Cincinnati Bearcats S Brian Cook may not grab the headlines on a talented defense, but his scouting report for the 2022 NFL Draft underlines his potential. When it comes to physical, well-rounded safeties, Cook should be near the top of the list, despite not being the most highly-regarded player on the Bearcats’ defense.
Bryan Cook NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Cincinnati
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’0 3/4″
- Weight: 206 pounds
- Wingspan: 78″
- Arm length: 31 7/8″
- Hand: 8 1/2″
Bryan Cook Scouting Report
Cook doesn’t have the same name recognition as fellow Cincinnati defensive backs like Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant. But slowly, buzz has begun to build around Cook and his game. He has a particular style that scouts may be fond of, and he could go earlier than expected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
It’s a deep safety class, and Cook doesn’t have a lot of competition for draft capital. But the Cincinnati safety also brings an appealing skill set early on in the league. Pinpointing his floor and his ceiling is key in deciphering his evaluation, but it’s no accident Cook is generating interest.
Cook’s athletic profile
Standing at 6’0 3/4″, 206 pounds, Cook has a strong, well-built frame, as well as solid length. That size allows Cook to work in congestion, hold strong in contact situations, and make plays on the ball.
With his size, Cook brings serviceable athleticism. He has good burst breaking back toward the ball and is fairly urgent responding to breaks. The Cincinnati safety is an energetic mover with solid twitch in short areas. He keeps active feet and can snap out of his stance. Moreover, he keeps high energy and is always ready to launch.
Going further, Cook also has solid fluidity for his size. With his fairly fluid hips, he adjusts running angles on the fly and has decent acceleration out of direction changes. He’s smooth turning upfield, with enough speed to mirror tight ends along the sideline.
While he doesn’t have top-end speed or range, his range is solid when covering half the field. Cook can close on plays in the short and intermediate ranges and usually takes solid angles to the ball.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Scouts who like disciplined, high-utility safeties will be a fan of Cook. The Cincinnati safety is versatile, with the ability to line up at two-high, single-high, in the slot, and in the box. He’s particularly effective in two-high looks as a strong safety, where he projects best in the NFL.
Cook processes fairly quickly. He identifies motions and anticipates pursuit angles. He’s an active communicator pre-snap. Cook stays dialed in and can get his teammates in position. Moreover, the Cincinnati S is adaptable mid-rep. He follows the QB with his eyes and actively resets his base to maintain route leverage in zone. In space, he positions himself fairly well and has good feel when split between routes. Near the sideline, he’s great at squeezing pass catchers against the edge, taking away space.
Cook can be a bit late reacting at times, but he generally reacts with solid quickness. In zone coverage, he has the awareness to pick up running backs sneaking into the flats. Meanwhile, in run support, Cook actively squares himself with ball carriers coming downhill. He’s a sure tackler who leads with his shoulder and seeks to wrap up. Cook also adjusts his tackling angles before engaging. The Cincinnati safety isn’t afraid to step up into congestion and engage blockers with his physicality.
Adding to his promising traits, Cook has good coordination and ball skills. He tracks the ball in the air, uses his length to swat passes, and generates turnovers.
Areas for improvement
Cook is a classic high-floor prospect who should find a role in the league. His athleticism is serviceable, but it may not be elite — and that’s one of his bigger knocks. Cook doesn’t have top-end explosiveness or closing speed. He covers decent amounts of ground in space, but he does have an observable cap. The Cincinnati S also lacks elite deep range and arrives late on some plays.
Moving forward, Cook doesn’t have great change-of-direction ability, either. He sinks his hips a bit but can be a little stiff on transitions. His change-of-direction limitations show up when he takes faulty angles upfield. It also shows up in man coverage, where he sometimes oversets in response to inside moves. His recovery isn’t entirely smooth or sudden, and he doesn’t have elite burst out of direction changes.
Beyond his non-elite athleticism, Cook occasionally gets moved off his spot by misdirections. He’s sometimes late to turn his hips in pursuit and works himself too far up the field while reading plays. Cook occasionally gets flat-footed in his stance, and he sometimes hesitates a bit before coming downhill in run support.
Among other things, while Cook is a good tackler, at times he goes too low or overshoots his angle and slips past players. There are also instances where he struggles to get off his block quickly in run support.
Cook’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
A lot was made of Cook’s athletic limitations in that last section. So I want to make something clear — he’s not a bad athlete. Overall, he’s above average and passes the threshold to be a potential starter. His initial burst and fluidity, in particular, are good for his size.
That said, Cook’s non-elite athletic traits may put a cap on his upside. He can be a solid player, but if you’re projecting for what players can be, he might not have the game-changing potential that other safeties in this class have. Cook lacks elite top-end range and doesn’t have great change-of-direction ability. Again, he’s not a liability in either category, but he also might not be at the level to go up against the NFL’s top athletes.
Regardless, Cook should still see the field in the right role. While he doesn’t have elite athleticism, his short-range burst can be maximized in the short and intermediate ranges. There, he has the IQ, feel for positioning, quick processing, and playmaking ability to make an impact in coverage. In run support, he’s a consistent tackler who engages with physicality.
In a scheme that frequently uses two-high looks, Cook can be a solid starter as a strong safety, with enforcer traits in the box and playmaking traits in space. In nickel and dime looks, he could feasibly move into the middle as a big slot. Scheme fit may be particularly important for Cook, but the Cincinnati safety could go top 100 if someone likes him enough. In the right role, he has a productive future ahead of him.
Cook’s Player Profile
Cook’s cumulative football career has spanned the better part of a decade — but he’s come full circle, ending his collegiate tenure right back where he started. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Cook played at local Mount Healthy High School, where he was a first-team All-Southwest Ohio Conference honoree. Despite his success, Cook only received one offer to play college football out of high school — from HBCU Howard University, in Washington D.C.
In his first collegiate season in 2017, Cook amassed 37 tackles, 4 interceptions, 9 deflections, and a forced fumble for the Bison. In 2018, he came back and added 56 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, a pick, and 8 deflections, along with a forced fumble. After proving himself as a standout on the FCS stage, Cook entered the transfer portal. A return to Cincinnati was inevitable, and Cook signed ahead of the 2019 season.
Cook’s career at Cincinnati
At the time of his transfer, Cook was required to sit out 13 games in the 2019 season. But he still came back for the bowl game and earned 2 tackles while working on special teams. He was also an AAC All-Academic honoree over that same span. In 2020, Cook slowly added more responsibility to his plate. He played in 10 games, starting two, and put up 26 tackles, a tackle for loss, and 2 pass deflections.
Then a redshirt junior, Cook made the easy decision to return in 2021 and help his Bearcats compete for a national championship. Over the course of the year, Cook accumulated 96 total tackles, 5 TFL, a sack, 2 interceptions, and 9 deflections. It was a campaign reminiscent of his dominant days at Howard. For his efforts, Cook was a first-team All-AAC selection. The Cincinnati safety also earned an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Cook’s NFL Draft ascension
Cook ended up not appearing at the Senior Bowl, which would’ve been a good opportunity to showcase his skills further. Nevertheless, he put more than enough on tape in his final season with the Bearcats. Off the field, Cook is lauded for his leadership and work ethic. On it, he exudes toughness, smarts, and multi-phase playmaking ability.
Cook might not test as an elite athlete, but as long as he brings solid explosiveness for his size, he can have a role as a fairly versatile strong safety with slot capabilities. With his ball skills in coverage, tackling ability coming downhill, and strong game IQ all tying together, he can be a nice glue piece on the field.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Bryan Cook
Positives: Tough, instinctive safety with a well-rounded game. Quickly diagnoses plays, takes proper angles to the action, and immediately picks up assignments. Aggressive player who fires upfield to defend the run, wraps up tackling, and brings ball handlers down in space.
Smooth flipping his hips and easily stays with tight ends in coverage downfield. Gets his head back around to locate the pass in the air and effectively positions himself to break up throws. Displays a burst to the ball out of his plant and has solid range.
Negatives: Lacks deep speed. Coming off a shoulder injury that prevented him from participating in any pre-draft scouting events.
Analysis: Cook is a physical, instinctive safety with excellent size and wherewithal. Deep speed is a concern, but Cook can be used in a zone scheme or up near the box.