Could Brenton Cox Jr. challenge for first-round contention in the 2022 NFL Draft? In Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts, the Florida Gators had two first-round selections in this year’s NFL Draft. Following that offensive success, there is the potential for the defense to rise to the forefront next year. Cornerback Kaiir Elam has the skillset to be a first-rounder. In addition, Ventrell Miller has earned early attention as a first-round prospect. Let’s examine Cox’s scouting report and see if he has first-round pick potential!
Brenton Cox Jr. NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Outside Linebacker
- School: Florida
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 250 pounds
Brenton Cox Jr. Scouting Report
The first thing to note on Cox’s scouting report is his versatility. He can play the defensive end position in a 4-3 formation or 3-4 OLB. He has played with his hand in the ground and standing up during his short college football career. At 6’4″ and 250 pounds, he is a little in-between the ideal size for both positions. However, Cox has demonstrated the ability to drop back into coverage that will be required at the next level. As a result, he best projects to play OLB in the NFL.
The Florida prospect possesses an impressive first step and exhibits decent explosion at the line of scrimmage. He won’t win many foot races, but the first step and burst allow him to get a jump at the line of scrimmage. Additionally, Cox shows examples of good footwork and lateral agility. This is on display with his spin moves, one of the tools he has in his pass-rush arsenal.
That toolbox also contains a potent bull rush. Cox presents excellent upper body strength and leg drive, which allows him to push back most offensive tackles with apparent ease. His impressive arm length is also another reason why he can be so successful with his bull rush. Furthermore, his strength is evident as a tackler, demonstrating force when attempting to take down the ball carrier.
Areas for improvement
At this moment in his football development, I would question some elements of Cox’s play recognition. There were multiple examples in the games studied (Georgia, Missouri, Texas A&M) where he explodes off the line, commits to taking down his man — whether it be the running back or quarterback — and is still executing a play on his target while the actual ball carrier is some 30 yards down the field. Showcasing a better ability to read the play will increase production.
Cox doesn’t appear to be particularly flexible in terms of bending around the edge. He wins with his bull rush, spin move, and displays an impressive double-hand swipe but doesn’t show the ability to impact the outside track. As the NFL trends towards more athletic and bendy edge rushers, this could affect the Florida OLB’s 2022 NFL Draft stock.
Cox’s Player Profile
A Lithonia, Georgia native, how did Cox become an NFL Draft OLB prospect for Florida? His journey across the battle lines of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” began at Miller Grove High School. After two years there, he transferred to Stocksbridge High School, where he impressed with strength, quick feet, and exceptional lateral movement.
Even before his first season at Stocksbridge, Cox was attracting college attention. Following a June 2017 camp visit with Tennessee, he received the first of what would become over 25 offers. Then, throughout a junior season where he earned first-team All-State honors and was named the Henry Herald Defensive Player of the Year in Henry County, the interest intensified.
A five-star recruit who was ranked as the second-best strong side defensive end in the 2018 class, Cox committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the April before his senior campaign. Once again, he was a dangerous defensive threat, earning first-team All-State honors from a season where he logged 42 tackles, 5 sacks, and 9.5 tackles for loss. As Stocksbridge went 13-1, Cox also received an invite to the Under Armour All-American game.
While his ability on the high school field was certain, his college football future was not. Following a visit to Tuscaloosa, Cox rescinded his commitment to Ohio State. Moreover, he whittled down his options to just two teams. Although Alabama had turned his head, the Georgia Bulldogs ultimately held his heart, and Cox signed his national letter of intent, keeping him in-state. Cox stated, “It just felt like home. I’d rather put on for my home state then go somewhere else and play hard for them.”
Cox’s college football career
As a true freshman in 2018, Cox played in 13 games for the Bulldogs. Although not the groundbreaking performance you might expect from a five-star recruit, he still contributed 20 tackles and 3 pass breakups. Furthermore, during his first career start against Texas in the Sugar Bowl, he set a then-career-high of 6 tackles. The future appeared bright.
However, not everything was as it seemed. During the year, cameras picked up a confrontation between Cox and a Georgia teammate. Then, in the offseason, he was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana after campus police searched his room. Reports that Cox had been kicked off the team were met by silence before the talented defender entered the transfer portal.
He wasn’t there long. Within a week, Cox found himself a new home. Despite the rarity of a transfer across the rivalry lines, the OLB headed to Florida. The Gators offered him coming out of high school, and finally, they got their man.
Due to NCAA transfer regulations, Cox had to sit out the 2019 season
Yet, when Cox finally made it to the field, he made an immediate impact. In the season opener against Ole Miss, the Florida OLB racked up a career-high 8 tackles, which included 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Additionally, he added the first of 2 pass breakups that would take his career total to 5 heading into his redshirt-junior season.
As he developed into a statistical leader for the Florida defense, Cox put together a four-game stretch where he registered at least 1 tackle for loss per game. He ended the season tied for the team lead in tackles for loss while leading the Gators in quarterback hurries. Furthermore, he added 41 tackles and 4 sacks to his career résumé.
After earning second-team All-SEC honors last season, Cox enters the upcoming season on the watchlist as one of the top pass rushers in the nation. But can he break the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft? Right now, it seems like a Day 2 selection is more likely. Still, the Georgia native has an entire season as the defensive leader to elevate his stock before Roger Goodell puts teams on the clock in Las Vegas.