But even before the Rapp signing, one safety with similar traits to Rapp — who also played in the Power 5 conference realm and comes equipped with 4.47 speed in the 40-yard dash — was called a fit by Chad Reuter of nfl.com. This fast safety additionally played for past NFC champion head coach Lovie Smith.
Reuter believed on Friday, March 24 that Sydney Brown of Illinois is worth taking at No. 77 overall for the Rams — which is also the selection made possible via the New England Patriots and also through the Miami Dolphins following the Jalen Ramsey trade. With both Rapp and fellow leading safety from 2022 Nick Scott both gone (Scott signed with the Cincinnati Bengals), Brown’s prospects of entering the “Rams House” plus the Rams’ prospects of going after safety help just increased.
Brown is Seasoned Safety With Lengthy Time With Fighting Illini
Brown began his college career in Champaign, Illinois during a time Rapp was nearing the closure of his CFB time at Washington.
Right away, Brown — one of Smith’s final recruits — became a steady tackler and one who played in more than six games every season with the Fighting Illini.
Brown’s first campaign of 2018 saw 55 total tackles with 25 solo stops and two tackles for a loss. He added five pass deflections. The production skyrocketed from there in 2019: 88 tackles, 51 solo, 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and three interceptions as Illinois went on to the RedBox Bowl.
For the next three seasons, Brown’s tackle mark was between 36 to 81. He also delivered either 20 to 50 solo stops during the timeframe of 2020 to 2022 per Sports Reference.
However, last season saw Brown at his best as a ball-hawk…snatching six interceptions for a new career-high. He ended up an All-Conference First Team selection in the Big 10 and additionally established himself as a force on the conference’s top scoring defense.
Lastly, Brown remained in Illinois during a time the university parted ways with his first college coach Smith and transitioned over to Bret Bielema.
Breakdown: He’s a Hair-on-Fire Safety
It’s one thing to be equipped with speed which could win over defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and general manager Les Snead. But Brown gives off the notion he’s a defender who plays with his hair on fire. Another words, he’s out to run around and wreck everything in his vicinity.
For starters, he can convince his future defense to blitz him as he’s capable of doing this to a blocking back:
He’s already got a compact frame to him and should have no problem bringing physicality to the league. After all, his competition was Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and opponents from a conference known to play a rugged brand of football. And Brown did most of his damage stepping close to the line of scrimmage. With Rapp out, the Rams will need that box safety type.
However, the very first play of his highlight film shows Brown playing up to his receiver then sticking with him the whole time, leading to the leaping interception — which shows he can play man when needed. His second play shows what happens when he leads with his shoulder: Destruction and the ball coming out.
His areas of improvement will have to be his change-of-direction speed when in space, as receivers often caught him off guard there. And, because he’s an aggressive defender, he fell into a habit of missing tackles as he’s more of a shoulder burier than wrap-and-roll type. With receivers and ball carriers being faster in the NFL he’ll have to prove he’s more than a downhill hitter and can be a consistent trusted tackler, especially on angle pursuits.
But overall, Brown could be worth the look for a team now in need of safety depth following Rapp’s departure.