Updated: May 11
By Adam Aniba
The '22 safety, draft class, features few true ballhawks. One in particular, who'll have an immediate impact on the next level, hails from the Big Ten. Penn State defensive backs have been a mixed bag over the years, but PSU's Jaquan Brisker is the #2 safety on most draft boards. A team that has a reliable defensive front line and strong safety, who can cover a lot of ground, would be an ideal fit for the PSU free safety. Allowing Brisker to do what he does best, which is man middle/deep portions of the field is how Brisker will make his mark on the next level.
6'1" 200 lbs | FS | PSU
1st Rd Grade
Career (34 games) 151 total tak (85 solo), 10 TFL, 5 ints, 14 PD & 1 FR
'21 (12 games) 63 tak (38 solo), 6 TFL, 2 ints with 5 PD & 1 FR
Brisker attended Gateway HS, near Pittsburgh, where he starred as a two sport athlete in football and lettered in basketball (selected 1st-team all section as a senior). Brisker was voted as MVP in consecutive seasons as a receiver and tied a school career record with 42 receptions for 781 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also returned 5 punts for touchdowns in '16.
Brisker was selected to the 5A All-WesternPAFootball.net All-State team as a senior, leading to offers from multiple major football D1 programs. Due to his low SAT scores, Brisker would be ineligible to play D1 football and he elected to enroll at Lackawanna College.
Brisker became an immediate leader for Lackawanna's squad. He made the switch to the defensive side of the ball and it paid off, recording 54 tackles (6 tak for a loss) and 4 ints as a freshman. In '18 Brisker led his team in tackles with 64 (17 for a loss) and nine sacks. Over the course of two years, Brisker would showcase his ability as cover safety at Lackawanna, while also showing his ability to drop down in run support as an enforcer.
Hard Work Pays Off
Brisker was viewed as the top FS on the JUCO level in '18 and Penn State immediately offered him a spot on their defense. In '19, the Nittany Lions' safety appeared in 13 games, registering 32 tackles (15 solo), 2 ints (tied for team lead) and 3 pass breakups.
Fast forward to 2021 and Brisker is the unquestioned leader of the PSU defense. His ability as a versatile/quick-twitch defensive back, led to PSU coaches lining him up all over the defensive backfield.
Brisker had his best statistical season in '21, but it was also the season he displayed the most growth as a safety, with 63 tak (38 solo), 6 TFL, 2 ints with 5 passes defended and 1 forced fumble. The PFF grade of 82.9 was well deserved, considering he allowed zero catches in 110 coverage snaps.
It's well documented that Brisker is a force versus the run, but his instincts and ability to sniff out screens and misdirection plays make him an ideal safety centerpiece in any scheme. In fact, Brisker is one of the few safety prospects that could thrive in a man-to-man or zone scheme, but also play in the slot.
A furious hitter while still displaying sound tackling technique
Thrived in multiple phases as a DB (close to the line/middle/deep)
Versatile enough to line up in man-to-man or zone with the ability to cover the slot
Extremely long arms led to a lot of tipped balls/passes defended
Valuable asset as a red zone defender (vs Pass/Run)
Elite understanding of situational football
Needs coaching/refinement on the next level with the basics, such as dropping hips and redirecting if out of position (slight concern)
5th year senior (turn 23 this season) adds pressure to contribute early
Can bite on double moves or leave too much cushion when manning the slot
Can get caught over-committing on run plays, leading to him being out of position (slight concern)
Although had success in deep cover zone alignments, too often relies on backend help
Making the jump from the JUCO ranks to the Big 10 is a legitimate feat for any prospect. Not only did the Nittany Lion safety make an immediate impact with 2 interceptions (tied for the team lead) and three pass breakups, but he was named Big Ten Player of the Week multiple times during his first season.
A stigma does exists when projecting former JUCO prospects. Questions arise on how cerebral they can be in crucial moments, especially with a FS who's usually the last line of defense. Brisker showed that his time on the JUCO level was well spent and only helped to establish himself as a versatile DB.
Brisker's instincts and awareness in coverage would be an instant upgrade to many teams on the next level. The former high school receiver is just scratching the service of his talent level, ready made for the NFL with soft hands and a long frame to disrupt. His athletic traits are impressive (35’5” triple jump & a 10’7” standing broad jump during '21 Summer workouts).
The matchup vs Iowa (10/9/21) where he registered 7 tak (2 asst) and 1 int displayed how dominant Brisker could be on all phases of the defense. His ability to stay focused on the quarterback, but still be fully aware of the action around him will cut down on the growing pains many defensive backs experience on the next level. He thrived while covering smaller/speedy receivers and athletic tight ends, which will be immediate challenges on the next level, while consistently facing blue chip talent.
Putting Brisker in position to be a full-time FS, where he can utilize his coverage ability and instincts on the backend, is the best way to utilize his skill-set. Some have mentioned that teams will even look at him as a potential slot corner, considering his length/overall size. In the end, Brisker should have multiple suitors who envision different ways to utilize his ability as a defensive back. Although some have projected him as a 2nd round prospect, after he displays his impressive athleticism at the Combine, he'll be in 1st round discussions.
*Games Watched- 9/6 vs WISC, 9/11 vs AUB, 10/2 vs IND, 10/9 vs IOWA, 10/23 vs Illinois, 10/30 vs OSU, 11/6 vs MD, 11/3 vs MICH, 11/20 vs RUT, & 11/27 MICH ST
*Team Fits- WFT, HOU, NYG, DET, ATL, DAL, DET, KC
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