2021 NFL draft prospects: Michigan State CB Shakur Brown

Eric Edholm
·4 min read
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Michigan State CB Shakur Brown

5-foot-11, 190 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.80 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Banty rooster with terrific ball skills whose hyper-competitive style can work for him — or against him

Games watched: Rutgers (2020), Indiana (2020), Northwestern (2020), Ohio State (2020)

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit, Brown redshirted in 2017 and saw action in 12 games (one start), notching a pick six and six tackles. As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, Brown made 23 tackles, two sacks, one interception and five passes defended in seven games but had his season cut short because of an undisclosed injury he suffered during the season. In 2020, the redshirt junior picked off five passes, second-most in college football despite playing only seven games. He earned first-team all-Big Ten mention, also breaking up four passes and making 25 tackles.

Upside: Feisty and competitive. Agitator who likes to get under receivers’ skin — see the Ohio State game when he was egging on Chris Olave and other wideouts. Won’t ever back down from a challenge. Incredible confidence. Often asked to cover opponents’ WR1 — takes on all shapes, sizes and styles.

Ballhawk — seven career INTs in 26 games. Returned those picks for 186 yards, including a pick six in 2018 and one that was called back in 2020. Cat-quick reflexes to close fast. Aggressive and fearless — crosses receivers’ faces to make plays on the ball. Natural football instincts that can’t be taught.

Plays the ball like a wide receiver — attacks it with a “my ball” attitude when it’s coming anywhere in his zip code. Runs the routes for the receiver. Made some circus picks in 2020, such as his fantastic grab to seal an upset against Northwestern. Tracks the ball extremely well in the air.

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 23: Michigan State Spartans cornerback Shakur Brown (29) in action during the college football game between the Michigan State Spartans and Rutgers Scarlet Knights on November 23, 2019 at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, NJ (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
There's plenty to like about Michigan State cornerback Shakur Brown. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Inside-outside versatility — has played nickel and outside CB spots with equal effectiveness. Wasn’t asked to blitz much but showed some exciting potential to be great at it (two sacks in 2019, near safety vs. Tulsa).

Underrated strength. Holds up well despite a small frame and is perfectly comfortable playing a physical brand of ball. Will crash down hard in run support. Can play press-bail technique effectively. Routinely faced off against receivers 3-4 inches and 20-30 pounds bigger.

Downside: Inexperienced — 26 career games but only 12 starts. Only a year’s worth of starting experience. Missed a big chunk of sophomore season with injuries — needs clarity in his medical evaluations. Plays with some disregard for his body — durability concerns exist in the NFL scouting community.

Small frame with limited growth potential — likely always will be giving up size and/or speed in his matchups. Straight-line speed might be a bit capped — lacks that extra gear. Was beaten deep a few times (see 2020 Indiana game). Will take the cheese in zone defense — falls for double moves, will lock in on play-action fakes and can be manipulated by talented quarterbacks’ eyes.

Overaggressive and physical — flagged 10 times over the past two seasons, including multiple unsportsmanlike conduct calls and personal fouls. Tackling efficiency needs to improve — lots of wild attempts in 2020 that led to missed tackles.

Can easily lose his cool on the field. Needs to know when to reel it in. Could get in certain coaches’ doghouse for undisciplined moments. Character must be vetted.

Best-suited destination: We can envision Brown playing either inside or outside, and in zone- and man-heavy schemes. His best impact might come as a slot corner in a predominantly man-coverage system where his quickness and risk-taking skills can best be put to use. A perfect addition for a defense that also could use a few dashes of spice and vinegar.

Did you know: Brown was a big-play specialist in high school, too. As a senior, he logged a 95-yard INT return for a touchdown, an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 65-yard TD catch.

Player comp: Remember Cortland Finnegan? That’s who Brown most reminds us of — tough, undersized, feisty and impactful. For a more recent comp, Brown also has some Bradley Roby in his game.

Expected draft range: Rounds 2 or 3