Jeff McLane 👍

If told before the draft that Nakobe Dean would fall to the Eagles in the third round, few would have quibbled with the selection. In fact, the possibility of the All-American linebacker lasting until the No. 83 overall pick was so far removed from the public consciousness that many draft analysts had him going in the first round. Dean’s pectoral tear and other previous injuries were expected to hinder his grade with some teams, but not to the point where he would have to wait late into Friday night before hearing his name called.

My reporting since the Eagles snatched Dean revealed that at least four other teams had third-round marks on the Georgia product. They all red flagged him for medical reasons. One of the teams said concerns that his shoulder and knee could be chronic were the primary reasons he fell down its board. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Dean is also undersized for a linebacker and durability could be a problem in the NFL.

But he didn’t miss a game in college playing in the best conference and for the best team last year. It’s not like he’s joining the NFL circa 1970. Linebackers are uniformly smaller and the game is less physical. The Eagles of last season may have practiced less than half the amount of time they did just a decade before. With proper care, Dean’s health can be maintained if he’s indeed prone to soft tissue injuries.

That said, it’s fair to question why 32 passed on him for two rounds and why the Eagles, who said they were prepared to take him the second, would be so lucky. If Howie Roseman hadn’t pulled the trigger in third, it sounded as if Dean would have gone soon after. But players of Dean’s caliber typically don’t get lost in the shuffle unless there are legitimate reasons.

But with every pick there are risks, and drafting Dean in the third round seems less of a gamble than, say, drafting an inexperienced, unproven linebacker Davion Taylor, as the Eagles did in 2020. Dean was arguably the best-off linebacker in all of college last season. He was the engine of the defense that led the Bulldogs to the national championship. Dean had a lot of talent around him, but the ferocity and intelligence with which he played were undeniable.

The Eagles may have finally acquired a quarterback for their defense with the athletic ability to match his instincts. They may have also ended up with a lemon. But even if Dean falls somewhere in the middle, drafting him in the third round was seemingly a sound decision.

» READ MORE: Linebacker boom or injury bust? Why the Eagles were able to draft Nakobe Dean in the third round.

EJ Smith: 👍

Considering Dean’s on-field ability, it’s safe to say the determining factor on whether we’ll look back favorably on the selection will be his health.

There’s a chance we look back at this pick four years from now and marvel at the fact that the 2021 Butkus Award winner slid all the way to the third round. There’s also a chance he could be a total write-off by then because of debilitating injuries.

Had the Eagles used their first-round pick on Dean, this would have been an easy thumbs down. Dean was electric in college, but taking an undersized linebacker who didn’t test in the pre-draft process because of some concerning nagging injuries has inherent risks.

By the third round, though? Most teams are hoping to land a starter-quality player by that point. If you can get a player like Dean, who has a real chance to be an elite off-ball linebacker, it’s a good time to make that bet.

Former Eagles GM Joe Banner compared the selection to his decision to take Jeremiah Trotter in the third round of the 1998 draft. The Eagles would be ecstatic for history to repeat itself here.

If Dean’s pectoral injury lingers, or if his knee causes him trouble, the fallout of missing on this pick would be relatively minimal considering the upside.

Josh Tolentino: 👍

Dean was widely considered a top-30 prospect. Based on sheer numbers and projections alone, he could wind up being the biggest steal of the 2022 draft class.

His slip down the board mainly revolved around concerns about his injury history. He has dealt with an assortment of upper and lower body issues throughout his college career. However, Dean never missed a single game, and his ability to fight and play through injuries should be viewed as a testament to his toughness and durability. General manager Howie Roseman said he quadruple-checked with the team’s doctors before the Eagles drafted him in the third round, and Dean isn’t expected to undergo any type of surgery.

The other factor regarding his fallout from the first round that’s been widely discussed is Dean’s size. At 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, Dean might be viewed as an undersized linebacker, but that comes from a more traditional viewpoint. In today’s NFL of constant change, Dean actually might be the perfect fit for a hybrid role in the right scheme. He patrols the field like a safety and pursues ballcarriers with tremendous instincts.

Dean was the most dynamic player and he served as a team captain on the nation’s best defense. That type of pedigree is what the Eagles are banking on as they finally invest in a true, young talent at the position.