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Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

49ers make Penn State S Ji’Ayir Brown a 3rd-round draft pick after trading up

Apr 28, 2023 at 7:28 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers selected Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown with the 24th pick (No. 87 overall) in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The selection came after the 49ers traded the Nos. 102, 164, and 222 selections to the Minnesota Vikings to move up.

The defender visited the 49ers in Santa Clara ahead of the draft and met with the team at the NFL Scouting Combine.

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Brown registered 74 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles through 13 game appearances as a senior in 2022, per Sports Reference. He recorded 153 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, nine passes defensed, 10 interceptions, a touchdown, and three forced fumbles through his three collegiate seasons.

"Versatile defensive back who has shown the ability to line up over the slot, play as a down safety and patrol the outfield as a Cover 1 safety ready to read and range," Lance Zierlein wrote within the player's scouting report, comparing Brown to Ryan Clark. "The lack of speed and explosiveness Brown showed at the NFL Scouting Combine won't help his draft stock, but he's a fiery run defender and plays with undeniable coverage instincts. He has an excellent motor that fuels him throughout the game, as well. He needs to play with a little more discipline or veteran quarterbacks and play-callers will bait him into mistakes. Brown's versatility and football character could help him eventually become an NFL starter."

Brown registered 74 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles through 13 game appearances as a senior in 2022, per Sports Reference, being named the team's Most Valuable Player. He recorded 153 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, nine passes defensed, 10 interceptions, a touchdown, and three forced fumbles through his three collegiate seasons.

Ji'Ayir "Tig" Brown was the Defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl (eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, interception) in Penn State's 35-21 win over Utah. The safety gained his nickname from Tigger from "Winnie the Pooh" because, as a toddler, he enjoyed bouncing.

Brown is from Trenton, NJ. He earned a pre-draft grade of 6.3 from, which equates to an "eventual strong starter," per the site's 8-point grading scale.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, the 5' 11 3/8" and 203-pound Brown had a 40-time of 4.65 seconds, a vertical jump of 32.5 inches, a broad jump of 119 inches, and 18 reps in the bench press. His other measurables include an arm length of 31 1/4 inches and hands measuring 10 1/8 inches.

Brown had a 40-time of 4.58 seconds, a vertical jump of 35.50 inches, a broad jump of 124 inches, and a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.21 seconds at his personal Pro Day, per NFLDraftBuzz. projected Brown to be a third-round draft pick.

Below is the draft profile bio on Brown:

Ji'Ayir (pronounced jye-YEAR) "Tig" Brown gained his nickname because he loved to bounce as a toddler, just like Tigger from the "Winnie the Pooh" books. He garnered first-team all-state honors as a senior at Trenton Central High School. From there, he enrolled at Lackawanna College, where he played with future Penn State teammate Jaquan Brisker and earned first-team All-American honors his sophomore year. Brown played in nine games as a reserve in 2020 (six tackles, one for loss, one pass breakup) before breaking out in 2021 playing next to Brisker. He was a third-team All-Big Ten Conference pick, tying for the FBS lead with six interceptions, posting 73 tackles and breaking up five passes in 13 starts. Brown was the team's Most Valuable Player in 2022, garnering third-team All-Big Ten Conference accolades with a team-high 74 tackles (seven for loss with 4.5 sacks) and four interceptions while also breaking up three passes and forcing two fumbles in 13 starts. He was the Defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl (eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, interception) in Penn State's win over Utah. -- by Chad Reuter

Brentley Weissman of The Draft Network wrote the following about Brown within his scouting report:

Penn State's Ji'Ayir Brown is coming off of two of the most productive seasons a safety has had in college football in the past 10 years. He has been a force against the run, racking up 122 tackles the last two seasons and has also proved to be a ball-hawk by bringing down 10 interceptions in that same timeframe. The senior safety enters the NFL with a lot to like as a prospect and teams will be able to utilize his skills in a variety of different roles.

Brown aligned primarily as a deep safety in split-safety looks for the Nittany Lions but has also seen snaps in the box and in the slot. Brown has above-average size for the position and is a good overall athlete. Brown displays excellent straight-line speed and burst, both as a run defender and in coverage.

In the run game, he flashes a quick trigger and will come downhill to fill the alley in a hurry and he brings bad intentions when he does. Brown is a violent hitter who looks to deliver knockout shots. That brings energy to the defense but also leaves Brown susceptible to missed tackles—an area that is a major concern. While Brown has excellent straight-line speed and short-area burst to trigger on the ball carrier, his angles to the football are poor and he sets himself up to fail more times than not. He is at his best in the run game when he is down in the box where he can make plays near the line of scrimmage.

In coverage, Brown flashes above-average range in the back end and does have speed to make plays red line to red line. The issue is, his instincts in coverage are just average, he is late to see things develop, and also will get fooled by play-action and misdirection—which will leave him a step or two behind. When Brown does recognize the play, he certainly has the explosiveness to get to the ball and his ball skills are outstanding. In man coverage, Brown shows stiffness and his change of direction is just average. He takes extra steps when he breaks down out of his pedal, leaving room for receivers to separate. Again, he is best when playing shallow areas of the field rather than deep.

Overall, Brown's lack of instincts and his liability as a consistent tackler make him hard to trust as anything more than a backup safety and a core special teams player, but he does flash impressive linear athleticism and toughness.


Height: 5' 11 3/8"
Weight: 203 lbs.
Arm length: 31 1/4 inches
Hand length: 10 1/8 inches

NFL Scouting Combine

40-time: 4.65 seconds
Vertical: 32.5 inches
Broad jump: 119 inches
Bench press: 18 reps

College Statistics
Year School Class G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int
2020 Penn State JR 6 5 1 6 1 0 --
2021 Penn State SR 13 61 12 73 1 0 6
2022 Penn State SR 13 56 18 74 7 4.5 4
Total Penn State 122 31 153 9 4.5 10

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