And then there was one. Antoine Winfield Jr., the second round pick that is entering the final year of his contract, is the lone safety for the Buccaneers following the departure of Mike Edwards for Kansas City while Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal are currently free agents. For a team like the Bucs - and a coach like Todd Bowles - that utilizes safeties in a myriad of ways, there is a major need for some help for Winfield in the back end.
Enter Sydney Brown, the standout from an unusually loaded class of Fighting Illini players from the secondary. While Devon Witherspoon is projected to be one of the first corners taken, Brown and fellow cornerback Jartavius Martin are also highly sought after players.
Sydney Brown’s Collegiate Career
Over five years with the University of Illinois, Brown amassed 320 total tackles, with ten tackles for loss, two sacks, sixteen passes defensed, ten interceptions, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and three total touchdowns. His senior season was one of his most impressive with 60 tackles - 3.5 for loss - and six of his ten interceptions.
Brown, 5’10” and 200 lbs, was one of those players that popped off the screen when watching Illinois play. With a Troy Polamalu style nose for the ball, he would fly from all over the field against some of the best competition the BigTen has to offer.
Hailing from London, Ontario, Canada, Brown and his twin brother - Chase - grew up in a home where their father played briefly in the CFL. In order to try and facilitate their college athlete aspirations, Brown attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Florida where he was also a standout track star - something that would benefit him greatly on the football field.
Brown finished 2022 as a First-Team All-BigTen member coming off Illinois’ top rated scoring defense.
Pro Day and NFL Scouting Combine
While Brown was in attendance at Illinois’ pro day, he did not participate in any drills. He did, however, have a huge showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. Aside from the side bet he had with his brother on who would perform better, Brown had to come away more than pleased with his performance.
Finishing with a 4.47 40-yard dash, 40.5” vertical jump, 10’ 10” broad jump, and 23 reps on the bench press, Brown emerged as one of - if not, the - top defensive backs during the workouts. Brown’s athletic scores were off the charts - and some of the best ever recorded;
Sydney Brown is a SS prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.67 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 30 out of 868 SS from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/l3F2i0k88g #RAS pic.twitter.com/epJ9xQM2ar— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 15, 2023
What Brown Can Do For The Bucs In 2023
Sydney Brown, in a Todd Bowles system, is a plug-and-play starter from the moment he’s drafted. He is a solid compliment to Winfield Jr. and can play that ball hawk role vacated by Edwards. While Winfield would remain more of the versatile roamer that can play in the box, blitz, drop back deep, or man up in coverage, Brown would be a little more traditional out of the gate.
While Brown possesses the skills and ability to become the Swiss Army knife type of player that can do all the things Bowles asks of his safeties, Brown won’t really be that guy immediately. It’ll take a year or so of experience in the system to expand into that type of player. As a rookie, he will be a reliable last line of defense that can create takeaways and break up passes. and close in on ball carriers with extreme speed and quickness.
From flashes we’ve seen at Illinois and his raw athletic talent, Brown can become one of the most explosive safeties in the NFC. However, there is a hill to climb to get there. To say all these great things about Brown isn’t hyperbole - but that doesn’t mean there aren’t deficiencies. He’s had trouble with missed tackles and he’s far better in zone than he is in man coverage.
These are two relatively important factors that have to be improved for Brown to reach his full potential in the NFL. Otherwise, he would be in the discussion with Brian Branch for the first safety taken in the draft.
Alongside Winfield, he could be the Devin White to Winfield’s Lavonte David for the foreseeable future. While White makes some jaw-dropping plays, he also has his mistakes that leave you shaking your head at times. That’s what Brown will certainly bring in his rookie season but, again, cleaning up those two issues in his game, Brown can be a complete player with Pro Bowl potential.
Brown is generally viewed as a day two player, with some mocks taking him in the second while others have him falling to the third round with a small handful see him sneaking into the back end of the first.
The Philadelphia Eagles seem to be the team he’s mocked to most often in the second round - and they pick twelve spots behind the Bucs.
Do the Bucs reach at 50 to take someone ranked in the mid 60’s? That’s the risk of the draft - it’s not really a reach if it works out and while some see a player one way, franchises can see him another. I don’t think anyone would remember it being a “reach” if he starts every game for the next four years. And considering the major need for safeties and Brown’s enormous upside, this is a match that could be really beneficial for all parties involved.
On The Clock...
Let’s hear it Bucs fans. What do you think of Sydney Brown as a potential fit in Tampa Bay? Vote in the poll below and discuss in the comment section!
The Buccaneers Should Target Sydney Brown in the NFL Draft...
This poll is closed
As Projected (Late 2nd Round/Early 3rd)
Early (With Pick 50)
Late (3rd or 4th Round)
Never. He Shouldn’t Be On Their Board