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Draft Darlings: Ji’Ayir Brown would give the Chiefs a versatile safety piece

Kansas City could add one more defensive back to round out its safety room.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Penn State at Utah Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There hasn’t been much discussion this offseason about whether the Kansas City Chiefs should draft a safety. With safeties Justin Reid and Bryan Cook on the roster alongside new addition Mike Edwards, the room seems complete for 2023. The Chiefs don’t need to go into the draft and immediately look to add safety.

However, Edwards’s contract expires after the 2023 season, and the Chiefs could save $10.75 million in salary cap room by cutting Reid after this season. The Chiefs could be in a situation where they’re replacing two safeties next offseason, so adding some depth on Day 3 might make sense as insurance if both Edwards and Reid are gone.

If they’re looking for a good insurance policy that fits the defensive scheme, Penn State’s Ji’Ayir Brown would make sense. Here’s what you need to know about Brown:


Out of high school, Brown was a three-star safety recruit from New Jersey. Brown started his football career playing junior college football at Lackawanna College. After two seasons at Lackawanna, Brown transferred to Penn State, where he would play for three seasons. Brown played in 35 games for the Nittany Lions and started 25 at safety, earning Third-Team All-Big Ten in 2022. Over his last two seasons, Brown had 10 interceptions.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Brown didn’t put up the best performance. Brown came in at 5’11” and 203 lbs with 31 1/4” arms, a smaller frame for a safety. His athletic testing wasn’t great, where he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash (18th percentile) with a 1.56 10-yard split (55th percentile). His jumps also weren’t great, only having a 32 1/2” vertical jump (14th percentile) and a 9’11 broad jump (38th percentile). He did run the short shuttle at his Pro Day, putting up a solid 4.12 time (75th percentile).

Film Review

While Brown didn’t have a great Combine performance, I feel he’s one of those players that’s more athletic on a football field than in a workout. When you turn on Brown’s film, he’s flying all around the field. When he’s running downhill, Brown can be a blur. He’s willing to lay hits over the middle and can cover a ton of ground into the flat. His speed numbers weren’t great, but once he gets a key on something, Brown is going to get to the football.

Brown’s versatility also shows up on tape. Penn State runs a lot of Cover 1, but they like to switch their safeties between being a deep safety or sitting in the robber role. Brown was able to handle both, but he was especially good in the robber role. When he gets to use his instincts and hitting ability over the middle of the field, he’s particularly dynamic. Brown has some of the best ball skills in the class overall.

Brown is undersized, but he is an adept blitzer and box safety. I’m not sure he can handle it full-time, but in a pinch, he can play those roles for your defense. His overall tackling is arguably the best for any safety in this class, whether in the box or chasing someone to the sideline.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Brown reminds me a lot of current Chiefs safety Mike Edwards. Both are undersized and won’t overwhelm athletically, but they are intelligent football players that can fill different roles for you. Edwards is a tough, physical player that will fly to the football and lay a massive hit, and Brown is the same way. I would love for Brown to sit behind Edwards for one year, learn the playbook, and have him replace Edwards in 2024. The transition could be seamless after this season.

The bottom line

There was a lot of steam for Brown before the NFL Combine, but his stock has fallen after his pedestrian athletic performance. At one point, Brown was mentioned as a top-50 pick, but those days seem to be gone. With his lack of size and speed, there are a lot of concerns about whether Brown can handle a starting role in the NFL at safety.

However, I think Brown will be a solid third safety in the NFL. If you limit the scope of his role to flying downhill and playing underneath, I think Brown can be a positive contributor in the NFL. If Brown falls into the end of the fourth-round range, he’d be worth the bet.

Grade: Round 4

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