This is the seventh in our series of articles taking a deeper dive using data and game with the use of data and game film into the Giants' 2020 draft class. We have already studied Andrew Thomas, Xavier McKinney, Matt Peart, Shane Lemieux, Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin. Here is a look at seventh round pick TJ Brunson, linebacker out of South Carolina.
Brunson was not invited to the NFL Combine. At the Senior Bowl, he measured 6-0 and 219 pounds, which is considered on the smaller side for a linebacker. At South Carolina, his listed playing weight was 230 pounds. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was not able to have a Pro Day. Without scores for athletic testing, there are no methods to measure his athletic ability relative to other players.
College History (Advanced Production Numbers Courtesy of Pro Football Focus)
2016: True Freshman Season – 11 games, no starts (95 of his 169 snaps can on Special Teams)
PFF Numbers: 12 tackles
2017: Sophomore Season – 13 games started at linebacker
PFF Numbers: 88 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, 7 QB hurries
2018: Junior Season – 13 games started at linebacker, Team Captain, led team in tackles and tackles for loss
PFF Numbers: 106 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass defended, 4 sacks, 4 QB hits, 5 QB hurries, 1 forced incompletion
2019: Senior Season – 12 game started at linebacker, Team Captain
PFF Numbers: 77 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 6 passes defended, 1 interception, 0 sacks, 4 QB hits, 3 QB hurries, 3 forced incompletions
TJ Brunson attended the Senior Bowl.
Overall: 7th round or UDFA projection on PFF Draft Board.
Injuries: He had hip surgery after his junior season, according to Pro Football Focus. He played every game in his last three seasons.
Athletic Background: 3 star linebacker from South Carolina. Graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies in December 2019.
View photos of the entire 10-member New York Giants 2020 Draft Class
Brunson played primarily as an inside MIKE linebacker in South Carolina's scheme. Here are some of his attributes that jump off his tape.
Brunson is always looking to lay a big hit on opposing players. On our first play, he nails Georgia's D'Andre Swift with an outstanding form tackle after a short catch.
On this play, Brunson does not wrap up, but he does lower his shoulder into a scrambling quarterback, sending him flying.
Brunson is always trying to get downhill at full speed, an aggressive style of play. Here, he shows his ability to read and shoot the gap. He beat the center to the hole (with the help of a small jersey tug from his defensive lineman) and tackles the running back in the backfield for a significant loss.
Here's another play on an inside run. He uses his quickness to avoid the Georgia center to tackle D'Andre Swift at the line of scrimmage.
On this play, Brunson uses his speed to beat the offensive linemen to their blocks to get the tackle for loss on the outside screen.
Despite his small size, Brunson showed on this goal line play that he can take on a blocker and make a play. He sets the edge and makes the tackle to prevent the touchdown.
On this outside run, Brunson gets pushed back by the offensive lineman, but maintains his balances and still makes the tackle on the outside run.
Brunson also makes tackles in space when he slows down. Here, he finds the scrambling quarterback for the solo tackle. He does well to remain in his zone defense until the quarterback commits to running.
He makes a good solo tackle on a receiver in space on this play, coming down and wrapping him up around the legs.
Brunson shows good awareness in some zone coverages. He drops to proper depth and gets his hand up to knock away the pass.
He showed excellent discipline and athleticism on this reverse flea-flicker. Despite the trickery, he gets into coverage on the tight end that is his responsibility and knocks the pass away.
Brunson also showed pass rush ability. Here, he uses his quickness to beat the overaggressive running block in pass protection. He doesn't get the sack but pushes the quarterback into his teammate.
Brunson may not be the biggest linebacker, but his tape shows an aggressive, downhill player who always plays full speed and is a big hitter. He profiles as someone who should be perfect as a core special teams player to start his career and could grow into something more as he continues to improve.