NFL: Super Bowl LVIII-San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers general manager shared a ton of praise about the rookie safety on Tuesday.

The San Francisco 49ers had an intriguing 2023 NFL Draft, as they begun selecting only in the third round, trading up to take Penn State safety Ji’Ayir Brown with their first pick.

Initially playing behind both Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson, Brown evolved into a starting role after the former suffered a torn ACL, which he grew into over the course of the season.

Ending the season with 35 tackles, four pass breakups, and two interceptions, things are on the up-trend for Brown, who will look to build off a successful rookie season in 2024.

Speaking at the 2024 NFL Combine, general manager John Lynch was effusive in his praise of Brown, pointing out the pre-draft scouting process as to how the 49ers ultimately landed on him.

“I was real proud of Ji’Ayir,” Lynch said about the rookie’s first season. “You talk about interviews, we were just talking about them earlier. He made a tremendous impression, not only on the tape but his interview was one that grabbed us.”

Now, it wasn’t an easy path for Brown, who came in as the headliner of a draft class, but didn’t earn early playing time as a defensive back.

However, that didn’t change anything in the safety’s preparation, who was seen as one of the first players out on the field back at training camp and became a contributor on special teams early.

“And I think when it’s unanimous and everyone’s got that feeling, Ji’Ayir’s a special human being, a special young man,” Lynch said about Brown. “But then he went and showed that, and nothing’s just given in our league. And Ji’Ayir didn’t pout early on when he wasn’t playing. He went and excelled at special teams.”

“We had two guys in Huf and Gip that were pretty good players. And what he did is sit back and never wasted a day lamenting the fact that he wasn’t starting. He picked their brain, he learned from them such that when he got his opportunity, he could shine. And that’s exactly what he did.”

Now, moving forward, the 49ers are excited to see what they can get out of Brown, not only via his ball production, but with his overall abilities.

“We’re really encouraged about Ji’Ayir moving forward,” Lynch said. “He had a pick in the Super Bowl, but it’s a lot more than just the picks. The guy’s a stud. And we’re fortunate to have him.”

With Tashaun Gipson’s future in the air, the 49ers have their replacement in Brown, who should earn a starting role in 2024 as one of the team’s top safeties.

While depth will be important, it seems as if the team is in good hands with youngsters Brown and Hufanga manning the backend of the secondary for the next few seasons.

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