Ever since future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed‘s play began to decline, the Baltimore Ravens have been missing an effective center fielder on the back end of the defense. They potentially filled that void with Florida State free safety Terrence Brooks in the third round of May’s draft.
Although Brooks lacks the ball-hawking prowess, among many intangibles, to likely ever sniff what Reed brought to the table, he has an impressive blend of speed, range, fluidity and physicality that projects him as a potential rookie starter. Training camp and the preseason will be crucial to his chances of becoming the immediate contributor, much less difference-maker, that the Ravens’ secondary needs.
Center field isn’t an easy position to play at a high level, or even a functional level, for a first-year player. As the last line of defense, simple mistakes can have dire consequences. Even before Brooks showcases his promising skill set, he must earn the Ravens’ trust by displaying the competency to honor his assignments. He must consistently be in the right place at the right time.
Once he’s done so, dispelling some of the negative notions about his game that were analyzed during the pre-draft evaluation process will be in order. There’s a reason, after all, that Brooks was still available after 78 picks despite the aforementioned combination of qualities that gives him a high ceiling as a future starter.
Built more like a cornerback than a safety, some clubs undoubtedly had concerns about Brooks’ durability. Like for every player, staying healthy is a requirement. Brooks was also labeled an inconsistent tackler and wasn’t the ballhawk scouts would have liked him to be in college. The reliability to make sure tackles in space and the acquirement of the necessary ball skills to produce game-changing plays would considerably bolster his candidacy to surface as a starter.
With starting experience, Darian Stewart will be stiff competition for Brooks, however. In six starts with the St. Louis Rams last season, Stewart registered 36 tackles, five defensed passes and one forced fumble, grading as Pro Football Focus’ 41st-most efficient safety. Needless to say, Brooks won’t be handed the role. He’ll have to earn it in camp and during the exhibitions.
At the very least, Brooks should provide the Ravens with a quality backup who excels on special teams as a rookie. But if he can do the things he did effectively at Florida State in addition to developing the aspects of his game that need work, he’s more than capable of becoming the starter in Baltimore, if not one of the league’s top free safeties.
Cody Strahm is an NFL Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.