The 2023 NFL Draft features a fantastic collection of cornerbacks. We could see as many as a dozen starters drafted in the first 100 picks, but few of these corners stand out the way that Kansas State’s Julius Brents does.
Standing 6-foot 2 3⁄4 inches, Brents is a big cornerback with rare length. He also has legitimately rare explosiveness, even among elite cornerback prospects.
The New York Giants were very interested in the corners at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft. And while they were able to make due at the cornerback position in 2022, but nobody would want to try their luck with back-ups and street free agents again.
Could Brents’ rare length and explosiveness make him a target for the Giants in the first round?
Games Played: 34
Tackles for a loss: 6.5
Forced fumbles: 1
Passes defensed: 10
Tackles for a loss: 3.5
Forced fumbles: 1
Passes defensed: 4
Best: Length, lower-body explosiveness, foot quickness, competitive toughness, versatility
Worst: Hip tightness, long speed, hand discipline in press coverage
Projection: A starting cornerback with scheme diversity.
(Brents is Kansas State CB number 23)
Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents has legitimately rare size, length, and athleticism for the position.
Brents is an incredibly long corner at 6-foot 2 ¾ inches with 34-inch arms and an incredible 82 ⅝ inch wingspan. Brents also has a very explosive lower body, with a 1.5 second 10-yard split, 41 ½ inch vertical leap, and an 11-foot-6 broad jump. That explosiveness, combined with his length, gives him a huge catch denial radius.
Brents almost exclusively played as an outside corner in Kansas State’s defense and often matched up on the opponent’s Number One receiver.
He has experience in a variety of coverage schemes, playing in both man and zone coverage, as well as with pattern matching rules within zone coverage. Brents uses his length well to deliver a jam and stay in contact through the route in tight man coverage. His long arms allow him to match up against big receivers, prevent them from high-pointing the ball, and play through them when they attempt to box him out.
Brents also has good awareness in zone coverage. He does a good job of keeping his eyes in the backfield and is a great communicator before and after the snap. He has solid discipline in zone coverage and doesn’t sacrifice the integrity of his coverage zone to freelance. That said, he also understands pattern matching rules and is able to execute Man Only Deep (MOD) or Man Everywhere He Goes (MEG) when they’re called.
Brents’ awareness and explosiveness give him a great downhill trigger, and he’s able to slam receiving windows shut from a good distance away.
He’s a tough, competitive corner who never backed down from a challenge and was a very willing run defender. Brents has a very quick downhill trigger and does a good job of taking on blocks on the perimeter. He’s a willing (and reliable) tackler, and even willing to take on blocks from offensive linemen.
Likewise, Brents is a relatively experienced blitzer who times his rushes well and uses his burst to avoid blockers. He wasn’t a productive blitzer, but he was disruptive enough that offenses had to account for him.
Brents is held back in coverage by some hip tightness. He was able to compensate at the collegiate level with quick feet and an explosive lower body. However, he was noticeably stiff when attempting to stay in phase through sharp breaks when in tight coverage. He rarely opens his hips at all, and is forced to turn from the ground up. That prevents him from carrying his speed through his transitions and creates opportunities for receivers to generate separation.
Brents also has a relative lack of long speed. It doesn’t show up in most of his game, but he can be outrun when trying to carry receivers vertically or across the field on deep crossing routes. Likewise, he has a lanky build and can be bullied by particularly big or physical receivers when in tight coverage. It doesn’t show up often in his tape, but it appeared enough to warrant mention.
Overall Grade: 8.2
Julius Brents projects as a starting cornerback with scheme diversity at the NFL level.
Brents has rare length and athletic traits, and that will get him drafted relatively highly. He has weaknesses as well, and could struggle to match up against quick, fast, and savvy receivers at the NFL level. However, he also has the traits to be a good corner within a scheme that’s designed to take advantage of those traits. He can play in both man and zone coverage, though he might be best in off-man or zone coverage at the NFL level.
He also has upside for blitz-happy defenses and can help as a pass rusher as well as a coverage player.
Teams will certainly appreciate Brents’ competitive toughness and football IQ. He’s seldom fooled by misdirection and plays downhill with great aggression. Seeing a cornerback willingly take on an offensive lineman in run defense is sure to get any coach’s attention.
Brents might struggle with penalties early in his career as he adapts to the NFL’s rules regarding holding and pass interference – and battles his own tendency to grab at the top of routes. However, he has legitimately rare physical and athletic traits that could make him a first round prospect.