The Steelers selected their second Maryland Terrapin of the 2020 NFL Draft with the 198th pick. Antoine Brooks played line backer, safety and slot corner in college,something that comes up in his evaluations.
Alpha personality on the field
Built like a brick mailbox
Pursues with good leverage
Comes to balance as open-field tackler
Squares and scrapes laterally to maintain tackle positioning
Former quarterback with intriguing pre-snap recognition
Potential to be a star cover man on special teams
Needs to play with improved discipline as a pro
Gets outside the structure and freelances at times
Questions about where his best position fit is
Tightly bound with sticky hips to open and run
Lacks prototypical length to challenge throws
Will have issues covering man in space
He’s either a versatile defender or one lacking a clean positional fit depending on a team’s assessment and scheme. He’s played in a variety of spots over the past two years, but hip tightness and lack of length do show themselves when matched in man coverage. Brooks offers middle-round value as a split-safety capable of box duties and should offer an upgrade on special teams coverage.
Big-time hitter who ran the Maryland defense and will impress coaches with football IQ, toughness and willingness to fight through traffic to make tackles. Will press and shut down receivers and tight ends at the line of scrimmage. Violent hitter when he zeroes in on the ball; was an effective corner-blitz operative.
Lacks ideal build at 5’11”, 220 pounds; could be seen as a nickel linebacker or strong safety. Short-area quickness is limited; not much burst out of cuts and stiff hips on transitions. Plays backyard football too much and has to be better at sticking to assignments, especially in coverage.
Brooks is a tweener, but the NFL is moving toward more positionless players on defense. If he’s unleashed him in the slot, he could wreak havoc on quarterbacks and tight ends from off the edge. Brooks isn’t a classic rangy safety, but he’s the answer to quick quarterbacks and offenses that throw short, dump-off passes that need to be covered.
He’s more of an impact defender when tasked with working in the intermediate or shallow areas of the field. . . Really, really nice (tackling) skills. Gets off of blocks consistently and comes to balance and hits his moving targets with consistency when he’s looking to slash into horizontal challenges.
Squatty build doesn’t afford him a lot of length to extend and challenge the ball at the catch point. . . Haven’t seen a great deal of hip hinge in coverages to play with needed swiftness to cover ground as a deep defender. . . Doesn’t look to have great deep range or ability to impact vertical shots.
Nickel linebacker? Yep, he can do that. Nickel slot? For sure. Special teams? He should be great there, given his effort, tackling skills, block deconstruction and his baseline athleticism. . . Antoine Brooks Jr. projects best as a nickel sub-package defender in the NFL. Brooks Jr. brings a strong presence off the edge as a D-gap run defender and blitzer and pairs it with good short area quickness and stout tackling.
PFF listed Antoine Brooks Jr. on the short list of best tackling safeties in the 2020 NFL Draft in their Safety Superlatives article that is linked above.
They had more to say about him, as a 2018 LB. . .
Antoine Brooks Jr. led all B1G linebackers with 27 QB pressures this season. pic.twitter.com/6WeoMx8sG8— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 29, 2019
and as a 2019 safety.
Antoine Brooks: Highest-graded run-defending safety in the NFL Draft pic.twitter.com/V7XbiBxZIz— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 24, 2020
If you look at all that and think, if he’s a great tackler, can create pressure on the QB, and be a top run defender at safety. . . shouldn’t he just be a LB? You aren’t alone.
With the 198th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers select...— PFF (@PFF) April 25, 2020
Antoine Brooks Jr., S, Maryland pic.twitter.com/5dcqn3hUP5
If you read the small text to the lower right, you see that PFF thinks Brooks Jr. is bets suited for playing linebacker in the NFL.
There’s disagreement over Antoine Brooks Jr.’s ability in man coverage and deep half zones. But everyone sees him as an elite run defender and blitzer from the slot. He’s projects to be a special teams standout, and if he can develop he could either replace Mike Hilton in the slot or even Mark Barron’s role covering TEs in the future. Tackling and leadership should make him a special teams fixture on the roster whether he can play on defense or not.