Jets May Need to Trade up to Secure SEC ‘Star’ in 2022 NFL Draft

Nakobe Dean Georgia

Getty Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean making a big play during a game versus Cincinnati.

One of the most underrated needs for the New York Jets this offseason is at linebacker.

They have CJ Mosley locked in for 2022 and Quincy Williams has shown enough chutzpah to at the very least contribute as a sub-package player, if not as a full-time starter.

That leaves a minimum of one more starting position up for grabs in Robert Saleh’s 4-3 scheme.

One player they might consider targeting for that role they may need to trade up for if they really want him.

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A Great Opportunity

Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean discusses bounce back performance against MichiganGeorgia linebacker Nakobe Dean recaps the win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl.2022-01-01T05:55:00Z

One player that would certainly be a plug-and-play guy for the Jets on defense would be Georgia linebacker, Nakobe Dean. He is the No. 8 overall player on Todd McShay’s top-32 big board.

The Jets have two top-10 picks thanks to the Jamal Adams trade upcoming in the 2022 NFL draft. While that would open the door, in theory, to take the standout SEC star, that would be too rich.

Linebackers don’t typically go that high in the draft so if the Jets want to land him, they’ll have to trade back up into the backend of the first round to maximize value.

Or at least that’s what Bleacher Report’s Lead NFL Draft analyst Connor Rogers suggested on Twitter:

“I was always told one of Saleh’s biggest strengths was finding day 2 studs at LB (look at his history with 3 NFL stops before NYJ). Dean is a great player though, as is Lloyd. Maybe they trade back in, but don’t see either going top-10.”

Fortunately, the Jets are in a great position to do that. On top of their pair of first-round draft choices, they also have two second-rounders thanks to the Sam Darnold deal.

With both of them currently residing in the top-40, they could easily package one or either along with another mid-rounder to launch back into the first round to snag Dean.

What Will They Be Getting?

The star off-ball linebacker would likely plug in on the weakside of the Jets’ defense.

Dean possesses a lot of intriguing traits with his speed, instincts, and a motor that never quits. Those characteristics and his leadership ability have drawn some interesting pro-player comparisons, but none more so than ex-Jets first-rounder Jonathan Vilma.

NFL analyst and former scout, Daniel Jeremiah tweeted out over the weekend that the Georgia star reminds him of “Vilma coming out of Miami.”

Vilma was the No. 12 overall pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft. He spent his first four professional seasons with the green and white which was highlighted by a Pro Bowl year in 2005.

In that spectacular campaign, he finished with 173 tackles which ended up being his career-high. He was later traded away for a bundle of picks (2008 fourth-rounder and a 2009 third-rounder) to the New Orleans Saints where he won a Super Bowl.

Vilma was best known during his playing career for his intangibles and his elite play on the gridiron.

If Dean can be half the player Vilma was, the Jets would be in really great shape. Jets head coach Robert Saleh specializes in his prowess with linebackers and that special sauce could take Dean to the next level in the NFL.

The 21-year-old has gotten exponentially better every year of his college career and has reached a new level in 2021:

  • Six sacks
  • 10.5 tackles for loss
  • Two interceptions
  • 68 total tackles

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