Last year, the Chicago Bears did what every team does after the draft and signed their own crop of undrafted free agents. Second-year player James Brown was in that group of undrafted players that were signed. Originally, Brown was projected as a third-round prospect. But much like many college football hopefuls, he slipped down the draft boards because of an alleged marijuana problem.
Brown was originally played at offensive tackle in high school, but at only 6-foot-4, his size fits the offensive guard position much better at the next level. He has always had a good amount of potential, but he has been another case of a community college transfer not playing on the biggest of college teams. Brown also was questioned for his strength and speed.
Going into training camp, Brown had impressed the coaching staff and earned more playing time with his versatility and mean-streak. Brown broke camp on the practice squad but after injuries and bad play, he found himself on the active roster with a chance to start. In his limited time at the tail end of the season, Brown showed a good mix of aggressiveness and a small taste of consistency.
Brown is still raw, and unlike a player like Kyle Long, he can’t rely so much on a freakish athletic ability, but more technique and pure development. Since being moved to guard, Brown has shown he may end up being a better on the right side in the run game.
Head Coach Marc Trestman has announced that Brown and Long will be in competition for the right guard position. Throughout the first week of training camp, Brown has not only received the bulk of first team reps on the right side, but has also been playing second team left guard.
Ultimately, Brown may lose out on the competition to start the season, but look for him to be a swing guard and the first option as a replacement if one of the two guards get injured or struggle early on.
He has good size as long as he stays inside at the guard position. Athleticism and mobility has improved since slimming down and becoming more lean. Aggressive demeanor, but controlled enough to stop, has a nice mean streak that is needed to play the position. Mechanics have also improved, pad level and hand placement included. Brown has also shown he can excel getting to the second level in the run game and leading blocks. Explosive footwork at times has been shown, especially when changing direction. Good at sticking blocks and controlling the outcome.
At 6-foot-4, Brown may not have the overall size to be as versatile as he was first regarded to be. Still learning the guard position (technique and consistency still lack). Brown has also been known to be blown up by a speedy bull rush. Over athleticism has been questioned and will continue to be until his technique can override this.
He has good overall size for an offensive guard, but still is a very raw product that lacked elite competition at the college level, which may cause a bigger learning curve than most. He may be bound to playing primarily inside with lack of size, but it may help his development being able to stick at one single position. May best suited for a Zone Blocking Scheme, which the Bears do run.
NFL Comparison: (Initially more raw version) Kelechi Osemele