49ers GM John Lynch Explains What Made Ji’ayir Brown a Trade-Up Target

San Francisco 49ers, Ji'Ayir Brown

Getty Future San Francisco 49ers safety Ji'Ayir Brown making a play for the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Why did the San Francisco 49ers trade up in the third round to select safety Ji’ayir Brown out of Penn State with the 87th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft? Was it because the team needed a safety? Or was he instead the head and shoulders best player available at that point in the round?

According to John Lynch in an interview with David Lombardi of The Athletic, it came down to one overarching opinion: Brown is a baller.

“He’s a baller,” Lynch said of Brown. “I think he’s got the components of what I think makes up a Niner. We had a consensus from coaches to scouts — it was all around the building. He really solidified that with his tape, but then he came here on a 30 visit and he’s just got this infectious personality. I know something has been made about him not running a real fast 40. Our R&D department has him at some of the fastest times amongst the safety stack, so I think he plays fast. He’s good up towards the ball. Ball production — 10 interceptions over the last couple of years.

“He’s just a really good football player. And then when you add the person, he’s a team captain, like (49ers defensive coordinator) Steve Wilks said, ‘That’s my dude right there.’ Everybody in the building wanted that guy.”

Can Brown carry his production from Penn State to San Francisco? Only time will tell, but in the opinion of his former defensive coordinator, Brown has all of the tools to make a successful transition.

PSU DC Thinks the San Francisco 49ers got a “Special Player”

Discussing his time coaching Brown at Penn State, Nittany Lions defensive coordinator and safeties coach Anthony Poindexter complimented his former player’s versatility, suggesting that he could be used all over a defensive front and secondary.

“You think about it, the kid had 4 1/2 sacks this year — this guy, he can do so many things,” Poindexter told Lombardi. “Like you said, he can play high, he’s got excellent range and that’s because of his excellent anticipation of where the quarterback is going with the ball. He can come down (and play in the box). He can play at that second level.

“When you insert that safety down into that linebacker area … you use him as that pass rusher on third down, he’s just effective. Somehow, the ball finds him, he finds the ball. I think he’s a special player that way.”

While the exact role Brown will be asked to play in 2023 isn’t entirely clear, as the 49ers brought back both of their 2022 starters, Tashaun Gipson and  Talanoa Hufunga, having a third safety who can play in the box, deployed deep, or even rushed off the edge as a pseudo linebacker gives Steve Wilks a ton of options to get the rookie on the field early and often.

Jiayir Brown Explains Winnie the Pooh-Inspired Nickname

Talking to reporters after being drafted by the 49ers with the 87th pick in the 2023 NFL draft, Brown was asked about his nickname, “Tig” and how he earned it.

“It started from Winnie the Pooh,” Brown said via 49ers Webzone. “When I was a baby I would always bounce around a lot. I wasn’t even a year old and I would bounce around on my mom’s lap a lot, so she started calling me Tigger the Tiger. As I got older it started to stick with me. I was just like, ‘you know what? Let’s chop a couple letters off, call me Tig.’ Everybody started calling me Tig and it has been like my real name, a substitute for my real name, since I was a baby.”

Will 49ers fans be cheering on Tig Brown this fall when he picks off a pass, makes a big hit, or sacks the quarterback coming off the edge? If so, it will certainly make his parent proud, as they’ve been using the moniker for over 20 years.

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