jets that may not be competing for a Super Bowl in 2022. The Marcus Maye situation is a perfect example of that, being that he entered the NFL at age 24.

In case you wanted some more contemporary examples, NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein compared Lloyd to Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay, while Dean’s comp was Pittsburgh Steelers LB Devin Bush.

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