Having looked at each of the Jets’ draft picks in detail, we’ve now moved on to discuss each of their undrafted free agent signings. We continue today with a breakdown of Akron cornerback Kyron Brown.
The 23-year old is listed at 6’1” and 195 pounds and was a second-team all-MAC selection last year. He intercepted six passes in his career with the Zips and recorded 18 pass break-ups over the past two years as a full-time starter.
There’s an immediate Jets connection with Brown, albeit a tenuous one. He was initially recruited to Akron by their defensive backs coach Terrell Buckley, opting to stay there despite Buckley’s departure ahead of his first season. Buckley played the 13th of his 14 NFL seasons with the Jets, intercepting three passes in 2004.
Brown redshirted his first season and then played mostly on special teams as a redshirt freshman, recording 10 tackles and one pass break-up. In 2016, he earned his first start and recorded 21 tackles and the first three interceptions of his career in a rotational role.
Having moved into the starting line-up in his redshirt junior season, Brown placed third in the MAC with 11 pass break-ups. He also had a career high 49 tackles and two more interceptions.
Brown was again productive in his final season, earning second-team all-MAC honors. He ended up with 47 tackles in two fewer games and added one interception. He also set a career-high with three tackles for loss and recorded the first sack of his career.
At the end of the season, Brown was not invited to the combine, but did play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl where he stood out. He recorded one tackle and broke up a pass, giving up just seven yards on five targets.
The Jets signed Brown as an undrafted free agent after he went unselected in the draft.
Now let’s take a look at what Brown brings to the table, divided into categories.
Brown showcased some athletic ability at his pro day with a 39-inch vertical leap, but his 40-time was less impressive with times ranging from 4.53 to 4.61. His bench press (14 reps) and vertical jump (121 inches) were both fine, but his agility numbers were poor.
He has good length, with a 78-inch wingspan that he uses well, along with an above-average hand size.
Brown has mainly been employed as an outside corner, playing both sides and often shadowing a specific assignment. He has had limited action in the slot, but - in spite of his poor agility numbers - has fared pretty well whenever he has done so, including recording two of his career interceptions.
Brown’s coverage numbers have been good over the course of his career, as he has allowed a catch on just under 54 percent of his targets and only 10.9 yards per catch. He’s only given up one 30-yard play in coverage in his whole career - a 34-yarder - but he’s been beaten for six touchdowns, including four in 2017.
In off coverage, Brown looks very comfortable with his ability to latch on down the field and stay close to his man.
He can play some press coverage too and, as noted, has had some previous success covering receivers in the slot.
The most interesting aspect of Brown’s skill-set is that he favors a step-kick technique. Brown has said he grew up idolizing Richard Sherman and patterned his game after him. Sherman often takes the step-kick technique a step further than most player who employ it by lining up perpendicular to the line of scrimmage to give himself a head-start.
This is another tenuous Jets connection as Pete Carroll has been a proponent of this style throughout his coaching career. James Hasty was an example of a player who adopted it successfully under Carroll’s tutelage back when he was on the Jets’ staff in the early nineties.
Brown employs this technique to stay close to his man and has good ability to recover or burst to the ball and is capable of jumping routes.
In terms of weaknesses, there were a few plays where he reacted a beat late early on in the route and was unable to recover. On this play he gets turned around by third-round pick Diontae Johnson for a touchdown but with better footwork he would have been able to open his hips and run with him rather than turning all the way around and chasing.
These are the kind of technical tweaks that could help Brown to truly realize his full potential.
Brown had 11 pass break-ups in 2017 and another seven last year (in two fewer games), so he’s adept at making plays on the ball.
Brown gets his head turned early, finds the football and is able to make a play on it. He’s competitive with his hands at the catch point and uses his length well to extend and get his hands on passes.
He has shown good hands on his interceptions, including a couple of catches going to ground. However, he’s also a threat with the ball in his hands as the other four of his career interceptions have been returned for 34, 34, 38 and 70 yards.
Brown is a solid tackler, with good closing speed and range. He’ll dive to bring down players around the ankles when they’re out of his reach and hit aggressively in the open field.
Brown will miss tackles from time to time, but his overall tackle efficiency has been good and he doesn’t often have egregious mistakes that lead to big plays.
He forced one fumble in his college career, ripping the ball out while hitting a receiver from behind.
Brown is renowned for his physicality and competitiveness. He’ll jam at the line to slow up the receiver in certain packages or latch onto defenders down the field and lean up against them in the route and at the catch point. He was engaged with some good battles with NFL-caliber receivers during his college career.
He generally does a good job of being just physical enough without drawing a flag, like on this play where he makes contact down the field but doesn’t push off, allows the receiver to make contact with him by getting to the spot first and not initiating contact and keeping his hands inside as the pair lock horns. He resists the temptation to grab as the ball is in the air and when it arrives.
Prior to the 2018 season, Brown only had five penalties in three years, but he had five last season - all of which were for pass interference. A few of those were questionable calls which were on the edge of being no-calls, but he has to resist the temptation to grab while trying to recover after an initial clean release.
Despite playing on the outside, Brown will get his nose dirty in run support, especially when there is no receiver on his side of the field.
Within that role, his physicality and tackling abilities are useful and he also plays with good discipline. Here’s one good play he made last year.
Brown hasn’t been called upon to blitz very often, but did record this impressive sack last season off the blind side.
Other than that, he didn’t register any pressure in college. He did record one sack in high school as well.
Even after being inserted as a full-time starter, Brown remained as a special teams contributor, although only one of his eight tackles over the last three seasons was in 2018. Here’s a nice play he made covering a punt.
Brown has also contributed on the punt return unit in the vice role and as a blocker on kick returns earlier on in his career. He has said he enjoys special teams, which could be a good route onto the roster for him.
Brown is yet another Jets rookie that graduated early and moved on to study for a masters. That seems to be a pattern with this year’s selection.
Brown seems to have good football IQ and shows good read and recognition. He’s particularly adept at blowing up wide receiver screens by anticipating and avoiding the first block.
In coverage, a few of his interceptions and pass break-ups have come from making good reads in zone coverage and he showed good anticipation to make this pick-six.
One scouting report suggests he has poor route recognition, but that may be little more than a symptom of the step-kick technique which often sets the cornerback up so he reacts to the receiver rather than anticipating and trying to run the route for him.
Brown became a leader during his time at Akron, winning multiple awards and earning a spot as a team captain in his senior year. He’s received team awards for his on-field play, leadership and work in the weight room.
Brown is confident, hard-working and is said to have displayed a team-first, accountable attitude towards his role.
Brown hasn’t had any injury issues while at Akron. He played in all 51 of his team’s games during college.
Could Brown’s preference for the step-kick technique hurt his chances of contributing in a Gregg Williams defense? It’s likely Brown will be encouraged to play more mirror technique and bump-and-run with the Jets.
Cary Williams is a recent example of a player who had not played that technique with the Titans and Eagles, but then struggled when asked to do so with the Seahawks. However, making the transition in the other direction may be easier.
The good news is that Brown has said he’s comfortable with the mirror technique and his film shows him playing bump-and-run from time to time.
Something else that will always be considered for a cornerback with solid size and a 40-time in the 4.6 range is a move to safety. Brown’s football IQ, tackling ability and physical nature could make him a candidate for such a move, but they’re sure to try and make him into a cornerback initially because his coverage skills and raw tools are so good.
Brown was immediately one of the main names that stood out when the Jets announced their undrafted free agent signings in May. While he hadn’t received much draft buzz and didn’t posted outstanding workout numbers, Brown looked like a future NFL cornerback over the past few years at Akron.
The traits he brings to the table make Brown an immediate short-term development prospect and one which may take priority if, as expected, sixth round pick Blessuan Austin is brought along slowly as he continues to rehab his knee.
The news that Brown has already been making waves during the offseason program is encouraging too. He’s been getting second-team reps and has recorded multiple interceptions. He’s also playing a position where not many of the players ahead of him have a roster spot locked down so a potential role is there to be won.
Brown’s film shows some areas where he needs some technical refinement, but he gives the impression of a player who could benefit significantly from a few tweaks here and there. If he can keep progressing, a roster spot is a realistic goal and he may even be called upon to contribute this season.