An AFC executive compared Nakobe Dean to the Patriots’ Jerod Mayo

"One of the best people I've ever scouted."

Nakobe Dean Patriots
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
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As much as the Patriots need talent on the offensive line and at cornerback and wide receiver, a fast, rangy middle linebacker that can close down the middle of the field in coverage could also be in demand for New England given the speed in their division.

That’s why players like Devin Lloyd, Nakobe Dean, and (most recently) Quay Walker have come up as possible picks at No. 21 (or after) for the Patriots. New England’s linebacking crew’s relative lack of speed was exposed last season, and it’s a weakness Bill Belichick and his staff likely don’t want to replicate.

“We’re going to look to get faster, more explosive and put more playmakers on the field,” said inside linebackers coach/de facto co-defensive coordinator Jerod Mayo in February, noting the defense needs speed “at all levels.”


Though each of the above players fit that description, a few AFC rivals think Dean’s football IQ and character could put him a cut above the rest.

“One of the best people I’ve ever scouted,” an AFC scout told ESPN on Wednesday. “He will learn the playbook in two days. Minimal deficiencies.”

“Small and slow doesn’t help, but he’s a baller,” an AFC exec said. “Could see him fitting in New England because of the traits and the ability to run the show. Similar to Jerod Mayo from that standpoint.”

That comparison might resonate in an interesting way assuming Dean is available to the Patriots in the first round Thursday night. Giving Mayo a smart young linebacker to mold into Dont’a Hightower’s (and his own) successor feels like a match made in heaven.

Dean doesn’t quite fit the physical profile Mayo did in his heyday — that goes for most Patriots linebackers, actually — but his intelligence and the presence of the bigger Ja’Whaun Bentley beside him could help curb some of his rookie growing pains. (Also, calling Dean “slow” because he doesn’t run like a track star is poor scouting.)

It’s possible a player with more size and physical upside like Lloyd or Walker, Dean’s teammate at Georgia, might be more of a possibility at No. 21 than Dean. But Belichick, Mayo and the Patriots’ defense would likely still be plenty happy if Dean, arguably the best college linebacker in the country last year, ended up in Foxborough.


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