The safety position is a in an interesting place when it comes to modern defensive philosophy.
In general, the position isn’t regarded as one of the more valuable ones on the field, however few positions are asked to do more. Safeties are responsible for communicating among the defensive backs, are the last line of defense against vertical passes or breakaway plays, defend the run, cover a variety of zones, cover tight ends, running backs, and even receivers in man schemes, and they are also used as blitzers.
Good safety play can be transformative for a defense, allowing coordinators to fully unleash their schemes.
Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker is an extremely versatile defender who played a wide variety of roles and executed them at a high level.
As it so happens, the New York Giants need to add a safety in the 2022 NFL Draft. Wink Martindale’s defense leans heavily on his secondary’s ability to cover to scheme a highly aggressive pass rush. A versatile safety like Brisker could give Martindale the ability to use a wide variety of looks to disguise his blitzes.
Prospect: Jaquan Brisker (1)
Games Watched: vs. Wisconsin (2021), vs. Indiana (2021), vs. Ohio State (2021), vs. Michigan (2021)
Games Played: 34
Tackles For a loss: 10.0
Passes Defensed: 14
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a loss: 6.0
Passes Defensed: 5
Best: Football IQ, mental toughness, instincts, run defense, zone coverage, versatility
Worst: Tackle form, top-end speed
Projection: A starting safety with alignment and scheme versatility
Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker is an athletic, tough, smart, and versatile safety prospect.
Brisker played a wide range of roles in Penn State’s defensive scheme, aligning as a deep safety in Cover 2 or Cover 3 shells, playing box safety, slot corner, and even a hybrid linebacker role.
Brisker’s versatility is facilitated by his football IQ and athleticism. He is an above-average athlete for the position, playing with good range, agility, and closing speed. Brisker quickly gets good depth on his zone drops and was frequently asked to rotate coverage after the snap to disguise Penn State’s defense. He has solid range in zone coverage and is able to effectively cover a deep half or third of the field. Brisker also has a very quick downhill trigger, allowing him to close quickly on runs or underneath passes. He has relatively fluid hips for a safety, allowing him to play man coverage with the right match-ups. He also has enough speed to allow him to run with tight ends, running backs, and most receivers – as well as effectively pursue play from behind.
Brisker is also a very good run defender. He diagnoses runs very quickly and wastes no time closing downhill on the ball carrier. Brisker picks his way through traffic cleanly and efficiently, and has an instinctive vision for holes at the line of scrimmage. He flows to the ball easily and isn’t afraid of contact once he gets there. Brisker does a good job of taking on blocks, and is even fearless in the face of blocks from offensive linemen.
He communicates very well before the snap, quickly and efficiently relaying information to his teammates and helping them to line up. Brisker shows a solid understanding of both route concepts and blocking schemes, and does a good job of quickly processing information after the snap.
While Brisker is a good athlete for a safety, he lacks truly elite athletic traits. He doesn’t quite seem to have the range to play the deep center field in a Cover-1 scheme, nor should he be in tight man coverage with NFL caliber slot receivers.
Brisker can also be a somewhat inconsistent tackler. He isn’t afraid of contact or to lay hard hits, but his form isn’t as consistent as it could be. There are a few too many instances of arm tackles or shoulder checks, which can lead to yards after contact from ball carriers.
Overall Grade: 7.9
Jaquan Brisker projects as a starting safety at the NFL level, with the versatility to find a role in just about any coverage scheme he would be asked to play.
Brisker has plenty of athleticism and football IQ to play a deep coverage zone in a Cover-2, Cover-3, or Cover-4 scheme. He also has the physicality and instincts to play a box safety role in a Cover-1 or Cover-3 scheme.
Brisker is quick to trigger into the backfield on running plays and has upside as a blitzer as well. He is willing to take on any and all blockers, but has a similar vision to top running backs when it comes to picking out holes around the line of scrimmage. Likewise, he is unafraid of contact and willing to lay hits on ball carriers.
Teams that run exotic or aggressive coverage schemes will appreciate Brisker’s ability to get his teammates lined up, as well as to quickly (and accurately) rotate coverages after the snap.
Brisker has some limitations as an athlete and can continue to improve in his technique. However, he should be able to help a defense early in his career and should push for a starting job early, if not right away.