Could the Bucs seek their long-term answer next to Antoine Winfield Jr. in the secondary?
The Bucs defense is one of the most demanding in the NFL when it comes to playing safety. They deploy an array of 2- and 3-safety looks, and they play them all everywhere from single high to the box to the slot.
The Bucs lost one of their hammers in the run defense, Jordan Whitehead, in free agency, and they’ve looked to veteran options like Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal to replace that production.
While that addressed this upcoming season, might Tampa seek a younger, long-term option with one of their premium picks in the NFL Draft?
Our draft series continues by exploring this possibility with Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker.
JAQUAN BRISKER’S COLLEGIATE CAREER
Brisker was a highly touted 4-star recruit coming out of high school, but he had to play his freshman year at Lackawanna College due to academic reasons. After a successful season in junior college, he field offers from several Power 5 programs before selecting Penn State over Alabama, Ole Miss, Maryland, Mississippi State, Pittsburgh, Utah and West Virginia.
His first year with the Nittany Lions started with a bang, as he played 13 games and logged 32 tackles with two interceptions and three passes broken up. His senior season saw even more success with 57 tackles, four passes broken up and one interception to go along with an All-Big Ten nod.
He utilized the extra year of eligibility granted due to the COVID-shortened 2020 season to play in 2021, and he tallied 63 total tackles, six tackles for loss, two interceptions, five pass breakups, and one fumble recovery. His excellent year really elevated his profile and earned him first-team Big Ten honors.
Jaquan Brisker: Only Power Five Safety with 80+ grades in both man and zone coverage last season pic.twitter.com/0RsDwti7FP
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 15, 2022
PRO DAY AND SCOUTING COMBINE
Brisker — who measured in at 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds with 32 1/8” arms — did participate in the Scouting Combine, but he suffered a minor back injury while doing the bench press. He managed to record 22 reps at 225 lbs. and ran a 4.49 40 yard dash before deciding to shut it down, rest, and tackle the remaining gauntlet of drills at his Pro Day on March 25.
He made the extra rest count with an exemplary performance. He improved on his 40 with a 4.43 and a 1.57 10-yard split. He also logged a 6.91 3-cone and a huge 38 1/2” vertical jump.
Jaquan Brisker is a SS prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.13 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 74 out of 843 SS from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/a0zG8CcP1u #RAS pic.twitter.com/brkCKiaIrR
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 8, 2022
He also did on-field drills and showcased high-quality fluidity and ball skills. There’s no question that Brisker only helped himself with his workouts and drills, which further reinforced his great film.
PSU S Jaquan Brisker during on-field drills. pic.twitter.com/3yzABYSCP4
— Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) March 24, 2022
WHAT BRISKER CAN DO FOR THE Bucs IN 2022
Brisker’s 2022 role would likely be as primary depth and special teams since the Bucs have brought on Ryan and Neal, plus already having Mike Edwards and Winfield Jr.
Neal, who has made his career as that box enforcer that Whitehead served as, will likely get a majority of the looks at said position. Hypothetically, if Brisker was drafted, he’d serve a similar purpose if Neal got hurt or proved ineffective.
Brisker has the potential and sheer athleticism to play right away if asked, as he is frequently heralded as one of the better covering strong safety prospects in the draft.
#PennState safety Jaquan Brisker
Highly instinctive — sees it fast. Competitive play style. Versatility in base/sub packages. Controlled pedal/break (Quarters technique). NFL demeanor in the box. Disruptive ability in a pro scheme. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/MuDGTbsGKP
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 10, 2022
He’s basically a bigger, more athletic Whitehead, which should inherently appeal to the Bucs coaching staff given how fond they were of using Whitehead in the box and as a dimebacker.
Picking Brisker would be a maneuver geared toward 2023 and beyond. Neal and Ryan are on one-year deals, so their futures are far from guaranteed, and Mike Edwards is also due for a contract extension as he plays out the final year of his deal.
So 2022 would practically be a redshirt year as Brisker learns a complicated defense and settles into NFL speed. From there, Brisker has demonstrated the instincts and football I.Q. to grow quickly into a starting role.
It’s clear from the perspective of several scouting sources that Brisker’s best football is ahead of him. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had this to say about the safety’s steady improvement.
Brisker continued to pick up elements of the defensive scheme and his play has steadily transformed from hesitant in 2019 to downright instinctive in 2021. He has the versatility to become a moving chess piece in a variety of coverages and has the size and talent to match up with both “Y” and “F” tight ends.
That’s exactly what Todd Bowles wants from a safety, and the opportunity of securing a long-time contributor on a rookie deal might be very enticing for Jason Licht and Co. Given Winfield’s upward trajectory into a Pro Bowl caliber player under this staff’s tutelage, a similar future could unfold for Brisker as well.
Brisker is frequently mentioned in the late Day 1, early Day 2 conversation. Bleacher Report has him graded as an 8.0 out of 10, which rates as a late first round/second round value for them. They even go so far as to compare him to Vikings All-Pro Harrison Smith. Lofty praise!
The Draft Network handed out a grade of 84.08/100, which is a second-round value on their scale. They compare him to Malcolm Jenkins, also lofty!
Overall, Brisker rates right up there with Georgia’s Lewis Cine and Michigan’s Daxton Hill as the best second-tier safety options after Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton.
ON THE CLOCK…
Let your thoughts be known, Bucs Nation. Should the team select Brisker as Winfield Jr.’s long-term running mate in the deep secondary? Vote in the poll and discuss in the comments below!