This post was written by SB Nation Atlanta's Georgia Bulldogs editor, Doug Gillett.
The Falcons are right in UGA's backyard (or vice versa), they even wear the same colors . . . and yet drafting Dawgs has never been all that high on the Falcons' list of priorities. Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent makes only the eighth Bulldog drafted all-time by the Dirty Birds, and just the third in the Richt era after D.J. Shockley and Thomas Brown. But after allowing 5.6 yards per play in 2010, third-worst in the NFC, Atlanta needed some impact guys who could cut down on big plays by opposing offenses, and Dent fits the bill.
What they're saying: He plays much bigger than his measurables on film . . . He has good instincts and skills but is very raw and will need work on his technique . . . Inconsistent dealing with blockers, which could keep him from becoming more than a backup LB if he does not improve in this area . . . Doesn't project to be an NFL starter . . . Helps the front seven, even if he’s not a dynamic player.
Best case: Dent spends a season or two working and learning behind MLB Curtis Lofton and then takes over a full-time MLB or SLB role. Athletically Dent may not be as gifted as some of the players Atlanta could've taken in this spot, but he's got a reputation as a someone who'll do what's necessary to earn more playing time.
Worst case: Never catches on in a starting role and instead gets shunted off to special teams for a couple years before going to the CFL.
Highlights, stats, videos, background and stuff: One thing I've appreciated about Dent for a couple seasons now is that he lets his work on the playing field, not his mouth, do the talking for him. And he's got a knack for flying to the ball, as you can see here:
Dent was far and away the team's leading tackler last year, both solo and assisted, and he was tied for second in tackles for loss behind Justin Houston. Even in an injury-shortened 2009 season, in which he started only four games, he was Georgia's No. 4 linebacker in tackles.
This may be sacrilege in some quarters, but there's a lot about Dent that reminds me of Rennie Curran, who went to the Titans in the third round (91st pick) of last year's draft. Rennie was an amazing athlete who got dinged a little by draftniks for being undersized; Dent trades some athleticism for a few inches in stature compared to Curran. While he may not have Rennie's outright speed, though, he does share Rennie's aggressiveness, work ethic and ball instincts, and that's gotta count for something. And like Curran, Dent is a high-character guy who stayed out of trouble while he was in Athens.
Akeem Dent's career stats:
Though he only competed in three events at the NFL Combine, he still placed in the top 10 among LBs in each drill, including a No. 2 showing in the vert. We got us a jumpy linebacker:
For more on the NFL Draft, join Mocking The Draft and browse SB Nation's 2011 NFL Draft hub. More local NFL Draft resources: live discussion of Falcons picks at The Falcoholic; coverage of the Falcons and NFC South for rounds one, two and three and rounds four through seven; final conference tallies for the SEC and ACC; and pre-Draft coverage of the Falcons and SEC and ACC prospects.