The NFL Scouting Combine ended on Monday, and for the second year in a row, four Illinois players got the chance to interview with and play in front of NFL front offices.
Sydney Brown recorded the fourth-fastest 40-yard time by all safeties in 2023. Brown also recorded a massive 10’ 10” broad jump and a 40.5” vertical, good for second and third for all safeties.
Brown also had the second-best bench press in Illinois DB history, falling short of Vontae Davis’ by only two. Brown's 23 reps placed him second of all safeties in 2023.
Although Brown is an undersized safety, his record alone makes him an intriguing prospect for any NFL team. Brown led all players in 2022 with six interceptions and was a menace on the field with high football IQ and the ability to handle himself against bigger players.
Chase Brown showed he is one of the best running back prospects in the 2023 class. Chase Brown led all running backs with an impressively clean 10’ 7” broad jump and 40” vertical and placed fifth in the 40-yard-dash, .03 seconds ahead of Texas’ Bijan Robinson. Brown also led all running backs with 25 reps at the bench press, adding to his impressive on-field resume.
Robinson is an early first-round pick, and Chase just showed teams that he should not be overlooked at the draft in a short eight weeks in Kansas City. Brown’s combine results should see him moving up the board.
44" by @JartaviusM_— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) March 4, 2023
The best vertical by an Illini in Combine history
Tied the all-time vertical jump record by a safety at the Combine. #Illini // #HTTO // #famILLy // #NFLCombine pic.twitter.com/lho8gjjU2b
Of all Illinois players at the combine, Jartavius “Quan” Martin excelled the most. Martin was the third-quickest safety but led all players in the vertical and had the seventh-best broad jump.
Quan played third fiddle to Sydney Brown and Devon Witherspoon after taking over for Detroit Lions emerging star Kerby Joseph in 2022. Although quiet on the stat sheet, Martin was one of the best slot defenders in the nation, with 14 passes defended on the year.
NFL teams will definitely have Martin on their radar in eight weeks if they haven't already. Martin played as corner, safety, and nickel at Illinois, giving NFL teams the flexibility to slot him where needed as a rookie prospect.
Illinois has had success in the cornerback/safety market in the NFL as of late. The Raiders drafted CB Nate Hobbs in 2021 and he had instant success. Tony Adams went undrafted in 2022 but made the Jets' 53-man roster last season. Sydney Brown and Martin will have the chance at a roster this draft, but there is one more Illinois prospect that NFL teams are drooling over.
Edit: How could I forget the 97th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and Aaron Rodgers’ most feared safety Kerby Joseph.
remember that time Illini great Kerby Joseph picked off the last pass of Aaron Rodgers’ Packers career?— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) January 9, 2023
Aaron Rodgers favorite target might be Kerby Joseph— PFF (@PFF) January 9, 2023
Witherspoon has been pegged to go early in the first round, even as high as a top-10 pick. Witherspoon, unfortunately, had a hamstring injury and will have a chance to show his skills during Illinois pro-day this Friday, March 10.