2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Illinois DB Sydney Brown

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, we’ll be profiling Illinois S Sydney Brown.

#30 Sydney Brown/DB Illinois – 5110 213 (Senior)

Senior Bowl Participant


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Sydney Brown 5110, 213 10 1/4 31 5/8 75 1/8
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press

The Good

— Rocked up body type, filled out frame with big hands
— Plays with hair-on-fire, fearless and relentless attitude that doesn’t back down from a challenge
— Physical and aggressive downhill player who flashes hit power and throws body weight around, fills alley and takes on bigger players in run game
— Embraces challenge against bigger players, routinely matched up on tight ends, and good technician that plays catch point well
— Experience lining up all over the field, versatile and comfortable rotating post-snap
— Good feel for route concepts in zone, good football IQ and understands distribution well
— Production spike in 2022
— Good hands and tracks the football well, finishes the play and nose for the ball in the air
— Team captain
— Excellent starting experience
— Athletic bloodlines

The Bad

— Lacks top-end size and length, stockier and stubbier frame
— Doesn’t have big-time speed and will struggle to carry vertically against fast tight ends and won’t be as helpful against slot receivers
— Overaggressive and will overrun his gap
— Too easily fooled by playfakes and window dressing, takes the cheese too often, prone to ping-ponging around on the field
— Misses more tackles than you’d like when he doesn’t come to balance and play under control
— Can get boxed out by big tight ends
— INT numbers were hot and cold throughout career


— Turned 22 this March
— 47 career starts, five-year player
— Career: 320 tackles (10 TFL), 10 INTs, 2 TDs, 4 FFs
— 2022: Career-high six INTs along with 61 tackles (3.5 TFL)
— Big Ten 1st Team in 2022
— Twin brother Chase plays RB for Illinois (Chase is older by two minutes), brother initially played for Western Michigan before transferring to Illinois
— Two-star recruit from Bradenton, Florida, born in Ontario, Canada (moved to the states in August of 2016 while in high school to attend a private school)
— Initially lived with host family while mother remained in Canada, losing her home to pay for private school tuition, change host families senior year when original family moved
— Won two state titles in high school
— Illinois was only offer
— Named team captain in 2022
— Missed first two games of 2019 with injury (hamstring), final two games of 2020 with injury
— Ran track in high school, state finalist in the 4x100m as a junior and senior
— Father played three years in the CFL and two years with the London Beefeaters of the Canadian Junior Football League in 1991 and 1992
— Mother was a figure skater

Tape Breakdown

Sydney Brown was one of those names, and it happens every year, that caught my eye at the Senior Bowl. Rocked up with a chip on his shoulder, Brown had a solid week in Mobile. So I was excited to turn on the tape. Just as he showed at the Senior Bowl, Brown is competitive and combative and plays with a hair-on-fire attitude. When he lines you up, he’ll hit you with force.

Box safety here (#30) shedding tight ends and running wide receivers into the pile of players.

He’s comfortable in man coverage and carrying tight ends with the ability to compete at the catch point even when he’s giving six inches on the target. He plays with good technique with the ball in the air. Great example in 1v1 against the Senior Bowl.

But he does more than just breakup passes. He attacks the football and has good hands and body control, tracking it well and making plays.

He’s versatile and lined up all over though he didn’t play as the post/free safety too often. But slot, dimebacker, box safety, some outside corner against TEs in 3×1 nub sets, he moved around quite a bit. You won’t find many guys with more starting experience than his 47 and he still just turned 22 so he’s not even an old prospect despite staying in school for five years.

Still, Brown’s tape was a little underwhelming coming off his Senior Bowl performance. He can be too aggressive and overrun plays and is prone to missing tackles when he isn’t coming to balance and playing with his legs underneath him. Some examples.

While he’s competitive, a lack of great size and length will hurt him against tight ends. He may have been successful running track in high school and while he’s a good athlete, he isn’t top-end with any overwhelming physical traits, though I like his change of direction ability in zone coverage. Sinks his hips we..

Brown’s story, as I outlined in the “bio” section is also remarkable. If you’d like to learn more, I leaned on some of the details noted in this great Sports Illustrated article from last year. I’d encourage you to check out. It profiles him and his brother Chase, who was also at this year’s Senior Bowl.


Brown is a feisty defensive back that will be an excellent locker room presence for his character, work ethic, and attitude. But he’s a good football player that makes impact plays in the passing game and will bang around hard against the run. Size limitations are a concern and he’s not going to excel as a free safety but he can play in the box, some slot corner, take on tight ends, and I think he’d work really well as a 6th DB/dime linebacker that can bounce around the field. My NFL comp is, and I’m stealing this from Ben Fennell who I’ve seen tweet it, is 49ers’ DB Talanoa Hufanga.

Projection: Late Day Two

Depot Draft Grade: 7.5 – Rotational Player (4th Round)

Games Watched: vs Wyoming (2022), at Wisconsin (2022), vs Minnesota (2022), at Michigan (2022), INT cut-up, Senior Bowl

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