Of all the players to help themselves in the NFL’s annual showcase of college talent, one name truly stood out. Virginia’s defensive lineman Andrew Brown drew the eye of everyone with his performance in Mobile, seeing his draft stock shoot sky high.
Brown, who finished his college career with 10.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss, was ESPN’s 5th ranked recruit back in 2014. Passing over powerhouses like Alabama and Penn State, Brown chose Charlottesville to continue his football career. While he didn’t put up the video game numbers that were expected of him, Brown has put together a film reel worthy of an NFL draft selection.
Perhaps Brown’s best strength, which was the first thing to stand out in Mobile, is his snap quickness. Brown’s get off is second to none in this draft class.
Brown times this snap impeccably. He literally could not have timed this snap any better than he did in real time. This still shot is the exact second that the center, Michigan’s Mason Cole, starts to move the ball. Brown isn’t offside, but he is already out of his stance, rushing the quarterback.
This one play isn’t a one-off, either. His quick get off was somewhat of a theme down in Mobile.
Observad a Andrew Brown DT Virginia con el #99 que salida más explosiva. Brutal. Semana muy buena la del Cavalier pic.twitter.com/fLshgmz7wy
— Los Cachorros NCAAF (@CachorrosNCAAF) January 27, 2018
On almost every play, Brown is the first one engaging and threatening penetration into the backfield. While this could lead to being susceptible to the hard count, which is much better in the NFL than in college, this trait is insanely valuable. A defensive lineman cannot expect to be able to succeed at the NFL level if an offensive lineman gets the first step.
While both of those plays are insanely impressive, they are both missing one thing: actual pressure. Don’t worry though, Brown still gets plenty of that.
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) August 10, 2017
This is textbook from a defensive end. Brown effectively uses his hands to get around left tackle Brady Aiello, forcing Dakota Prukop to get rid of the ball before he was ready. Brown also recorded a hit on this play.
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) August 10, 2017
This is perhaps Brown’s most telling play of his college career, and one which shows his fit in Chicago the best. Brown isn’t just an edge rusher, he can be an effective pass rusher in a 3-4 scheme. Not only does it show his fit in Chicago, but more importantly, it shows his versatility. While both of the previous two clips were from the same game, they show Brown beating both the right guard and the left tackle for Oregon. That Ducks team was coached by current Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
That versatility mentioned is the main reason why Brown is likely to be selected way higher than Lance Zierlein’s 6th round projection. Brown, who is listed at 6′ 4″ and 285 pounds, has the size to play in multiple positions across the defensive line. While he doesn’t have the explosiveness to be a stand-up edge rusher, Brown may be able to adapt to a 4-3 edge rusher given the need.
Zierlien and I disagree on another major thing regarding Brown. While he isn’t a day one prospect, I do believe his pass-rushing abilities see him fit as a mid to late third round prospect. Zierlein hates Brown as a pass-rusher, and has him as a late day three guy. Quite honestly, I do not understand that projection.
I firmly believe that Brown is going towards the end of the third round. If he does not, I believe his floor would be the middle of the fourth round. He is not falling out of that 4th round.
On film, Andrew Brown looks a bit like Akiem Hicks. While he doesn’t have the talent that the Bears’ lineman does, Brown is an excellent pass rusher, and has shown his peak effectiveness as a 3-4 defensive end, which is an obvious fit with what Vic Fangio has tried to implement in Chicago. That being said, he isn’t the perfect replacement for the (likely departed) Mitch Unrein.
Unrein’s main use in the Bears defensive scheme was as a run-stuffer. If Brown slots alongside Hicks and Eddie Goldman, that defensive line is suddenly susceptible to running plays. Brown does not currently have the same prowess as a run-stuffer as Unrein does.
During his rookie season, Brown is likely going to be a rotational defender. Unless he outperforms all expectations, he likely isn’t going to be a starter (barring injuries). However, given a bit of time and coaching, he could be at that level in his second season in the league.
The one big red flag that Brown has looming over him is a bad relationship he had with former defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta.
Brown is on the record wondering “what what the hell [he] did for [Tenuta] not to like me so much.” While this is fairly common among coaches and players, this is definitely something that teams looking at drafting Brown will have to investigate. There’s nothing available to the public that makes me believe that anything will come from this (rather the contrary), but this is one of Brown’s biggest red flags.
Since the Bears do not have a third round draft pick, they will likely either have to trade for Brown or pray that he falls to them with either of their 4th rounders. However, the former is a lot more likely. It’s long been rumored the Bears will look to trade down in the draft, likely so Ryan Pace can recoup that lost third rounder. If the Bears shore up their obvious holes with their first two picks, Brown has extremely high potential for the third pick, should the Bears get a chance to grab him.