From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will 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, I’ll be profiling Penn State S Ji’Ayir Brown.
#16 Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State (R-Senior) –5113, 203lb
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Ji’Ayir Brown||5’11 3/8”, 203lb||10 1/8||31 1/4||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Has the frame and build you desire at the position
— Breaks on the ball well once thrown and closes ground quickly in run support
— Has aligned at various spots in the secondary and near the LOS
— Will line up as a split-zone safety, free safety, nickel corner, or in the box
— Displayed capability as a pass rusher near the LOS last season
— Quickly processes what is happening after the snap
— Plays with a high motor on a down-to-down basis
— Does a good job contesting passes downhill to break up the pass or jump the route
— Had a hand in 15 takeaways as a Nittany Lion (9 INTs, 3 fumble recoveries, 3 forced fumbles)
— Has had a nose for the football dating back to his JUCO days
— Undercuts routes well from over top
— Has the range on the back end to make plays near the sideline
— Has the closing burst in pursuit of the football as a run defender as well as against the pass
— Willing run defender that has no problem sticking ballcarriers
— Plays with a ton of fire and passion, is an energizer bunny for his teammates
— Lacks top-end athleticism when it comes to speed, explosiveness, and quickness
— Appears to be tight-hipped in coverage, making his transitions more mechanical
— Will get caught guessing and being overaggressive in attempts to make splash plays
— QBs can bait him with misdirection, leaving receivers wide open
— Misses far too many tackles due to inconsistent technique and coming in out of control
— Tends to overrun plays in coverage as well as in run support
— Often blitzed on third-down situations rather than being trusted in man coverage
— Does better when freed up in zone than having to cover slot WRs and TEs in man
— Redshirt Senior Prospect from Trenton, NJ
— Born January 25, 2000 (age 23)
— Two-time team captain and earned first-team All-State honors in high school
— Also played basketball and led the state of New Jersey in steals (6.8 per game) as a senior
— Went to Lackawanna Community College out of high school from 2018-2019
— Tallied 40 tackles, five INTs and three PBUs as a freshman
— Registered 35 tackles, three INTs, five PBUs and a fumble recovery in nine games as a sophomore
— Rated a three-star junior college prospect and #9 overall JUCO recruit, committing to Penn State
— Appeared in nine games in 2020 with Penn State and notched six total tackles, one TFL, and a PBU
— Started all 13 games in 2021 and posted 73 tackles (61 solo), six INTs, five PBUs, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and a TFL
— Started 13 games in 2022 and posted 74 total stops (56 solo), seven TFLs, 4.5 sacks, four INTs, three PBUs, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery of a TD
— Named Penn State’s team MVP and winner of the Iron Lion Award in 2022
— Third-team All-Big Ten (2021-22), NEFC Defensive Player of the Year (2019)
— Team captain in 2022
— Telecommunications major, wants to become a sports analyst
Ji’Ayir Brown starred at Trenton Central High in New Jersey before taking the JUCO route at Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania and staying in-state to suit up for the Nittany Lions. He made an impact playing in the Big Ten Conference for three seasons, tying for the most INTs in the FBS in 2021 while totaling 15 total takeaways in just two seasons as a full-time starter at safety.
When you watch Brown on tape, you see an aggressive, opportunistic defensive back with a nose for the football. He likes to play off the QB’s eyes in the passing game, undercutting routes from over top to break up the pass or get the ball in his hands and take it the other way. He has a real knack to be a ball magnet as we saw in last year’s game against the Terrapins. Brown picked up a fumble after a bobbled hand off in the first clip while jumping the route in the second clip and taking it back for a house call.
Brown not only operates well when coming downhill in coverage from his free safety/split zone safety spot, but also while working as a centerfielder on the back end of the defense, showing the range to work from the middle of the field to the sideline to help CBs in coverage on deep passes. Check out this INT Brown makes as he rolls over in coverage to the sideline, picking off the pass and manages to get a good return on the run back.
Despite not being the greatest athlete when it comes to pure speed and quickness, Brown does a great job getting on his horse to chase down ballcarriers or covering ground in a hurry to contest passes. Watch the ground Brown covers on this play against the Razorbacks. He his displays his closing speed to make the INT in front of the receiver, who had lined up on the opposite side of the field.
Here against Purdue is an example of Brown’s pursuit as a run defender. He covers the TE on the snap of the ball but locates the receiver in the flat, who catches the dump off from the QB. Brown closes the distance between himself and the ball quickly, making the tackle right at the LOS.
Brown has no issue coming downhill and filling against the run, as you can see in this clip. Coming from top down to the LOS, he wraps up the defender’s legs and chops him down right near the LOS for no gain.
Brown isn’t the best athlete when it comes to long speed and has some tightness in his transitions. He also misses his fair share of tackles, either due to poor technique or coming in out of control to make the play. Here are a couple of examples om which Brown is in position to make the stop but fails to bring the ballcarrier/receiver down to the ground due to poor positioning or overrunning the play.
Brown is a playmaker at the safety position who has ballhawk instincts and tends to be around the ball often. He plays with a ton of effort and energy and will be a quality locker room guy for an NFL team that can utilize him as a FS/split zone safety that also is comfortable playing near the LOS as a blitzer and nickel/dime defender. Still, Brown has his physical limitations and his itch to make splash plays can get the better of him sometimes, causing him to be out of position.
When thinking of a pro comp for Brown, Glover Quin came to mind as the former Texans and Lions safety also had a knack for making splash plays with nearly the same measurables and athletic profile (5’10 3/4”, 204lb). Quin was selected by Houston in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft and worked his way into a starting role. He started 156 of 159 career games and picked off 24 passes, forced 10 fumbles, recovered five fumbles, and logged 84 PBUs across nearly a decade in the league.
Brown has a long way to go to have the career Quin did. But the play style and athletic profile matches up nearly to a tee. I expect Brown to go in a similar range that Quin did, in the middle rounds, and serve as a core special teamer and #3 safety immediately as he works toward a starting job in the secondary. He needs to clean up his tackling and play more disciplined at times, but the NFL loves play-making traits. For the Steelers, who led the league in picks last season, Brown is a player they could target to help make up for the loss of Terrell Edmunds.
Projection: Late Day Two/Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.6 – Potential Starter/ Good Backup (3rd Round)
Games Watched: vs Utah (2022), at Purdue (2022), at Maryland (2021), vs Arkansas (2021)