What I like: Speed is the great equalizer, and on the field Brown exhibits rare speed from the linebacker position. There is very little wasted movement in what Brown does and rarely will you catch him flat-footed. He’s a pure read and react type of linebacker who goes downhill in a hurry.
During his time at Kansas State, Brown was switched between inside and outside linebacker which demonstrates his scheme versatility. He does a tremendous job working from the inside on run downs, and he uses angles and quickness to keep himself clean and free of offensive linemen.
Brown is not afraid to take on a smaller offensive player and uses his hands well to manipulate the player to disrupt the play when he can’t get loose. In coverage he does a nice job working short zones, where his backpedal is minimized and is able to read the quarterback and close on the football with his speed.
Brown is a much more physical player than his size might lead you to believe. He’s smart and fearless, shows great leadership in the field and did quite a bit of defensive playcalling on the field.
What I don’t like: There are parts of Brown’s game that are still unexplored. He wasn’t called on to blitz very often at Kansas State so NFL teams will have to project if he could be a consistent blitzer. He was also not asked to play much man coverage either. Most of his pass coverage assignments involved short zones where he gave cushion and went to the football. If a team thinks Brown can or cannot do these things will be significant factors in which teams will be interested, and just how high he could be drafted.
What it all means: Brown is great. After having several seasons of watching current Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David make play after play, while being told he’s not physical enough and not big enough, it’s Brown’s time to shine. Brown is explosive and while he doesn’t make every play, he’s the kind of linebacker that you will hear his name called on nearly every down, whether it’s because he made the tackle, or he disrupted the play and allowed another to make it. That’s the plays that his critics point to, when he doesn’t make the play.
But Brown is smart. He works down the line quickly, finds creases and explodes through them. Brown isn’t going to rack up a ton of sacks or interceptions, but I can certainly see a scenario where he plays on the inside in a 3-4 defensive and slides outside on passing downs to allow him to rush the passer.
Another area where he reminds a lot of David is his tackling. He is good about getting his pad level low, but you will see him slide down the ball carrier and wrap at the ankles rather than drive through the player. I would contend you surround Brown with other NFL level linebackers and he will be great.
Another plus for Brown is the system he played in. One thing the Wildcats and head coach Bill Snyder expects out of his players is they are smart and understand their jobs. All reports are that even with Brown’s rocky start to his college football career that Brown has a level head and a high football IQ, both pluses for potentially having a leadership role on an NFL defense.
Brown will excel in the NFL on first and second down. Another player he reminds me of is Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. Both are explosive in run support and can at times overrun a play because of that. I don’t think Brown will ever be a great coverage linebacker because he doesn’t show much in terms of the hips or turn that the best have. His strength is more direct angles than a pursuit type of agility.
On the flipside of that, Brown does have big hands and he’s very strong so if he gets those mitts on the football, he should be able to rope in a few interceptions. Every inside linebacker prospect in this draft has some shortcomings, but Brown’s are the ones I can live with the most, when I am making the trade off for the kind of speed he brings to the field.