Between now and preseason, we’ll be breaking down the Jets’ undrafted rookies. Today, we break down Florida defensive back Trey Dean III in detail.
The 23-year old Dean is listed at 6’2” and 200 pounds and started 40 games in his five-year career with the Gators. During that time, he racked up 259 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, four interceptions and 24 pass breakups.
Dean was a four-star recruit out of high school and began his true freshman season in 2018 in a rotational and special teams role. However, injuries forced him into action at cornerback and he eventually started nine games and was voted to the SEC all-freshman team. He ended the season with 26 tackles, five tackles for loss, six pass breakups and an interception.
In his second and third season, Dean reverted to a reserve role, starting just seven games. However, he saw action in nickel packages in 2019 and at safety in 2020. He registered 26 tackles and an interception for the second straight year in 2019. He also had a career-high two sacks. In 2020, he had 34 tackles and an interception.
Dean’s junior year in 2021 saw him in a full-time starting role at safety and he racked up a career-best 92 tackles and nine pass breakups. He opted to return for a fifth season in 2022 and was again productive with 81 tackles.
At the end of the season, Dean was invited to the scouting combine and played in the Shrine Bowl, where he was named as the defensive MVP after breaking up four passes with an interception.
Having not been selected in the2023 NFL draft, Dean was signed to an undrafted free agent contract with the Jets, including $100K in guaranteed money.
Now let’s take a look at what Dean brings to the table, divided into categories.
Dean has decent size and length and looks like he could potentially add some more weight to his frame.
He initially weighed in at 211 for the Shrine Bowl but was back down to 200 by the time he worked out at the combine. He ran a disappointing 40-yard dash, but he said this was affected by injuries.
He did post good explosiveness numbers and 25 bench press reps in the rest of his workout. That was the most reps by any defensive back at the combine this year.
Two weeks later, Dean tried to improve his 40-time but only knocked one-hundredth of a second off, which no doubt hurt his draft stock. His short shuttle was also below average but he posted an outstanding sub-6.7 in the three-cone drill. Only two players at the combine posted a faster time.
Dean played as a safety in high school but saw action on the outside at cornerback during his freshman year due to injuries. He eventually converted back to safety and has been used plenty of ways within that role. He would seem to project better to a box safety role than a deep safety role based on his skill-set though.
Dean’s experience at the cornerback position serves him well in terms of how well he moves in coverage. He has a good ability to stay with his man.
Athletically, he has good closing speed, which means he’s comfortable in off-coverage and when reacting to the action in front of him.
His coverage numbers weren’t bad, although his average yards per completion when targeted was higher than you’d like because he gave up quite a few big plays. The completion percentage when he was targeted was a reasonable 61 percent. He also only gave up two touchdowns in the past three years, after having given up five in his first two seasons.
One concern with Dean is that he may not have the straight line speed to stay with receivers on downfield routes or to cover a lot of ground when playing deep. He did have some plays where he stayed with his man well on a deep ball though.
Dean made plenty of plays in coverage during his collegiate career, although he never intercepted more than one pass in any season.
He isn’t very good at locating the ball early when he has his back to the ball and can lose contact with his man at the catchpoint as a result.
His timing is pretty good and he uses his length well to contest passes at the catchpoint. Even if he doesn’t get his head turned he can disrupt by reading the receiver’s hands.
Dean was a productive tackler who had more than 80 tackles in each of his last two seasons at Florida.
He is a big hitter, but can sometimes be overaggressive with his angles or lowering his shoulder to make a big hit rather than making a form tackle. Inevitably this can lead to over-pursuing or missing tackles. His missed tackle totals were high over the past three years.
When he does make a tackle, Dean has a good tackle radius and is capable of squaring a man up to stop him in his tracks or drive him back.
Dean is adept at stepping into the box and making plays against the run. He comes up fast and often shoots into the backfield unblocked to make a tackle for loss.
One thing that’s impressive about him is how relentless he is pursuing down the line of scrimmage.
There are times where his gap discipline can let him down, presumably due to making a bad read at the snap.
Dean is physical, both in terms of his style and temperament. While there are times where you would wish he would play more under control, he is capable of firing up his teammates with a big hit.
Despite this style of play, he only had two penalties in 2022, one of which was a defensive hold. His on-field discipline has been good over the past four seasons with just 10 penalties, having had seven as a cornerback in his freshman season.
Dean officially had just four sacks in his career and his pressure rate when blitzing was solid but nothing special. However, he is an aggressive blitzer and his closing speed and hitting ability can be disruptive.
On this play, he takes on the blocking back and keeps working to get to the quarterback after he tries to escape the pocket.
Dean had one penalty for roughing the passer last season.
Dean’s style and mentality should project well to a special teams role although he didn’t contribute much for the past two years while he had a starting role on defense.
He’s played on most units, including brief action as a gunner and vice. He had four special teams tackles in his career, all of which came on kickoffs and in 2020.
Dean had two special teams penalties in his first two seasons.
Dean has been somewhat error prone and doesn’t always look comfortable in zone coverage. While there are plays where he makes a quick read and explodes out to the flat to make a play, this can make him susceptible to play action and misdirection.
Florida fans became frustrated with Dean for making errors like this one where he left a receiver completely uncovered.
In game action, he lacks awareness at times and can be taken out by a down block or sealed off in space. On one play, he intercepted a pass but didn’t see a big hit coming and fumbled the ball back to the offense. Here, he fails to anticipate the big block in space.
He was recognized on the SEC Academic Fall Honor Roll in each of his first four seasons with the Gators.
Dean is a player who was extremely confident, calling himself one of the top safeties in the nation at one point during his career. He was considered arrogant by his coaches early on in his career, but apparently matured over the past few years so his ego was less of a concern.
He was a nominee for the AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes community service, academic dedication and impact on and off the field.
Dean put out his own clothing range in college, which is of course the sort of thing that would potentially hurt his draft stock in the eyes of some teams.
His cousin is former NFL safety Ahmad Black, who also went to Florida.
Dean didn’t miss much time during his college career although he was out for a few weeks with a lower body injury last season. That’s presumably the same issue that affected his combine workout. Dean told reporters he had suffered labral hip tears in both hips which would need surgery.
He did participate in OTAs with the Jets, so it’s not clear whether he has had that procedure and recovered from it or will get it between now and training camp.
Jets fans might be hoping that someone will step up and give the Jets a deep safety option since their two top safeties (Jordan Whitehead and Chuck Clark) are considered better in the box. However, Dean seems unlikely to be that guy.
He does have some talent, but he’s at his best closer to the line of scrimmage and will probably get most of his reps as a strong safety.
With a 40-yard dash time of around 4.7, 25 bench press reps and the size and coverage abilities to stick with a tight end, Dean could even be a contender to bulk up a little and convert to a linebacker role down the road.
Dean was a player who never completely lived up to his potential with the Gators and frustrated many fans with some of his mistakes over the past few seasons.
Once again, he’s a player with some very obvious strengths and weaknesses who could potentially be employed in such a way as to optimize his efficiency.
He should bring an aggressive attitude to the secondary competition and can compete for a role on special teams. However, the path to a roster spot is not an easy one so he may have to settle for a practice squad spot in 2023.