INDIANAPOLIS – Being the right fit for whatever the situation is critical.
Think of the round-peg-in-a-round-hole principle.
And think of JuJu Brents. A member of the Indianapolis Colts’ 2023 draft class is a prime example, times three:
- A Warren Central H.S. product being selected by his hometown team.
- A cornerback bolstering a position room that was perilously thin prior to the draft because of offseason departures.
- That cornerback possessing the physical traits – an aggressive 6-3, 198-pounder and one of the top-graded players at his position in the history of the NFL Scouting Combine – and being considered ideal for coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme.
“He’s an athletic, long corner,’’ general manager Chris Ballard said after the draft. “Kind of fits our profile.’’
Brents found out he was being drafted by his hometown team when Ballard dialed him up as the Colts were on the clock in round 2 with the 44th overall selection. They had traded back twice – from No. 35 to No. 38 in a trade with the Raiders, then from No. 38 to No. 44 in a deal with the Atlanta Falcons – before igniting a celebration involving Brents and family/friends at Birdies in Westfield.
That was the first phase of the “fit’’ equation.
“It’s crazy,’’ Brents said during the recent rookie minicamp. “Just circling back to being a young child, loving the Colts. My favorite player growing up was Bob Sanders. Just watching Peyton Manning, the greats, all those guys, and now to be able to wear the horseshoe on my helmet.
“It’s kind of surreal.’’
When he first pulled on his No. 29 jersey, Brents made it a point to snap a picture and send it to his mom.
“It’s real now,’’ he said. “It’s a blessing being in my hometown. Definitely have my family nearby; be able to come to some games. Not too many games, though, it’s going to be expensive.’’
Brents should be in position to defray the costs. As the No. 44 overall selection, he’s projected to receive a four-year contract worth roughly $8.4 million with a $1.017 million signing bonus.
And it’s not hyperbole to consider Brents being introduced with the starting defense in the September opener.
“One hundred percent, man, just compete,’’ he said. “Just compete 100% with everything I do, on and off the field, learn from the guys that are already here . . . Kenny Moore, Julian Blackmon, all those guys.
“You just want to take it one day at a time, come in and have the mentality of continuing to keep getting better. Know that it’s a foreign environment for me, just coming into the league.’’
Then he quickly added, “I’m here for a reason.’’
Brents also is familiar with Bradley’s track record as a coordinator, especially with the Seattle Seahawks and their Legion of Boom that featured bigger, physical defensive backs: corners Richard Sherman (6-3) and Brandon Browner (6-4) and safety Kam Chancellor (6-3).
“I love it,’’ Brents said. “The type of defense (Seattle) had, having those longer guys outside, being able to get hands on receivers, and then being able to switch it up, having zone . . . making plays on the ball.
“I feel like it definitely suits the type of player I am. I love it.’’
Reinforcing the cornerbacks room was among Ballard’s pre-draft priorities. He had traded one of the the Colts’ best defensive players – corner Stephon Gilmore – to the Dallas Cowboys and free agent Brandon Facyson signed with the Raiders.
That left Kenny Moore II and Isaiah Rodgers as the top returning corners, and Moore has excelled in a nickel role.
One of the outside spots is wide open. Brents will be given every opportunity to secure a starting role, even though he’s still recovering from wrist surgery that likely will keep him off the practice field until training camp.
“There are not a lot of guys 6-3 playing corner in the league, but he is really a good athlete,’’ Ballard said. “He’s really a good fit for what we want to do because he’s a press corner. We want to play a little more press coverage.
“We think he’s going to be really good at it. He’s got some unique traits. He’s a really good athlete and for a tall kid, he can really change direction. We think he’s a good fit for the defense.’’
Brents was one of the workout stars at the Combine and earned a 9.9 Relative Athletic Score (RAS), which merges the various tests at the annual event. He topped cornerbacks in the three-cone (6.63), broad jump (11 feet, 6 inches) and 20-yard shuttle (4.05), and was second with a 41½-inch vertical.
The one drawback: a 4.53 in the 40, which ranked 22nd. The Colts believe Brents’ 6-3 size and wingspan will help compensate for whatever he lacks in speed.
“When you’re 6-3, there’s a difference,’’ Ballard said. “It gives you an advantage down the field because you’re not throwing over a 5-9, 5-10 guy. You’re throwing over a 6-3 guy. That looks different to a quarterback.’’
Brents was the first of three corners with length taken in the draft. Darius Rush was selected in round 5 and Jaylon Jones in round 7. Each is 6-2.
It’s worth noting Moore is 5-9 and Rodgers 5-10. Dallis Flowers, who saw extensive action as a rookie in the final four games last season, is 6-1. Tony Brown is 6-0.
“We wanted to add competition to that position which I think we were able to do,’’ Ballard said. “The room is going to look a little different with these guys added.’’