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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports


Ji’Ayir Brown earns praise from 49ers GM John Lynch

Feb 27, 2024 at 2:05 PM--


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Ji'Ayir Brown patiently awaited his opportunity to contribute to the San Francisco 49ers' defense. Unfortunately, that opportunity arose after an injury to starter Talanoa Hufanga, thrusting Brown into a starting role. However, the rookie safety made the most of the situation.

Brown concluded the season as Pro Football Focus' fourth-highest-graded rookie safety (73.4) and was the 49ers' highest-graded safety overall. His coverage grade was surpassed only by Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir.

San Francisco selected Brown in the third round of last year's draft—its first pick of 2023. Speaking at this year's NFL Scouting Combine, general manager John Lynch reflected on Brown's pre-draft impression and impact this past season.

"I was real proud of Ji'Ayir," Lynch told reporters. "You talked about interviews, we were just talking about him earlier. He made a tremendous impression, not only on the tape, but his interview was one that grabbed us. I think [it was] unanimous, and everyone got that feeling. Ji'Ayir is a special human being, a special young man, but then he went and showed that."

Brown wrapped up the regular season with 35 tackles, two interceptions, and four passes defensed. He also intercepted Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. The rookie safety earned solid run-defense (72.7) and tackling (72.8) grades from Pro Football Focus this past season.

"Nothing's just given in our league, and Ji'Ayir didn't pout early on when he wasn't playing," Lynch continued. "He went and excelled at special teams. We had two guys in [Hufanga] and [Tashaun Gipson] that were pretty good players, and what he did is sit back and never wasted a day lamenting the fact that he wasn't starting. He picked their brains. He learned from them such that, when he got his opportunity, he could shine, and that's exactly what he did."

Gipson, 33, contemplated retirement last year and is set to become an unrestricted free agent. With the veteran's future uncertain, the potential pairing of Hufanga and Brown has the 49ers excited about the future of their defensive backfield.

Lynch concluded, "We're really encouraged about Ji'Ayir moving forward. Had a pick in the Super Bowl, but it's a lot more than just the picks. The guy's a stud, and we're fortunate to have him."



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