How does Seahawks top pick Jordyn Brooks compare to other rookie LBs?
If there was any sort of bright spot in the Seahawks’ shocking 17-12 loss to the New York Giants in Week 13, it was the play of the defense, which has seemingly turned a corner over the last four games.
One player who really stood out on that side of the ball is rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who the Seahawks took in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Texas Tech. Against the Giants, Brooks tied for the Seahawks’ lead in tackles with 11. He also recorded a tackle for loss and played a career-high 43 snaps, which was 77% of Seattle’s defensive plays.
When the Seahawks selected Brooks with the 27th overall pick last April, it was a bit of a surprise for a few reasons.
The first was that the Seahawks’ most obvious needs at the time were on the offensive and defensive lines. With Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cody Barton and Bruce Irvin all under contract for 2020, linebacker was far from people’s minds when it came to which position Seattle would add to with its top pick.
The other reason was because Brooks, who was the third linebacker selected in the draft, wasn’t expected to be a first-round pick according to most draft experts and analysts. Brooks went one pick before the Baltimore Ravens took LSU’s Patrick Queen. Just a little earlier, the Los Angeles Chargers took Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray 23rd overall. The Arizona Cardinals also drafted Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons eighth overall.
Naturally, those four first-round linebackers will be forever linked as it’s debated who was the best pick in that draft. So far, the four linebackers have produced pretty different results for their rookie campaigns. Let’s take a look at how Brooks’ first NFL season compares to Simmons, Murray and Queen.
Brooks played less than 10% of defensive snaps during the Seahawks’ first two games, and when he was put into the starting lineup in Week 3 following a season-ending injury to Irvin, he hurt his knee and missed two games. Since returning in Week 7, though, his usage and production have gone up.
Overall, Brooks has appeared in 10 games, and while he’s started just three of them, he’s been the No. 3 linebacker alongside Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. It’s worth noting hat the Seahawks are often starting games in nickel packages, so Brooks hasn’t technically been a starter in five of the last eight games even though he kind of has been.
In those 10 games, Brooks has tallied 38 tackles, one tackle for loss and two pass breakups. So far this year, he’s played 28% of all of Seattle’s defensive snaps, though it’s important to remember he barely played in Weeks 1 and 2, was knocked out early in Week 3 and missed Weeks 4 and 5. Since then, he typically played anywhere from 30 to 51% of snaps aside from Week 13, when he played a career-high 77% against the Giants.
Simmons has a stat line pretty similar to Brooks, but has more “splash plays.” He has five starts in 12 games and has 40 tackles, four tackles for loss and three QB hits. But, as mentioned, he has more big plays with two sacks and an interception. Like Brooks, Simmons has two pass breakups and has played 28% of Arizona’s snaps, but his usage has been all over the map, playing anywhere from 9% of snaps to 68%. But most of the time, he’s playing about 30%.
While Brooks and Simmons have had inconsistent success and playing time, Murray and Queen have been pretty steady as rookies.
Murray has started all 12 games for the Chargers and leads his team (and the four first-round linebackers) in tackles with 81. He also has one sack, three pass breakups and four tackles for loss. He’s played 90% of the Chargers’ snaps so far.
Queen, who’s played one less game than Murray as the Ravens will play Tuesday night due to COVID postponements, has been arguably the most flashy of these four rookies, totaling 79 tackles, two sacks, five tackles for loss, two forced fumbles two fumble recoveries, six QB hits and a defensive touchdown. He’s played 82% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps.
What to make of those numbers?
At a glance, it would seem like Brooks has been the least productive of the four first-round linebackers in 2020 as he’s tied with Simmons for snap percentage played and Simmons has two sacks and an interception. But context is so, so important in this case.
Yes, Brooks has less tackles than the other three, but he really hasn’t been afforded that much opportunity – at least not yet.
Queen and Murray are starters who rarely are off the field and have started since Week 1. If Irvin hadn’t gotten hurt in Week 2, who knows how much Brooks would have played by now? Plus, Brooks has made the most of his opportunities, as evidenced by the Giants game.
In his third game with 50% or more defensive snaps, Brooks showed why the Seahawks drafted him over Queen, who is about 10 to 15 pounds lighter than the 6-foot, 240-pound Brooks – he can also absolutely move and fly to the ball. That speed and strength was on full display against the Giants.
Brooks ran past and through blockers to get 11 tackles, and on Wayne Gallman Jr.’s 60-yard run, Brooks flew down the field past his teammates to make the tackle in the red zone.
— NFL (@NFL) December 6, 2020
Not many linebackers, especially at Brooks’ size, would be able to run down someone like that. It was a like a far less flashy version of DK Metcalf’s rundown of Budda Baker in Week 7.
He’s also never shown he’s a liability in coverage, which was a pre-draft knock on him as he wasn’t asked to do that much in college. He can play in space and run with almost any receiver, tight end or running back, and he’s getting more and more comfortable in coverage.
In games where Brooks plays more than half of the Seahawks’ defensive snaps, he has tackle totals of six, seven and 11.
Sum it up
Through this very early point of their careers, it’s easy to say yeah, Murray was the right call for the Chargers at 23rd overall and the Seahawks may have been better off taking Queen instead of Brooks. But Brooks’ size-speed mix fits perfectly with how the Seahawks want to play defense as he can run and hit, which is something they’ve been missing the last two or three years.
It’s unlikely Brooks catches Queen or Murray in production this year, but numbers aren’t everything. He’s showing why the Seahawks took him 27th overall and why he fits in this defense. And he’s only improving.
The more games and snaps Brooks makes, the more he’s going to flash on the screen. Perhaps this Week 13 game against the Giants is a big stepping stone for Brooks as he wraps up his rookie campaign with a bang.
More on Brooks: Rookie LB making a mess for Seahawks, which they need