The Kansas City Chiefs addressed the defensive secondary in the 2022 NFL Draft, adding safety Bryan Cook. What can fans expect from Cook in his rookie year and beyond?
The Kansas City Chiefs infused more young talent into the defense during the 2022 NFL Draft. After several defensive starters, such as safety Tyrann Mathieu and linebacker Anthony Hitchens, moved on from Kansas City, the team used seven draft selections on defensive players. While selections such as cornerback Trent McDuffie and defensive end George Karlaftis split fans, the Chiefs drafting safety Bryan Cook was well received by fans.
The 62nd overall selection, Cook is a product of Cincinnati’s secondary littered with NFL prospects. Cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant were the unit’s stars, but Cook’s performances made the unit complete.
Cook earned first-team first-team American Athletic Conference honors, after logging 93 tackles, two interceptions, and nine pass breakups in 14 starts. Cook stands out on the field, with his physical approach while remaining patient with the right decision.
Much like linebacker Nick Bolton, Cook’s intangibles make him a tantalizing draft prospect. Cook has a legitimate chance for meaningful snaps in 2022. That speaks both to his high-end potential, and the team’s need for a third safety. There is a steep learning curve, moving from the American Athletic Conference to the AFC West. What are some of Cook’s strengths and weaknesses, according to his college tape?
First things first, Cook can deal out some punishment. Whether it is a bone-shaking tackle or him meeting a blocker at the point of attack, Cook can take and dish out hits. He almost loves it, which should scare his opposition. Cook is not scared to engage blockers, which elevates his value as the third safety.
Cook is a polished tackler, rarely relying on the dreaded arms-only tackle technique. He will reach his assignment and break down before making the tackle. This is not just a once or twice technique, it is a consistent trait. Once Cook touches the ballcarrier, the tackle is a near-certainty. According to PFF, Cook missed only 7 open-field tackles on 100 attempts in 2021.
Cook has a good nose and eyes against the run game, regardless of his positioning on the field. His ball awareness defending the pass has room to improve, but he made plenty of one-on-one plays in pass defense.
Seth Keysor says that Cook “just plays mean” and he is not wrong, but that can cause trouble in the modern NFL. Each year, the player safety rules get stricter and stricter, resulting in more in-game penalties. While player safety is important, defenders are hampered the most by these rules. There are several plays on Cook’s film that would be questionable hits in the NFL. Cook will have to play under control more or learn the hard way in Kansas City.
Cook simply does not have the long speed to cover receivers. Most safeties don’t but Cook is at a clear disadvantage. He can make it up as a robber, evident by this pass breakup.
Cook is best playing downhill, near the box, or covering at the second level. He does not show instincts for playing alone over the top, but he has the reactions and intelligence to succeed in that role. He has room to grow there though, so he might make some frustrating decisions early in his career.
Cook is a very exciting player. He fits the draft mold of the past two years. The Chiefs have prioritized competitive players, with hard-nosed styles and decent fundamentals. Cook exemplifies all of that.
In Week 1, Cook will be the third safety for this team. He will be a situational player, but very much makes Juan Thornhill’s life easier. Cook may push higher on the depth chart, but that depends on his growth as a pass defender.
Fans should be excited about Cook. The Chiefs wisely added him to the defensive backfield. He can be that downhill safety, blowing up runs and screens, this year. Beyond that, the possibilities are alluring.