FanPost

Jonathon Brooks draft profile

Too Negative, Didn't Read

I had a crazy dream last night. At one point, I dreamed that the Steelers and Titans were facing each other in the playoffs. All of a sudden, the Steeler fans in the stadium erupted in applause, all cheering as a former RB for the Titans wearing his old jersey emerged from the tunnel. I'm wondering "Why are they cheering for this guy? He was a backup and played for the opponent, not for the Steelers. He didn't have much of a career. What's going on?" It is only as he clears the mass of people and goes onto the field that I see he isn't walking, he's in a wheelchair.

The more players I study in this year's draft, the less and less I like this draft. If we took out Brock Bowers, it is one of the weakest TE classes I've ever seen. This is one of the worst safety drafts I've ever seen. It is one of the worst running back drafts I've ever seen. I thought it was going to be an incredible QB draft, but so many QBs either stayed in school or flopped in 2023 that it turned out to be a much smaller QB group than expected. There is depth at CB and EDGE, but not many true top-tier guys at those positions. The best position group in the draft is WR. This is why in my draft simulations you often see me draft at least 2 WRs (sometimes more) for the Rams. Get what you can, when you can.

It is conceivable that not a single RB will be drafted in the first 2 rounds this year. Luke Easterling released a 3-round mock draft yesterday and the only RB taken in the first 2 rounds was Jonathon Brooks at pick 56, late in the 2nd round. Braelon Allen was a late 3rd rd pick at slot 91, while MarShawn Lloyd was a compensatory 3rd rd pick at slot 97. Those were the only RBs in that 3-round mock.

In a normal draft, there typically are several UDFA type RBs that I feel should have been drafted but fell through the cracks. If you can sign one of those guys after the draft, it is like getting an extra late round draft pick. This year not only is it very difficult to find a decent UDFA RB, but there are almost none worth considering for the Rams late in the 6th round. I don't think many of the RBs in this draft can even make a practice squad. I'd be tempted to make a list of guys who are street FAs or were on practice squads last year. If you signed one of those guys and put in a waiver claim after they got cut in preseason, you probably would have better luck at adding a backup RB than trying to draft a rookie late from the 2024 pool.

To illustrate what I mean, Maurice Jones-Drew, the former NFL RB and TV analyst, made a list of his top 36 RBs for the 2022 NFL draft. He made the list shortly before the actual draft. Look at some of the names ranked very low on his list. Rachaad White, the very last RB ranking 36th on MDJ's list, was a 3rd round pick by the Bucs. Isiah Pacheco was ranked 32nd. Keaontay Ingram, 35th, was a 6th round pick by the Cardinals and was on the PS for the Chiefs. Sincere McCormick, 30th, was a guy I liked as a potential 7th round pick. He was an UDFA and was on the PS for the Raiders last season. Snoop Conner, 28th, was a 5th round pick and on the PS for the Dallas Cowboys last season. Tyler Allgeier at 26th was a 5th round pick by the Atlanta Falcons who had over 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie. Jaylen Warren, 23rd, has been a breakout player for the Steelers with 5.1 career yards per attempt as a former UDFA.

None of those players made the top 22 of MJD's RB rankings for that draft. There were only 18 RBs drafted in the 2023 draft. There were 22 drafted in 2022. All of those RBs that I listed above were guys MJD essentially ranked as UDFA level prospects. Forget all the top 20 RBs from the 2022 draft, just take all of these "tier 4" RBs listed above and magically transport them into the 2024 draft. Imagine how much more interesting it would make the last couple of rounds.

I took a peek at Jonathon Brooks months ago, only watching highlights. I thought he was too small. After watching his highlights again, I decided to take a deep dive into his tape, thinking "maybe this guy is the next Aaron Jones." Jones was only a 5th round pick in 2017. He was considered to be too small and too slow to be a starter, plus he had a serious foot injury that cost him almost an entire year.

Instead of being impressed by Brooks, I found his tape to be very disappointing. My NFL comp for him is Keontay Ingram, the guy MJD ranked as only the 35th best RB in the 2022 draft. Think about that for a second, the RB that some experts and boards have ranked as the best RB in 2024 is a guy that I feel is nearly identical to a RB that MJD had as the 35th best guy in 2022. Makes it tough for me to get excited about this year's draft.

I'll have plenty of negative things to say about Brooks. If you have the patience to read all of it, thank you, I spent hours studying his plays so I appreciate it. Don't drown in the sea of negativity. If you pay close attention to his backstory, part of it is uplifting. Whether in the real world or in random dreams, not everything has to revolve around where you get drafted, how much money you make and whether you ever make a Pro Bowl. There are small blessings each and every day that we take for granted and tend to miss as we hurry through life.

Background

Name: Jonathon Brooks. Turns 21 years old in July of 2024. 3rd year redshirt sophomore.

School: Texas. Studied physical culture and sports.

Size: Listed 6 feet tall and 207 pounds. NFLDB has him at 6 feet tall, 202 pounds, 31 5/8'' arms, 75 1/2'' wingspan, 9 1/4'' hands, 4.45 sec (est 40 time), NFLDraftLounge 4.51 sec (est 40 time). Was listed at 199 pounds in 2021 and 202 pounds in 2022.

3- and 4-star recruit from Texas. He's from a very small town called Hallettsville, population of 2,731. Has an older brother. Listed at 185 pounds as recruit. RB and DB. Also played basketball. Considered to lack top-end speed as recruit. He also said that schools didn't recruit him, because they thought he was too small. The only power-conference schools who offered him scholarships were Texas Tech and Texas.

Easy going, personable, humble but also self-confident.

Redshirted in 2021, had limited playing time in 2021 and 2022, mostly mop-up duty. Texas had Bijan Robinson (8th overall selection 2023) and Roschon Johnson (4th rd 2023), so Brooks had to sit and wait for his turn. His RB coach at Texas was Tashard Choice, a good RB at Georgia Tech who was a 4th round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2008. I liked Choice when he was in the draft. He and Felix Jones were in the same draft class and played with Marion Barber for Dallas. Choice was released in the middle of the season that Dallas drafted DeMarco Murray.

During spring 2022 practices, Brooks's father unexpectedly died from a heart attack. Brooks has a tattoo on his right forearm as a tribute to his dad and after every TD he taps it with his left hand.

With Bijan and RoJo opting out of the 2022 bowl game, Brooks thought that he had his opportunity to shine and lay claim to the starting job for the 2023 season, but he only had 6 carries for 18 yards in the loss to Washington in the Alamo Bowl. The following day, he had bilateral hernia surgery. Coming off the surgery, he was limited in spring practices. He said that while he was out, he dedicated himself to studying defensive fronts and trying to learn more about the mental side of playing RB.

Texas brought in a 5-star true freshman RB recruit named CJ Baxter, the best RB recruit in the nation and a top 30 overall recruit. Baxter has a much stronger and thicker build than Brooks. Many people expected Brooks to be the starter and for Baxter to get eased into the rotation behind him but instead Baxter won the starting job in fall camp. Brooks said that he was mentally down after not winning the competition but also wanted to support his teammate.

Baxter injured his ribs in the very first game of the season. In the 2nd game of the season, Baxter suffered a foot injury. Late in the season, Baxter suffered a hip injury. I wasn't impressed by Baxter. He might have upside developmental potential, but as a true freshman he was inexperienced and raw. His terrible pass blocking was hazardous to the safety of the QB and he didn't show great instincts as a runner. He had 659 rushing yards with a 4.8 ypc average.

2023 (11 games, 3 starts) 187-1,139-10 rushing, 6.1 yards per carry, 25-286-1 receiving

Has 1 career fumble on 266 total touches from scrimmage, an excellent ball security rate.

Brooks intended to have a breakout 2023 season then jump to the NFL but tore the ACL in his right knee vs TCU in November of 2023. Many people expected the injury to cause him to stay in school for another year but instead he decided to declare for the draft. He said that he was scared that another injury might end his career before he ever got to the NFL. He said the ACL was the first major injury he had in his career and that initially he was scared that his career might be over.

NFLMDD consensus board 65th (late 2nd to early 3rd rd) 3rd RB

PFF 55th (late 2nd rd) top RB, 91.4 grade was 9th out of 441 players.

NFLDB 61st (late 2nd rd) top RB

TDN: Vision, acceleration, 3-down RB, zone or gap scheme, a one-cut RB, adequate pass protection. Lacks size and muscle. Day 2 prospect.

CBSSports 72nd (3rd rd)

Drafttek 71st (3rd rd) 3rd RB

Sam Teets 54th on big board (late 2nd to 3rd rd)

AJ Schulte mock draft 87th (3rd rd)

ESPN board 48th (2nd rd) top RB

Ian Cummings mock draft 58th (2nd rd)

BuffaloFambase 65th (late 2nd to 3rd rd)

Steve Shoup 56th (2nd rd)

Shane Hallam mock draft 58th (2nd rd)

Luke Easterling mock draft 56th (2nd rd)

Strengths

Young prospect, still 20 years old. Early entrant.

Only had 238 career rushing attempts in college. If it weren't for his ACL injury, would have little wear on the tires.

Very productive in his one season in the rotation. Only scratching the surface of his potential. Made the most of his chance when opportunity knocked.

Doesn't shy away from contact. Will charge upfield and take huge hits, like a boxer. Making a run block, RB wasn't scared to take on a bigger OLB. Might be skinny, but he's not timid.

Catches the ball pretty well with his hands, extended away from frame. Made a 1-handed catch in the flat.

Willing pass blocker, consistently reliable in effort. Steps up and sacrifices his body to take on blitzers. Stoned a slot CB blitz. Decent effectiveness relative to his size, uses his hands, doesn't resort to cut blocks, will stand tall and absorb big hits to stuff the blitz or knock them off course. Scans before and after the snap. Generally good awareness and knows his assignment vs blitz, blocking the proper defender.

Demonstrates the ability to switch the ball to proper hand in middle of play. Low career fumble rate.

When he was in HS, he made 1st-team All-State as a punter. In some situations, if the ball is near mid-field, a team will leave the offense on the field, forcing the defense to stay out there, then the QB from shotgun will punt the ball, trying to pin the opponent deep. You can't do this if your QB can't punt, but since Brooks apparently was good at punting in HS, you could have the QB and RB shift pre-snap and have Brooks punt the ball instead of the QB. I know it is a random skill to have a RB who can punt, but like a trick play with a RB who is good at throwing the ball, you never know when you might use it in a critical situation to gain an advantage. If it is late 4th quarter and you are concerned the opponent might sell out and block the punt, this is a way to avoid even needing to block for the punter. The opponent almost certainly won't know that the RB can punt, so they will get caught completely by surprise and not have anybody deep, the ball will just roll down the field in open space.

Heads-up awareness to recover fumble when snap went over QB's head and a fumble by WR. On pass to TE, RB followed up the play from behind. Willing to hustle to help the team.

Weaknesses

Most of his yardage was created by the OL. Texas also had a big TE blocking specialist, don't know his name, who was almost like a 6th OL. Very easy yardage for RB running through truck-sized holes. Consistently left yards on the field and didn't gain as much yardage as was blocked for him.

Inexperienced runner who needs to improve his football IQ for reading each run play and how the block design fits vs the defensive alignment and movement. If he sees a gap at the LOS, sometimes he'll abandon the structure of the play and run towards the opening, not understanding that there is an unblocked defender who will be there waiting for him and slam him hard in the hole. There is a reason the OL blocks are designed a certain way and he needs to trust it on gap and power runs, stay behind the puller instead of trying to freelance.

Duo run. Defense is in a 3x3 stacked front with a hang defender S lurking on the edge of the box, so effectively 7 defenders in the box. With the TE, there are 6 blockers. Very basic math, one of the defenders is unblocked in the play design and in this case it is the S. From the double team blocks, the offense can combo up to the 3 second-level defenders and take them out. The key double-team is by the RT and RG who absolutely destroy the DE, burying him badly into the turf, opening up a huge hole to the right side. The RB initially angles to the right but gets spooked when he sees the MLB. The first 2 steps by the RB when he gets the handoff from the QB are too fast and too long. He needs to synch-up his footwork with the timing of the block development, "Slow roll" those first 2 steps, then accelerate forward to and through the hole at the LOS. There's no reason for him to be scared of the MLB. If he just gives it a fraction of a second, the C will climb up and block that guy. Run with patience, then burst off the hip of the C and through the gigantic hole created by the RT and RG. Instead, RB tries to cut it back to the left. There is no way this is going to work, because the unblocked S is crashing down the LOS from that side of the formation and pre-snap the RB should know this when he sees the defensive formation. RB slams directly into the NT for minimal gain. That's a really bad play by the RB.

Very poor vision on some plays. Multiple times on zone runs he gets so spooked that he pauses and comes to a complete stop in the backfield. That should never happen to a RB on a zone run. Unable to find hole initially, but still got through it thanks to great OL blocking. MLB run blitz scares the RB and cause him to panic and stop his feet. No reason for the RB to stop, the C is assigned to pick up that blitz and as long as he's aware, RB needs to trust him to do his job and just keep going. By slowing down, RB gets tripped up at LOS for no gain. Outside zone run, clear cutback opportunity, RB just puts head down and plows directly into a pile. Pressed too deep on wide zone run, could have been a TFL vs DL slant if OL hadn't made such a good block. Missed obvious cutback on wide zone run vs DT creasing inside of G. Should have bounced run outside, but just plowed directly into the line. Duo run, blocking destroys the DL, RB should go into B-gap to the right but goes directly into congestion, wasting a nice block by the TE and the RT combo block vs LB. Hesitated and stopped on wide zone run despite having plenty of open cutback space. Too indecisive, becomes a sitting duck at the LOS when he doesn't mentally see the hole and can't figure out which gap he should be attacking, aimlessly probing for an opening.

Goal-line run, trying to punch it in from point-blank for a TD. Defense has basic GL defense with double fills for the A gaps, like something you'd see in a video game. All RB has to do is look at the formation pre-snap and know that the S isn't going to be blocked. When RB gets the handoff, he should be able to see the 2nd level defenders all charging towards the middle. If he just cuts into the B-gap instead of trying to run directly into the blitz, he'd walk into the end zone untouched, but RB just goes directly into the unblocked defender.

Doesn't make slight angle adjustments to slant away from 2nd and 3rd level defenders, resulting in him absorbing huge hits. You are going to get injured in the NFL running like that. If a RB can just move a little so that the defender only makes a glancing hit from the side and the RB can finish the run falling forward, not only will the RB gain more yardage, but the injury risk will be lower.

Too much of a straight-line runner. Poor lateral jump cut range and explosiveness. Wasted steps and movement making lateral cuts. Not explosive in a phone-booth. Really throttles down and loses enormous amount of speed when he tries to juke at 2nd level. Unable to stack moves fluidly and explosively, so even if he dodges the oncoming defender, a 2nd defender pursuing him from behind can tackle him. One such play, should have been a long TD run, but RB ruins it by not being able to cut without slowing down, so the S from behind tackles him. Virtually zero immediate jump-cut ability to erase TFLs in the backfield after he gets the handoff. Had plenty of time to dodge TFL vs penetrating DE, but just ate the ball and this nearly caused a very serious injury to Ja'Tavion Sanders the TE when RB crashes into the back of TE's legs, could have torn up his knee or broken his leg, a collision that never would have happened if RB had made a move on the DE and gone to the outside. Very basic cut at 3rd level would have beaten S, but runs directly into the S, and heavy shoulder pad hit by S goes directly into the thigh pad of the RB.

Terrible in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Very slightly built, limited leg drive, poor running power through contact. Repeatedly came up short in short-yardage or barely made the marker. Can't drive a pile forward. Hesitant on some short yardage runs.

Inefficient footwork right when he gets the handoff results in lack of downhill momentum in the hole to break arm tackles and tackles on his legs, ruining what should have been longer runs.

Not only does poor footwork cause him to get tackled and not gain as much yardage, but it puts RB's body in very vulnerable positions when the S comes downhill in support at a high rate of speed. There were 2 plays in his games that made me gasp, because the safety's helmet nearly slammed directly into the RB's knee, which could have caused a catastrophic and potentially career-ending injury. Part of the reason a RB needs to be the hammer and not the nail is purely out of self-preservation and to avoid getting hurt. If you let the DL grab your legs and trip you up so suddenly you are a sitting duck where the S slams directly into you full-force, really bad things can happen to your body. Stay on your feet better, use your shoulder pads to protect the rest of your body and don't take those huge hits into your legs. What scares me is that his ACL injury might not just be a fluke event. I'm concerned that if he doesn't work on his technique he could suffer another major injury relatively early in his NFL career.

Poor short area burst, not able to speed away from unblocked defenders chasing him down behind the LOS from the backside. No speed in the open field, can get easily run down from behind.

Doesn't use his off-arm to ward off defenders as he goes through the hole. This drove me crazy. Repeatedly, there'd be a nice hole, RB is going through it, but a DL would grab him and either turn him or slow him down. Seemingly every single time he was in that situation it happened, he never got through cleanly. This resulted in him being unable to accelerate and hit the 2nd level with speed, making him much easier to tackle for the defenders coming up in run support. Occasionally, RB gets tackled right at LOS and can't even escape, like when there was a huge hole outside of LT, S comes up in support, 1 vs 1 on RB, the RB misses his stiff arm and gets stuffed for only a 1-yard gain. RB either doesn't use his other hand to push away the defender or has poor hand-eye coordination and instead of knocking down the hand or arm of the defender he tries to hit them in the chest and isn't effective.

Gap run, the TE and RG pull. RB's footwork is poor, he's not approaching the POA at the proper angle to run between the pull blockers, like a slalom skier who nearly misses the gate. Mikaela Shiffrin would crush his time on the mountain. RB tries to angle around the TE, but now he's too close to the LB being blocked by the G. RB needs to push the LB's arm down, but goes for LB's chest, this slows RB through the hole and the S in pursuit tackles him, wasting a fantastic wide-open lane the RB should have been able to explode through for a much longer run.

Not sudden running routes, rounded off break, very limited route tree. Don't know if he can catch anything other than RB screens, flares and basic throws to the flat. Needs to release out of the backfield faster once he determines he's not needed for pass blocking.

RPO scheme meant that many plays the RB didn't have any pass blocking duties. Useless on chip blocks, often completely whiffs or barely makes any contact. I don't think this is purely technique, just as his hips are tight to jump cut as a runner, I don't think he can redirect his body to reliably make solid contact with the EDGE defender, which is why he tends to miss. Too light and lacks size, so vs fast blitzers, he's just a bowling pin, they run him over and he goes flying backwards.

Not convincing or detailed carrying out play action fakes. Inexperienced in small details. Long 3rd down, trying to set up a RB screen pass, but DT is in the way. The RB should move to the left of the OL blocking the DT to give the QB a better target. The RB stays in the middle, too close to the DT, QB appears to try to throw the ball away over the head of the RB and pass gets intercepted, instead of Texas being up by 2 TDs in 4th quarter, suddenly the opponent is set up for an easy TD and jumps right back into the game. On the very next drive, RB fumbles the ball, leading to another TD and just like that the game is tied, that 2 TD lead quickly completely evaporated.

Not a good RB to use in a 4-minute offense to run down the clock. Lacks size to power for tough yardage vs stacked boxes. Smallish back lacking strength, so I don't trust him to be able to hold onto the ball in a crowd if the defenders are holding him up and bunching or ripping at the ball.

Ball security technique not as good as him fumble stats. The ball could be tucked tighter to his chest and he could do a better job covering it with his other hand. I feel that it is just a small sample size and if he had more career rushing attempts at Texas he would have had more fumbles.

In his mind he thinks he's a great RB, not seeming to realize that he benefits from outstanding blocking up front, doesn't talking about his OL more and give them enough credit.

Coming off a serious knee injury.

I 100% understand his decision to jump to the NFL. Since so few RBs get drafted in the 1st round, if Brooks gets taken in the 2nd round, his draft stock essentially was maxed out, he couldn't have improved it by returning to Texas. So, why not cash in immediately instead of risking getting hurt in college. My fear is that just as CJ Baxter beat him out in 2023, Brooks could get stuck on the bench, behind other RBs on his NFL team on the depth chart. Without regular playing time, how is he going to improve and get better? Instead of developing, he could stall and never reach his full potential. If he had stayed in college, he presumably would get starter reps and could fine-tune his skills with more game experience, be more NFL ready in 2025. There were both risks and benefits associated with staying in college. Zach Evans for the Rams had a redshirt season in 2023, barely seeing the field at all. If that happened to Brooks, I'd be concerned that it would stunt his growth.

Draft Grade and Pro Comp

6th round grade. (Keaontay Ingram, 6th round 2022, Arizona Cardinals, USC)

The 2 players are eerily similar. Ingram played at Texas for 3 seasons, then transferred to USC for one year. In only 10 games (7 starts) in 2021, he had 911 rushing yards for USC with a 5.8 YPC average. He was just under 6 feet tall, 221 pounds and ran 4.53 seconds in the 40.

Ingram spent one and a half seasons with the Cardinals before being waived. The Chiefs added him to their PS. During his time with Arizona, Ingram had 62 carries for 134 yards and a TD, for a rushing average of 2.2 yards per carry. Seriously, 2.2 yards. That's his actual stats.

Last year, I wrote about a RB named Emari Demercado who was a backup at TCU, an UDFA in 2023. Demercado was a "draft nobody" either not even listed on boards or so low he was a "try-out" level prospect. I said he was underrated and could be a backup in the NFL. Demercado is small and not particularly fast, but his emergence was part of the reason Arizona waived Ingram. As a rookie, Demercado had 4.9 yards per carry. For sure, Demercado isn't the next Eric Dickerson. Still, at least he's not averaging 2.2 yards per carry.

There is very little that I like about Jonathon Brooks. I'm not sure he can make it, even as a backup in the NFL. What I like about him is he at least tries to pass block, an important skill in the pros. He can at least catch the ball some, so he's not useless in the passing game. He rarely fumbled and with more attention to detail in his technique maybe he'd have good ball security in the pros. Other than that, I don't like the rest of his game. He has poor vision and can't find the hole reliably. He lacks explosive initial burst, isn't quick at the 2nd level and isn't fast in the open field, so he's "slow" by NFL standards at every stage of the run. He's not big and powerful. He's not elusive or tough to tackle.

Brooks wasn't even technically the starting RB for Texas in 2023. He was supposed to be the 2nd string guy (behind a true freshman who wasn't that great himself this year) and only got so much playing time due to the starting RB getting injured very early in the season. He broke some long runs this year, but most of that was just due to very good blocking up front, not because the RB did anything spectacular.

I don't understand why all the draft experts like this player. In a different year, I would have given Brooks an UDFA grade. He'd be tied with Keaontay Ingram in 2022. If we went off of MJD's list, Brooks might have been about the 35th best RB in that draft class. All these experts want to draft Brooks in the 2nd round? What are we doing? Have they actually watched this guy's tape and studied it? Or are we just watching highlights? Come on, people. Am I the only sane person left in the world?