The Unpacking Future Packers Countdown is a countdown of 100 prospects that could be selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2023 NFL draft.
Brian Gutekunst is making moves at safety. Green Bay’s general manager went out and signed Tarvarius Moore, a former third-round pick and special teams standout for the San Francisco 49ers. Gutekunst followed that up by re-signing Rudy Ford to a one-year deal.
There is still much work left to be done to improve the safety depth chart and there is a good chance that Gutekunst addresses the position in the upcoming NFL Draft.
A player that Green Bay could target in the 2023 NFL Draft is Ji’Ayir Brown. The Penn State safety checks in at No. 47 in the Unpacking Future Packers countdown.
Brown transferred to Penn State from Lackawanna Community College. In 2021, Brown recorded 73 tackles, one tackle for loss, six interceptions, and five pass deflections. This past season, Brown recorded 74 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and four interceptions.
“Ji’Ayir Brown was the best all-around player on the Penn State defense during the 2022 season,” said Daniel Gallen, a reporter for Lions247. “New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz utilized his versatility, which allowed Brown to stuff the stat sheet. He still played some center field, where he thrived in 2021, but Diaz brought him close to the line of scrimmage as an extra linebacker in the “prowler” package, and Brown showed he could be an adept blitzer.”
Brown has a knack for getting the ball back to the offense. During his two years as a starter for Penn State, the JUCO transfer picked off 10 passes, forced three fumbles, and recovered three fumbles.
“Brown’s ball skills are his greatest strength with six interceptions in 2021 and four more this past season,” Gallen said. “Brown has good instincts, and he was able to snag tipped passes in the air, in addition to making plays on the ball in coverage. He’s an adept center fielder that can help shore up the back end of the defense.”
Brown clocked a 4.64 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine. He plays faster than his 40-time due to his instincts and quick processor. He reads the eyes of the quarterback and is quick to close on the route. He shows outstanding range.
“Brown’s instincts make him an effective safety in coverage,” Gallen said. “His speed didn’t test well at the combine, but he leans on his experience as a center fielder in his baseball career in order to track balls. Plus, he’s a well-prepared and intelligent player, which enables him to be in the right places at the right time.”
Brown is capable of wearing multiple hats in the secondary. This past season he logged snaps in the slot, as a linebacker and deep safety. He’s comfortable playing close to the line of scrimmage where his physicality is on full display. He’s able to work his way through the trash.
When he lines up deep, he runs the alley and arrives with bad intentions. He limits YAC opportunities for pass catchers and looks to cut his target in half when he arrives. This past season, Brown was asked to blitz more and he responded with 4.5 sacks and 15 pressures. Brown plays with a lot of energy and could be a tone-setter.
“Brown is built enough that he can hold up in run support, and he can bring down runners in one-on-one situations,” Gallen said. “Brown led the Nittany Lions in solo tackles over the past two seasons, and he has a nose for the football with three forced fumbles in the past two seasons. He’s a fearless tackler, too, who won’t make business decisions.”
During his three seasons at Penn State, Brown logged 249 snaps on special teams and recorded two tackles. That special teams experience could help Brown see the field early during his rookie season.
Fit with the Packers
Overall, this is a weak safety class. There are quality players to be had and there are bound to be some hidden gems.
Brown did not turn heads at the scouting combine and his draft stock likely took a slight hit. If he’s available on day three of the draft, he has the toughness, instincts, playmaking ability, and special teams experience to carve out a role for the Packers during his rookie season. On top of his on-field skills, Brown would be a welcome addition to Green Bay’s locker room with his leadership.
“Brown would help the team both on the field and in the locker room,” Gallen said. “Brown’s a strong leader who can command a defense, and he backs up his words with actions on the field. By all accounts at Penn State, he was a consummate teammate. He’s also a driven player, given that he considered playing Division III football before starting in the junior college ranks at Lackawanna College alongside future Penn State teammate and current Chicago Bear Jaquan Brisker. Brown is self-aware about how rare it is for a player like him to end up in this situation, and he’s focused on making the most of this opportunity.”
Gutekunst has taken steps to improve the team’s safety room. Even with it being a weak safety class, it’s reasonable to expect Gutekunst to target a safety or two in a few short weeks. Brown could make an immediate impact on special teams while fighting for a role on defense.
Unpacking Future Packers: No. 48, Ole Miss WR Jonathan Mingo
Unpacking Future Packers: No. 49, Cincinnati TE Josh Whyle
Unpacking Future Packers: No. 50, Minnesota CB Terrell Smith
Unpacking Future Packers: No. 51, Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh
Unpacking Future Packers: No. 52, Kansas State DB Julius Brents
Story originally appeared on Packers Wire