Ji’Ayir Brown Could Start for 49ers as a Rookie: ‘He Has Our DNA’

Penn State Football
Penn State Football Head Coach James Franklin (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Ji’Ayir Brown has made a strong first impression on the San Francisco 49ers, after being chosen in the third-round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

The former Nittany Lions star, who always seemed to find himself around the football on the back-end of the Penn State Football defense could find himself pushing for meaningful snaps as a rookie.

While the 49ers are loaded at safety, with veteran Tashaun Gibson and All-Pro Talanoa Hufanga entrenched as starters, multiple reports suggest San Francisco could deploy Brown in three-safety sets immediately this season.

He has our DNA that we’re looking for on defense,” defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks told reporters, when asked about Brown, according to The Athletic. “We’re looking for a guy that’s physical, that’s smart, that can finish. When you look at Ji’Ayir, he’s versatile.

“He can line up on all three levels of the defense. He can line up on the line of scrimmage. He can rush off the edge. He can drop back a level and play man coverage. He can play zone as well. And he can also drop back into the post and show that range and go get the football.”


Before Brown even took the field for 49ers rookie minicamp, San Francisco general manager — and Hall of Fame safety John Lynch was enamored by what the former Nittany Lion might bring to the bay area.

“He’s a baller,” 49ers General Manager Lynch told reporters, of Brown. “I think he’s got the components of what I think makes up a Niner. We had a consensus, from coaches to scouts, it was all around the building. He really solidified that with this tape, but then he came here on a 30 visit and he’s just got this infectious personality.”

Brown has loads of upside at the NFL level, and was widely respected as one of the biggest leaders of the Nittany Lions’ defense during his two years as a starter in Happy Valley.

One of the more versatile defenders in Penn State‘s secondary, Brown intercepted 10 passes to go with his 153 total tackles in 32 collegiate starts.

“When you look at a guy who has 10 career interceptions in college — usually, the guys who are always around the football are going to get the football,” Bullocks explained. “And it really doesn’t stop when they get to the NFL. They’re usually around the ball as well.”

Regardless of how much playing time Brown sees as a rookie, he’ll have the opportunity to learn and develop this season behind two established veterans on one of the more talented defenses in the league..


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