With the selection of Dean, Tampa Bay added to its young cornerback group that already includes Vernon Hargreaves III, 2018 second-rounder Carlton Davis and 2019 second-rounder Sean Bunting. Like Davis and Bunting, Dean, who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 206 pounds, fits what defensive coordinator Todd Bowles wants in a cornerback.
The Bucs had a lot of holes heading into this year’s draft, but it looks like they think the biggest issue is the secondary. The team’s pass defense has been atrocious in the last few years, so adding Bunting and Dean is obviously the front office’s way of addressing that.
Here, we have three things you should know about new Bucs corner Jamel Dean.
Dean had a crazy strong athletic career at Cocoa High School
Most draft picks are able to say that they were studs on their high school teams, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive that Dean played both ways at Cocoa High School AND ran track. According to his Auburn player profile, he had 975 offensive yards, with 22 receptions and 15 touchdowns as a senior at Cocoa. On top of that, he was a productive corner, totaling seven pass breakups.
Dean was a two-time first-team all-state pick for Class 4A, earned the 2014 Brevard County player of the year award and was named the District 12 MVP by the Florida Athletic Coaches Association. 247Sports ranked him as the No. 32 cornerback prospect in the country, and he was also rated as a top-10 corner in the state of Florida. That’s not a bad high school football career.
But in addition to earning attention on the football field, he also showcased his blazing speed on the track team. That speed was further showcased at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. That was the second-fastest time of any player at the 2019 combine.
There was a time when Dean thought his football career was over
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Dean almost didn’t get a chance to have the successful college football career that he ended up having at Auburn. He tore his ACL and meniscus as a senior in high school. He went ahead and went to Ohio State, where he had already accepted a scholarship, but team doctors said he was medically ineligible. Dr. James Andrews then said Dean was having issues strengthening the quad muscles in his leg. From there, he ended up transferring to Auburn. Another injury in 2016 set him back even further, but he kept pushing.
Dean eventually put the injury issues behind him. He went to play 26 games in two years (2017 and 2018) with the Tigers, totaling 73 tackles (44 solo), one sack, two interceptions and 19 passes defended. He allowed just 16 receptions on 42 targets in coverage, which helped him earn a solid 80.8 grade from Pro Football Focus.
His size, speed and physicality make him a nice piece for Todd Bowles’ defense, and it’s clear that the team didn’t have much of a problem with his multiple knee surgeries. Even with his injury history, Tampa Bay liked him enough to make him their first of two 2019 third-round picks — allowing him to become the third Auburn product on the roster (Peyton Barber and Carlton Davis are the other two).
Dean is a smart, high-character guy
Dean’s Auburn player profile notes that he graduated from Cocoa High School with a 3.8 GPA. He only continued to impress in the classroom throughout college, as he earned a spot on the SEC Academic Honor Roll in both 2017 and 2018. In 2017, he was an “Academic Top Tiger.”
Dean has earned rave reviews from those who have been around him — not only as a football player and scholar, but also as a man. In an article from the Montgomery Advertiser, former Auburn defensive backs coach Greg Brown, who is now with Purdue, had this to say about Dean:
“I just thought wow, this guy, he’s the total package. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s smart, he’s got everything that you want. He’s a great person, both on and off the field. He’s a joy to be around.”
Dean’s head coach, Gus Malzahn, was just as complimentary of him:
“When he’s healthy, he’s as good as it gets, I think. But he’s been resilient, battled through adversity. When you do that it just makes you stronger. He’s got great character, he’s an excellent person. I think his best football is ahead of him.”
The Bucs appear to be stocking up on tall, physical, high-character corners with the additions of Sean Bunting and Jamel Dean. With the state of their pass coverage and overall defense in the last few years, that can’t be a bad thing.
You can find Jamel Dean on Twitter @jmd0074. Take some time to congratulate him and welcome him to Tampa Bay.