The Jacksonville Jaguars selected 12 players in the 2020 NFL Draft — the largest class in franchise history. We’ve been slowly learning more information about each of the draftees through the Big Cat Country post-draft Q&A series, and today the focus is on Chris Claybrooks, the cornerback and kick returner out of Memphis. Claybrooks was the final pick for the Jaguars this year, being selected in the seventh round (No. 223 overall).
To help us learn more about what Claybrooks offers to Jacksonville, we spoke with Joe Broback, who specializes in the American Athletic Conference (AAC), which Memphis plays in, for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty.
1. Claybrooks is an electric kick returner. What makes him such an exciting player, and will his game translate to the NFL?
Joe: Speed is the name of Claybrooks’ game, and it’s the biggest reason for his success. He runs a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, and it helped him break loose as a kick returner. His abilities in special teams definitely can translate into the NFL game, but the real question will be what he can do with it as a cornerback. Right now, as long as he can get going north and south, he’s successful, but it remains to be seen if he can have a long career in the NFL.
2. While he is noted for his returning prowess, does Claybrooks bring anything to the table on the defensive side of the ball as a cornerback?
Joe: The best thing for Chris Claybrooks was playing cornerback opposite of Memphis star cornerback TJ Carter. Carter’s a name that will gain plenty of attention this year, but his success forced teams to test the other side of the field. Claybrooks’ footwork still needs improvement, but he showed that he could run with anyone downfield. It’s tough for him to get in position because he struggles mirroring receivers and preventing separation, but he can make up the distance with his speed. Jacksonville has a project on their hands with him as a corner, but they’ll love what he brings to the table in special teams with his raw talent.
3. Did you expect Claybrooks to get drafted, or did you expect him to be an undrafted free agent? Do you think Jacksonville is a good fit for him? He certainly seemed excited to become a Jaguar:
Joe: Honestly, I was surprised to see him drafted. Then again, it was a weird draft overall with the current events. I expected him to get a chance as an undrafted free agent, but I was happy to see him get drafted. You love to see the passion these players display when they hear their name, because every football player wants to make it to the NFL and get drafted. I don’t know if this is a good fit. If the Jaguars have time to let players develop, he’ll give them good special teams play while he learns how to grow as a corner. If they need someone who’s ready to compete for a spot in the rotation, they’ll be disappointed.
4. From becoming a father at an early age, to his mother getting sick with lupus, to working his way from the JUCO ranks and eventually getting to Memphis, Claybrooks has had a long journey to the NFL. How do you think all of that adversity will help him in his NFL career, and do you believe he fits the mold of a “high-character” guy the Jaguars are trying to fill their locker room with?
Joe: Claybrooks is a guy that’s going to work his tail off to get where he wants to go, and his teammates will respect his work ethic. Even getting the starting spot at Memphis didn’t come without adversity, but he stuck with it and never backed down from whatever challenge presented itself. In a league where nothing is guaranteed, Claybrooks enters with the right mindset to win a spot on the roster, and brings the work ethic that his teammates will gravitate toward. His character and work ethic should be respected by the guys in the locker room. Again, it’s tough to say how long he’ll be in the NFL, but he’ll make an impact on the guys he’s with off the field even if he’s not dominating on it.
5. Do you expect Claybrooks to make Jacksonville’s 53-man roster, and how do you see his professional career shaking out?
Joe: With what I’ve seen, I’m not convinced he’ll make it. It all depends how he does as a kick returner. If he thrives there then I can see him making it for sure. He’s just so raw at cornerback that it’s tough to see him making the roster unless he kills it at returner. With all of the young talent in the Jacksonville defensive backfield, guys who need some work most likely won’t make it, and that’s Claybrooks. I hope he proves me wrong, because he’s a guy who’s earned a shot to make a team. It comes down to how he builds on his foundation of speed that determines how successful he’ll be at the next level.
Shout out to Joe for providing an outlook on Claybrooks and giving us some analysis into his game. Follow Joe on Twitter, and to keep up with all of the news regarding Group of Five college conferences and other “underdog” programs, hit the follow button for Underdog Dynasty as well.