49ers must be hyped about Ji'Ayir Brown's ascent entering Year 2

Expect big things from Ji'Ayir Brown in 2024.
San Francisco 49ers safety Ji'Ayir Brown (27)
San Francisco 49ers safety Ji'Ayir Brown (27) / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

If Ji'Ayir Brown makes a big leap from his rookie season to Year 2, the 49ers will be absolutely electrified.

One of the San Francisco 49ers' recent NFL Draft strategies of late is to select players who'll not necessarily contribute right away but will do so a year later.

This was probably the intent when the Niners used a third-round pick in the 2023 draft on former Penn State defensive back Ji'Ayir Brown, particularly because they already had a quality starting duo at safety with Tashaun Gipson and Talanoa Hufanga entering the year.

Yet the plan was tossed aside after 10 games when Hufanga suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the rest of the season, ultimately forcing the rookie into a starting role a bit earlier than San Francisco likely planned.

Brown didn't look back.

Starting the final five regular-season games, Brown notched an impressive 35 tackles, four passes broken up and two interceptions. He even managed to pick off quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the 49ers' overtime Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, which was a potential turning-point moment at the time.

The third-round draftee held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of just 78.4 when targeted.

Entering year two of his pro career, Brown now seems to be fully entrenched as a starter.

Given the trend of players making substantial leaps between their first and second years in the league, fans should be stoked about what Brown might have to offer in 2024.

Ji'Ayir Brown could make that next-level leap in 2024

"Most guys do make their biggest jump the next year," Niners defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks told Bay Area News Group's Cam Inman of Brown earlier this offseason.

If that's the case, Brown could be a major riser within San Francisco's secondary. His ascent might also help explain why the 49ers opted not to re-sign Gipson, who is still a free agent.

True, the 49ers' situation at safety is still a bit murky, as Hufanga is still recovering from that torn ACL, and rookie defensive back Malik Mustapha is aiming to take either Brown or Hufanga's job in year one.

Of those two, however, Brown is easily the safest.

An already loaded Niners defense should make Brown's life easier, too, particularly knowing the pass rush is elite, as is the team's linebacker corps. Even the cornerback crop is chock full of veterans and All-Pros like Charvarius Ward, all of whom aid Brown in one way or another.

But Brown has already displayed his merits up to and including San Francisco's appearance in the Super Bowl, leaving nothing to be desired.

Assuming second-year improvement, Brown should be much, much better in 2024.

And he was already good to begin with.

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