Ji'Ayir Brown reveals riveting story about how 49ers drafted him
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers traded up for Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown in the 2023 NFL Draft, and Brown recently described how it all went down in a whirlwind.
There were a number of players who repeatedly showed up on mocks for the San Francisco 49ers in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
One of those was former Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown.
It made sense. The Niners bade farewell to their longest-tenured player earlier that offseason, Jimmie Ward. And while they still have a veteran free safety in Tashaun Gipson under contract, he's on the wrong side of 30 years old and is inked only through the upcoming season.
Hence why Brown became such a target, not just because he's penciled in as a long-term replacement for both Ward and Gipson, but like Ward, Brown has the flexibility and versatility to play all over the secondary at a number of spots.
And, like many a mock suggested, San Francisco drafted Brown.
Yet the 49ers didn't just draft Brown with one of their original picks in the third round, Nos. 99, 101 and 102.
No, general manager John Lynch wasn't convinced Brown would last that long and decided a trade-up with the Minnesota Vikings should be in play. Trading off the No. 102 overall pick and a couple of day-three selections, Lynch and the Niners got their guy.
And Brown couldn't be happier.
Ji'Ayir Brown when he found out 49ers were drafting him: 'That's crazy'
The NFL Draft is chock full of analysis and overanalysis, but the overlooked reality is that 260-some prospects are having a dream come true, and the emotions themselves are hard to ignore.
Brown's draft-reaction video is pretty cool:
A few weeks after the reality of being drafted by the 49ers settled in, the team's media group caught up with Brown just after rookie minicamp and asked him to detail his experience.
Not surprisingly, Brown was still elated.
"I haven't stopped smiling," Brown told the team's website. "It's been an amazing past two weeks. I'm still in this crazy moment. I was smiling all day on the field today (Friday) during the walkthrough."
Of course, 49ers.com wanted to know what it was like being the target of a trade-up. It all happened so fast that Brown couldn't totally grasp it, especially with how loud it was in the room with friends and family:
"I got the call before they traded up. They told me they were trading up, and then it was happening simultaneously. They said it was happening, and I'm like, "That's crazy." Everybody was screaming around me, so I couldn't even really hear the coach on the phone."
Read More: 49ers hope Ji'Ayir Brown can be next defensive centerpiece
Brown also talked about his now-budding relationship with Niners defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, describing their conversations as "almost like a father-son talk."
San Francisco likely works Brown in as a reserve for his rookie year, a player who can back up both safety spots and nickel cornerback, not unlike what Ward did when he wasn't starting at free safety.
Eventually, though, it appears as if Brown will wind up being a starting free safety for the long run.
If he's as good as he is excited to join the 49ers, it'll be a maturation process worth watching.