While it has yet to be announced officially, the Jets are reportedly signing former Mississippi State safety Brandon Bryant after he had gone undrafted in the Supplemental Draft. We're going to take an in-depth look at what Bryant brings to the table.
The 22-year old Bryant is 5'11" and 207 pounds and started 25 games over the last three seasons with the Bulldogs. He racked up 157 tackles and five interceptions and was rated as a possible late round pick.
Bryant was a three-star safety prospect in high school where he also played quarterback. He was recruited to Mississippi State and became a starter in his freshman year where he had an immediate impact with 63 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions, three passes defensed and a forced fumble.
Over the next two seasons Bryant didn't live up to the promise he showed in his first season. Although he almost matched his production with 62 tackles as a sophomore, he had no sacks or forced fumbles and just two interceptions and four passes defensed over the two years. In his junior year, he started seven games but saw his playing time reduced as he was working within a three man rotation and had a career-low 32 tackles.
He was set to be a key player in the upcoming season, but was ruled academically ineligible and decided to enter the supplemental draft. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks referred to Bryant as one of the most explosive college football players over the past few years.
After having not been selected in the supplemental draft, Bryant reportedly agreed to sign for the Jets as a free agent.
Let's take a closer look at what Bryant brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study and divided into categories.
Bryant is regarded as a terrific athlete who was reportedly clocked at 4.24 for the 40-yard dash while in college. He showcased his speed with a 4.45 40-yard dash at his pro day earlier this month.
Bryant also had a 123" broad jump but his agility numbers were below average. He was apparently dealing with shin splints at the time though.
While Bryant opted not to do the bench press, he can apparently deadlift 600 pounds and squat 450.
In 2017, NFL.com's Chase Goodbread called Bryant the 10th most freakish athlete in college football in this article.
Bryant had a varied role at safety, sometimes playing deep, sometimes in the box and occasionally matching up in the slot.
(In the gifs included here Bryant is wearing either #1 or #20. Those clips where he was wearing #20 were from his freshman year.)
Bryant is probably at his best in a deep role where he can showcase his range and recovery speed. He's not quite as reliable in direct coverage, although he does flash some potential there:
Here's an example of where he can struggle in downfield coverage as he is fooled by a double move, leading to a long touchdown:
Bryant showcases some physicality on this big hit, although he risks getting called for a helmet-to-helmet hit if he comes in hot like this:
While some people have called him a hitter, perhaps based on this play, he's not altogether reckless and will usually break down and contain before he flies in for a big hit.
He could perhaps improve his physicality in the running game as there are times at which he'll get stuck on a block and washed out of plays.
While three of his five interceptions came in his first season, Bryant shows a good knack for reading and tracking the flight of the ball. Here's a nice one-handed interception, although it's possible he could have just made a routine two-handed grab on this one:
Bryant will come up into the box and contribute against the run. He generally seems to take decent angles but, as noted, he will get blocked out of plays at times.
He comes up into the box here to clean up on the runner before he can break out to the second level:
Bryant's numbers for tackle efficiency have not been great as he has missed a lot of tackles over the course of his college career. He made improvements in his senior year, although his reduction in missed tackles was partially attributable to a drop in playing time and came with a drop-off in his total tackles.
Here's a play where Leonard Fournette stiff-arms him to the ground and breaks out of his grasp for extra yardage:
Another issue is that he'll fly in low for a tackle sometimes. That leads to him being hurdled here:
Bryant only had 1.5 sacks in college, all in his freshman year. He didn't blitz very often though, although he does have good closing speed. Here's a successful blitz where he gets to the quarterback unblocked and creates a touchdown with a strip sack:
Many experts reacted to the Bryant signing by saying he should be able to help them on special teams, although he hasn't played much there over the last two seasons.
He did show some promise when used more in a special teams role as a freshman, contributing seven tackles in kick coverage. He also recovered this blocked punt:
Bryant's academic issues are a concern and he had a reputation for blown coverages while at Mississippi State.
An example of that is shown here, as Bryant is caught peeking into the backfield and lets his man get behind him for a big gain - although he did recover to make the tackle on an underthrown pass:
Bryant showed some improvements in terms of his consistency in his final year, perhaps responding well to being in a rotation. He makes a good read here to blow up this receiver screen:
In addition to the concerns over his academic ineligibility, Bryant also had some off-field issues during his college career, including a DUI arrest.
Bryant has said he became withdrawn, complacent and negative following the tragic death of his father in an accident, but later became a father and claims to have dedicated himself a lot more in his final season.
He is regarded as a player with good toughness and was a demonstrative and fiery competitor on the field. He only had one penalty in his three years with the Bulldogs, which came on special teams.
Bryant played in 38 of 39 possible games at Mississippi State, starting 25. The only one he missed was due to a head injury.
As noted, he was dealing with the shin splints at his pro day. While that's the kind of injury that can linger long-term, Bryant said that he picked it up while practicing his broad jump, so hopefully it won't be aggravated once he returns to his regular training program.
Bryant has been productive against the run and perhaps struggled more than a player with his athletic ability should have in downfield coverage. However, his most likely role with this Jets team as currently constituted would be in three-or-four safety sets, within which he could either range deep or come up into the box.
Bryant was regarded by many experts as a draftable talent, but the Jets were prepared to gamble on the opportunity to claim him without surrendering a pick.
While he has good potential, the Jets have plenty of talent at the safety position so Bryant will have to make an immediate impression to have a shot at getting on the final 53. If he can excel on special teams then perhaps that's his best chance.
The practice squad is another possibility for Bryant, but unless there are injuries in camp, he's going to face an uphill battle to jump ahead of players like Terrence Brooks, JJ Wilcox and Doug Middleton. Don't forget that Rontez Miles will be available about halfway through the season as well