2022 Eagles Draft Profile: Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker
Ever since the departure of Malcolm Jenkins, the safety position for the Eagles has been in flux for two years now.
The staple and leader of that unit, Rodney McLeod, is currently a free agent but could be brought back. Still, the strong safety position has been a revolving door for Marcus Epps, K’Von Wallace, and Anthony Harris more recently.
Harris signed a one-year deal to come back after performing much better in the latter half of the 2021 season, but with Rodney McLeod’s age and injury history, the Eagles have to prepare for the future of that position. Even though they used a fourth-round pick on K’Von Wallace in 2020, the Clemson product has not developed as quickly as many hoped.
Entering his third year, Wallace still has time to find his stride in this league, but the lack of in-game reps when Marcus Epps is outplaying you has me concerned that he’s not entirely ready to be a full-time starter. So let’s discuss one of my favorite safety prospects in this year’s draft, Jaquan Brisker, out of Penn State. PFF currently has the former Lackawanna College product as the 38th ranked player on their big board and third overall safety.
Because of his less than stellar SAT scores, the Pittsburgh native would be academically ineligible to play Division 1 football right out of high school. Instead, Jaquan enrolled at Lackawanna Community College from 2017 to 2018 and made an enormous mark on the small school. Brisker racked up the accolades, earning the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2018, and served as the team captain on their way to a perfect 11-0 season.
After paying his dues and putting in the work, Jaquan Brisker was named the starting safety for Penn State during his senior season in 2020 and never looked back. In his first year as the starter, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound safety finished 3rd amongst all Big-Ten defensive backs in tackles (57), tied for 7th in the Big Ten with six pass breakups, and tied for 12th with 33 solo tackles.
Due to the extra year because of COVID, Brisker made substantial strides in his game during 2021. His run defense remained solid, tied for fifth amongst all defensive backs in the Big Ten with 18 defensive run stops, four hurries in pass rush (tied 8th), and a 27.3% win rate. But where I think Brisker improved the most during his extra season is with his overall awareness of offensive schemes, superb instincts for a defensive back, and his timely playmaking ability combined with limited yet minuscule errors.
In Brisker’s final senior season, one of the bigger games was the opening matchup against Wisconsin. He finished the game with five solo tackles, two defensive stops, was targeted two times and came up with a pass breakup and a game-sealing INT. The heady senior’s preparation and countless hours in the film room came to fruition as he reads Graham Mertz’s eyes and makes a perfect break on the ball to seal the game for Penn State.
Despite turning 23 when the 2022 NFL Draft happens, Jaquan Brisker could be a Day One starter or rotational piece in his first year. Many “pundits” might point to his age and say the redshirt senior might have reached his ceiling, but I disagree entirely. I watched almost every snap Jaquan Brisker took in 2020 and 2021, and the defensive back’s game continues to elevate. His leadership, attention to detail, natural football instincts, and versatility to drop bodies in the run game while earning the 2nd highest PFF coverage grade in the Big Ten at 89.5 is a unique combination that the Eagles should not pass on.
With K’Von Wallace’s development still a mystery, the aging of Rodney McLeod, and the stop-gap of Anthony Harris, Howie and the Eagles brass would be foolish not to sprint to the podium with the 51st pick in the 2nd round if Jaquan Brisker is still on the board. If K’Von Wallace can develop and get comfortable with his role at free safety, Jaquan Brisker’s playstyle of run-thumping in the box and displaying excellent coverage awareness would be a lethal duo in the future for the Eagles.
Mandatory Credit: Joe Hermit, Pennlive.com