One of the biggest wild cards at EDGE in the 2023 NFL Draft is Florida’s Brenton Cox Jr. No one denies the talent he has. And if he can answer questions about his past, he could potentially find a place as an impact defender in the NFL. But how pressing are the questions, and how tantalizing is the potential?
Brenton Cox Jr. NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Edge Rusher
- School: Florida
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’4″, 253 pounds
Few prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft are more polarizing than Cox. He was a five-star recruit in the 2018 class, and initially signed with the Georgia Bulldogs. But after playing just two games as a freshman, he entered the transfer portal and joined the Florida Gators in 2019.
A marijuana arrest in the spring of 2019 and rumored clashes with coaches led to Cox’s transfer from Georgia. And after arriving at Florida midway through 2019, he’d sit through the entirety of his sophomore season.
Eventually, Cox did see the field for the Gators, and he was a productive playmaker from 2020 to 2022. Across that span, he amassed 118 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 32.5 tackles for loss, and seven pass deflections. His Florida tenure ended abruptly in 2022, however, when he was dismissed after the team’s contest against Georgia.
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Cox was observed punching a player in Florida’s loss to Georgia. But when speaking about the veteran edge rusher’s dismissal, Gators head coach Billy Napier described a “cumulative effect” leading to his ouster — phrasing that only draws more questions.
In spite of his dismissal, however, Cox was able to put up solid numbers in his time at Florida. And his play down the stretch earned him an invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl as one of the SEC’s premier prospects at the event.
The Shrine Bowl is perhaps most important for Cox, who’ll not only have to prove himself in one-on-ones and team drills but also speak with NFL teams and answer questions about his checkered history off the field. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also an opportunity for him to reset his path.
Brenton Cox Jr. Scouting Report
- Has a well-sized frame with great density and above-average length.
- Explosive, high-energy athlete who glides into contact with easy acceleration.
- Can leverage abrupt twitch and length into devastating power at the point of attack.
- Able to load his base, fully extend, and blast tackles back by exerting inside the torso.
- Violently extends and forklifts blockers with power, and has shown he can stack moves.
- Has shown he can use agility and length in tandem to execute swim moves.
- Flashes the necessary hand strength to pry through anchors and clog lanes in support.
- Shows glimpses of solid ankle flexion when he’s able to breach the apex.
- Hands have visible knock-back power, emboldened by his ability to tempo rushes.
- Has a violent disposition in close quarters and brings good energy in pursuit.
Areas for Improvement
- Proportional length is not elite, which can impact leverage against longer tackles.
- Doesn’t have elite bend, and struggles at times to roll hips through rushes.
- Shows a lack of discipline in run defense, and shirks edge-setting responsibilities.
- Doesn’t have the lower-body mass to consistently prevent displacement on the edge.
- Can be late and inconsistent stacking counters off of initial power exertions.
- Sometimes lacks a controlled pass-rushing plan, and can be easily stalled at contact.
- Can better manage leverage and pad level through pass-rushing reps.
- Often tries to go right through blockers and can more efficiently use space and energy.
- Off-field questions stemming from dismissals at both Georgia and Florida
Florida EDGE Brenton Cox Jr. Current Draft Projection
Cox has one of the most volatile projections in the 2023 NFL Draft. Off of pure talent, he could be a top-100 prospect. But there’s more than talent alone to consider when analyzing Cox’s draft profile. How he proceeds through the pre-draft process will ultimately be key.
Cox has the tools to earn a place in an EDGE rotation early on in his career. Particularly as a pass-rushing threat, his mix of explosiveness, twitch, and functional power is very appealing. He has a violent disposition in contact situations, and his ability to unfurl and unleash energy against larger blockers makes him dangerous.
Even in pursuit, Cox has utility with his athleticism, length, and urgency. But his motor can run hot and cold at times, and there’s an over-arching lack of control and discipline that needs to be ironed out of his game. He’ll give up cutback lanes as an edge-setter, and his relentless, reckless energy can work against him against pass blockers.
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Cox is talented, but he’s not a finished product yet. And with two dismissals from both Georgia and Florida on his record, coaches and evaluators may have questions about how he functions in a team setting or how receptive he is to criticism. Those qualities, and whether Cox has them, will dictate whether or not he can develop into an NFL starter on the edge.
For the time being, Cox is a relatively raw prospect whose exciting potential is marred by a lack of proven development and off-the-field questions. These questions may ultimately relegate him to the Day 3 range. Cox has the tools to be a valuable rotational pass-rushing catalyst early on, but he has work to do if he wants to expand beyond that.