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2023 NFL Draft Profile: Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green

Brooks was a surprise snub from the NFL Combine, but his stats and film speaks for itself.

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Vying to be the highest-drafted Falcon since Charlie Williams in 1995, Karl Brooks has just about everything you’d need out of an NFL defensive lineman.

Hailing from Lansing, Michigan, Karl Brooks came to Bowling Green without any stars to his name. Despite dominating on the defensive side of the ball at Lansing Sexton High School and Earning honor after honor, Brooks was overlooked.

Coming into Bowling Green, there was no way you would have guessed that the no-star recruit would end up terrorizing MAC quarterbacks for five years.

As a true freshman, Brooks appeared in every game and started eight times, amassing 32 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and led the team with 3.5 sacks. From the jump, it was obvious that Brooks was a force to be reckoned with. The next year, Brooks started every game of his sophomore year, tallying 33 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks. In addition, at his defensive tackle position, Brooks hauled in an interception and returned it 33 yards. He helped the Falcons beat Toledo with his five tackles, 3.5 TFLs, one sack, and one forced fumble.

Then, 2020 came around which resulted in a shortened year. Even then, Brooks managed a pair of sacks in the final game of the year in a loss to Akron. 2021 rolls around and Brooks took it to another level. As a team captain, Brooks started every game and dominated opponents. He finished with 42 tackles, 12.5 for loss, and 7.5 sacks, good for fifth-most in the MAC. For the first time in his career, he recorded two sacks in multiple games against Ohio and Akron.

After that breakout, there were concerns that Brooks would try to take his talents elsewhere. Instead, he elected to stay home and made the transition to edge rusher, more like his days in high school as a linebacker. In total, Brooks finished 2022 with 50 tackles, 18 for loss, and 10 sacks. Additionally, he forced a pair of fumbles, recovered one, and broke up four passes. Those 10 sacks were good for the third-most in a single season in Bowling Green history.

His senior campaign earned him First Team All-MAC honors to go along with a PFF All-American selection.

NFL teams will love what Brooks brings to the table whether it’s positional flexibility, a high motor, or being a two-time captain. What he lacks in Relative Athletic Scoring, he makes up for with technique and tenacity.

Brooks is a 6’3”, 303-pound freak athlete that projects to be a 3-T in the NFL despite playing edge at Bowling Green as a senior. The fact that he was able to put up so much production with that size is incredibly impressive and NFL teams took notice. Showing that he is explosive enough to win on the outside is going to translate well at the next level inside where having a quick get-off and the ability to disrupt are paramount.

One of Brooks’ strengths is that first step. He’s incredibly quick off the ball and much more agile than a human of his stature should be. Brooks is quite quick inside and is able to do work in both pass-rushing and run-stopping situations. He was one of the biggest winners of the Senior Bowl which makes his exclusion from the NFL Combine even more head-scratching.

Brooks was able to win his matchups against all kinds of talent ranging from bottom-of-the-MAC tackles to SEC guards. He has an innate ability to almost immediately disrupt plays whether by stuffing the run or getting in the face of the quarterback. Against Mississippi State, Brooks was not on the stat sheet often but his presence was felt. The Bulldogs often utilized quick game like this clip to try to neutralize his impact.

Brooks is able to get after the quarterback from wherever on the field but his ability to get off the ball quickly will suit him whenever asked to play inside. In this rep at the Senior Bowl, Brooks was shot out of a cannon and flew right by Michigan’s Olusegun Oluwatimi. Oluwatimi was caught completely off-guard and Brooks was free to tee off on the quarterback. If the practice were live, he likely would have knocked the Horned Frog off of Max Duggan’s helmet.

So Brooks has a quick first step, can he finish? Absolutely. There are some players who get caught up in the moment when they are one-on-one with the quarterback. Their eyes light up and they whiff. Brooks is not one of the players. He expects to beat his guy off the line, so he knows what to do when faced with a defenseless quarterback. Here against Eastern Kentucky, EKU elected to use a running back to block him. Brooks easily dispatched him, kept his feet under him, calmed down, and finished the sack in a clutch situation.

Plus, even if Brooks is somehow not able to win right away, he’s able to keep the offensive lineman at arm’s length to free up his eyes and finish. In this clip at the Senior Bowl, Brooks has the loop on a stunt, stands up his blocker, finds the quarterback, sheds his blocker, and takes Duggan down.

There are some pass-rushing specialists in the NFL who only play on one side of the line. Brooks provides more than just DT/DE versatility, he’s able to line up on either side of the line. When the Falcons took down Toledo this past year, Brooks was able to take over on numerous occasions. Here, he was able to just as easily blow by each of the Rockets’ tackles for a sack and a TFL on a draw.

He’s not only able to rush the quarterback, of course. In the run game, Brooks’ quick step is paired nicely with his strength. At the Senior Bowl, Brooks was flashing on just about every rep. Here, while he may not have made the play, he broke it. He was able to quickly dispatch the RG to get into the backfield which resulted in the running back being able to stretch it off tackle and helped his teammate finish for a TFL.

One of the things to look for in a quality NFL defensive tackle is how do they respond to getting beat. For some, a double team can just eliminate him from the play. Brooks is not that player. He can be on the receiving end of a double team here. It looked like he was going to be blocked into the safeties, but he shed both, stepped up into the hole, and made the play on the running back.

Overall, Brooks is viewed as a high-ceiling player well worth a day-two pick. The Senior Bowl was a clinic by Brooks and his draft stock has risen by a couple of rounds. To date, at least seven teams have brought Brooks in for a Top-30 visit (Browns, Steelers, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Lions, Saints, Vikings).

Brooks has the ability to play in a rotational piece right away due to his positional versatility. It’s not often that you can say a player can play just about everywhere on the defensive line. Brooks is that guy, however. He can be asked to be a 1-T on one play, then kick out as a 5i on the next.

While Brooks can take on double teams, if a team drafts Brooks while they already have an established star on the defensive line, they will be able to reap plenty of splash plays from Brooks.

With just a little development (ie., make sure he can refine his motor and not get too fatigued on two-minute drives), Brooks will become a three-down player. Any NFL team that selects him with their day-two pick will be getting an incredibly solid player who has the potential to be a star.