In every presser I heard while I was at the NFL Combine, Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus continued to emphasize their need for one specific trait: length. While they often cited the need for length along the defensive line, length helps across all sorts of positions like offensive line, linebacker, and outside cornerback.
And there’s no corner with more length in this class than Kansas State’s Julius Brents, who we’ll be covering in today’s draft profile.
If you followed the combine, you may have heard Brents’ name throughout Friday’s DB session — he had a stellar day in compression shorts, racking up outstanding numbers while looking natural and fluid throughout positional drills.
Kansas State CB Julius Brents made headlines with an extraordinary NFL Combine performance:— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 6, 2023
- 11.5ft broad jump
- 41.5ft vertical
- Outstanding agility testing
All within a 6'2.5", 198lb frame & with 34" arms. Insane! But how does his film hold up? Let's take a look pic.twitter.com/axRL7gfr60
Julius Brents read, backpedal, flip, drop weight, and then finish pic.twitter.com/a0SigeD0RQ— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 3, 2023
But athletic testing numbers don’t make a football player great, so who is Brents when the pads come on? Let’s dive into the film and see for ourselves.
For a man as big as Brents is, he still manages to move with a jarring amount of fluidity. He clicks and closes relatively well, can decelerate out of his backpedal naturally, and can shift from a backpedal to a half-turn without losing too much speed when opponents run go routes against him.
He’s not the most agile corner you’ve ever seen, but he’s one of the most agile corners you’ve seen at his size, and that’s the focus here — this lets him play all kinds of assignments (press-man, catch-man, Cover 2/3/4 zones) without ever becoming “too physically slow” for the role.
When you pair this agility with the hands we’ll discuss later, you’ve got a great foundation to build off of.
The first thing you'll notice on Brents' tape are outstandingly fluid hips, especially for a guy his size.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 6, 2023
That ability to accelerate & decelerate in both Man and Zone helps him stride with WRs of all body-types without over-relying on his jam. He can cover you in multiple ways. pic.twitter.com/pQaLQMYVoP
Brents’ athleticism really shows itself off in the run game, where he’s an edge-setter, a playmaker, and a big hitter. Watch him plant his feet and drive downfield with his hips — it’s a thing of beauty watching a man that big break that quickly, and his length/size clearly give TEs and even OL trouble at times.
CBs aren’t the end-all be-all in run defense, but in the NFL, every man counts — if Brents can give you “1.25 defenders” in the box with his length and physicality, that’s an advantage that nickel-heavy defenses like Chicago will want to make use of.
His length & hips really show out in his run defense, where he's about as good as a CB will get.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 6, 2023
He stacks and sheds like a Linebacker, even setting the edge against TEs and WRs on occasion. He'll fearlessly take on OL if he thinks he can turn the runner... it's awesome. pic.twitter.com/BdTS358Tfz
Brents, at 6-foot-2.5-inches, uses his 34” arms to bully receivers of all shapes and sizes. He’s not the most technically sound jammer, but when he gets the green light and lands his hands, the rep is over.
Think about how long 34” arms are — his arms are longer than Peter Skoronsi’s, Teven Jenkins’, and even the Colts’ Quenton Nelson. Obviously, those comparisons are just for fun, but Brents out-reaches plenty of notable X-receivers as well, like Justin Jefferson (33”), Drake London (33”), and Christian Watson (32.5”). The extra inch in his arms won’t win reps by default, but it creates a phenomenal physical foundation to build off of as you teach Brents your defense while also giving Brents another way to beat the WR across from him. Establish your hands & slow them down.
In particular, some of Brents’ 2021 reps vs Patriot speedster Tyquan Thornton stand out to me on this reel — smaller receivers often beat bigger corners with quick footwork off the line of scrimmage, but Brents establishes his hands on Thornton more than once and uses them to (legally) win reps that his feet alone might not have been able to.
And then, of course, he's a nightmare when he lands his jam.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 6, 2023
With 6'2.5" size and 34" arms I doubt that's surprising, but reps like these vs Patriots' speedster Tyquan Thornton are HUGE when projecting how Brents'll hold up in the NFL.
Speed kills, but his hands steal reps back pic.twitter.com/CIkbUKrhzZ
Not everything about Brents’ game is perfect. His technique is raw in all kinds of areas (likely because he didn’t need good technique to win in the spread-heavy Big 12) like:
- Tracking his man & the ball in deep zone coverage (pictured below)
- Handling speed off the line of scrimmage (also pictured below)
- Maintaining proper balance throughout his drops
- Recovering well when the WR across from you wins at the release
- Decelerating with his WR after full-sprinting for 10+ yards (he’ll currently run 5-10 yards past where his man stopped and assume the play is over)
But I think many of these areas will get better as Brents works with NFL DB coaching and competes against NFL WR talent. Iron sharpens iron, and an athlete with tools like Brents’ needs quality competition (like the Senior Bowl) to bring the best out of him and show him where he needs to improve.
Now, not everything about Brents' game is perfect.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 6, 2023
In Zone, he'll occasionally lose the "feel" of his man when he turns to track the ball -- his length helps him overcome this occasionally (2nd play), but a great ball may beat him over the top.
Should get better with practice. pic.twitter.com/EHYulnsPsh
Also, like we said earlier, speed kills. When Brents doesn't land his jam, a fast receiver (common in the NFL!) may leave him behind.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 6, 2023
That's as common a problem as there is within NFL CB play though -- if you're jamming, you've gotta land it. Also, everybody gets beat eventually pic.twitter.com/uLdozZFGUM
Fit with the Bears
I really like Brents’ fit in Chicago and think he could pair well with Kyler Gordon in a bizarre world where the Chicago Bears don’t extend Jaylon Johnson. Also, if the Bears want to continue using Gordon primarily as a Nickel Corner, Brents would be a big upgrade on the outside over Kindle Vildor with an outside shot at becoming a Tariq Woolen-esque star.
I personally have Brents graded as a late 2nd rounder, but that’s just because I can’t imagine letting a guy with his athletic potential get too far beyond that point. Tariq Woolen’s testing was wild too so he certainly could fall, but I think he’s a plug-and-play starter at the next level that will take his rookie lumps and grow through them over time.
Overall, there's a ton to like in Brents' game! And with athletic testing like this I'm more than intrigued.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) March 6, 2023
I've got a low 2nd-round grade on him and I struggle to imagine teams leaving tools like his on the board for long. He'd definitely fit with the #Bears, among other teams pic.twitter.com/9CeHfWIXrE
What do YOU think of Julius Brents?