As the rest of the world shuts down, NFL Draft season rages on. Commissioner Roger Goodell has proclaimed to teams that the NFL’s premier off-season showcase will continue as planned. A common misconception among draft aficionados is that the Green Bay Packers are obligated to draft a linebacker during the 2020 NFL Draft. In truth, help at the second level is sorely needed. However, the Packers would be best served by drafting multi-faceted defensive weapons to improve their football team at every level.
Remember the first battle scene in the movie “300”? The Spartans break their shield wall only to batter their enemies into submission. That’s former Maryland safety, Antoine Brooks Jr. He breaks formation to devastate opponents, wreaking havoc from sideline to sideline.
A true skirmisher, the man from Maryland could become an eraser in Mike Pettine’s defense. Brooks Jr. blows up jet-sweeps, and option pitches. He crashes outside zone blocking schemes, and isn’t afraid of contact. Watch any of Maryland’s games from the past two years, and you’ll see number 25 screaming off the edge, devastating any coming blockers. He plays with an Alpha attitude and won’t be denied.
Make no mistake, at times, this attitude can get him in trouble. As he is often caught freelancing and out of position. He also lacks the long speed to run deep with receivers, and will need help with coverage over the top in the NFL. Brooks Jr’s aggressive, arrow like approach can also lead him to take bad angles to the football. This usually ends with the safety being left in the wind by quicker, more agile athletes. Thus, he is described by many to lack proper discipline on the field. However, when slotted into a specified role at the next level, Brooks Jr. exhibits every tool necessary to succeed.
Antoine Brooks Junior is the type of urgent, physical, downhill presence the Packers have been lacking on the second level of their defense for years. A truly instinctive player, his tone setting presence will be a welcome addition in Green Bay. Paired with fellow Terrapin Darnell Savage Jr, and stud corner Jaire Alexander, the Packers will finally have an adaptable group of “Alphas” who take no prisoners.
Additionally, the Maryland product understands how to get underneath blockers and attack the football with ferocity. He is a fantastic D-gap defender, showing the propensity to hold the edge against far bigger blockers, and force runs back inside. Brooks Jr uses his thick, stout, frame to out leverage taller blockers and slip in to corral quarterbacks with speed.
Having grown up watching the legendary Sean Taylor, Brooks Jr. has tried to emulate his hard hitting prowess for years. He squares and scrapes off blocks quite nicely, and takes pride in his tackling skills. Perhaps his greatest strength, Brooks Jr breaks down well in space, and never misses an opportunity to rip ball-carriers to the ground. His violent onslaughts rarely end with his foes left standing.
Versatility is the name of the game in the present day NFL, and Brooks Jr. can do it all. He is an outstanding blitzer from the slot, and has even lined up in the A gap to spy quarterbacks. In that same vain, Brooks Jr was often used as the overhang defender in the Terrapins scheme, cleaning up anything that was left in his wake.
Since the nickel defense is, for all intents and purposes, the Packers base; Brooks Jr would effectively be a starter the moment he walked in. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine could plug and play the former Terp in the “Mr. Clean” role. Brooks Jr is best suited to sniff out and besiege wide receiver screens, while ambushing ball carriers on outside zone and jet-sweep plays. As a former quarterback, he has the football IQ to decipher read-option plays and the popular “window dressing” thrown out by NFL offenses. He is a quality short zone coverage defender, and is extremely effective when playing in the tackle box. The selection of Antoine Brooks Jr comes with the added benefit of seeing the safety as a special teams demon.
In essence, Brooks Jr. is the perfect modern nickel defender. An excellent candidate to play the “Rover” role in Mike Pettine’s defense, he represents a clear upgrade over Ibraheim Campbell. With his physical urgency and propensity to seek out contact, he could become a weapon on all four downs. Having played the same role for Maryland as Derwin James did for Florida State and Jabrill Peppers did for Michigan, Brooks Jr. could be the next hybrid safety to star in the NFL.Nick is a lifelong Packers fan. 4th and 26 was on his 13th birthday, unlucky. Follow him @CANDRAFTGEEK647 on Twitter for all your Packers draft needs and questions.