With the 2015 NFL Draft less than two weeks away, it is time to really focus on the potential targets of the Cleveland Browns. Not too long ago, we looked into one potential first-round target in wide receiver DeVante Parker—but today, we turn our attention to the other side of the football.
Owners of two picks in the first round, the Browns and GM Ray Farmer could bulk up their defensive line with either the No. 12 or No. 19 pick. In this scouting session, we will focus in on a player who should be there when they are selecting at No. 19—Texas defensive lineman, Malcom Brown.
Not to be confused with Texas running back “Malcolm Brown” (notice the extra “l”), Brown is a 6’2” and 319-pound junior who left school at the age of 20. Turning 21-years old this coming June, there is a lot to really like about the mountain of a man who finished last season with 72 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.
For this scouting session, the three games available on Draft Breakdown (BYU, Oklahoma and Arkansas in 2014) were utilized to evaluate Brown. These are not the only games of his that have been viewed over the course of the year, just the three available to really dissect for the sake of this article.
Before we get into the results in these games, it is important to note a couple of strengths and weaknesses of his to keep an eye on.
First off, Brown is an extremely versatile defensive lineman. When you watch these games, you will see the youngster lining up all over the place—as he can easily play anywhere from 0-5 technique on the defensive line. This is a major plus for Brown’s translation to the NFL, because he can play in any scheme—which also means he is resistant to scheme change, something Browns fans know plenty of with their coaching carousel past.
The second positive to watch with Brown is how stout he is in the run game. He recognizes run plays very well for being only 20-years old, utilizing his hands to fight through one and two blockers to either collapse the run lane or make the tackle himself. He would be an instant upgrade on what has been one of the worst run defenses in the league over the last few years.
The third positive to keep an eye on with Brown is his continuous motor. He is a hard-worker on and off the field, and you can really see it in the BYU game—which we will talk about more soon. Brown continues to drive with his legs no matter what kind of push back he is getting from one or more defenders. This relentlessness will be greatly appreciated by coaches at the next level.
Like any prospect, things are not all roses though—which is why he is not going in the Top 10 of the 2015 NFL Draft. One of the main things that stands out is his inconsistency on pass plays, as his positive hands in the run game turn to a work in progress in pass rush. He needs to work on developing a stronger bull-rush move to become an elite-level pass rusher at the NFL level, but in the interim he needs to work on better hand-fighting on pass plays to get to the QB early.
Another area of concern with Brown is the need to consistently shed his opponents—especially early in the game. He is a powerful prospect, but does not always seem to utilize his power to his ability—as sometimes it does not seem like he is being as violent as he can be at the point of attack.
Alright, enough with the general things—let’s dive into the film. Since we have talked about some strengths and weaknesses, let’s talk about some things that really stood out in the BYU game first.
One of the first things you notice with Brown is that when he stays too high, does not get square and does not maintain solid pad level—he can be knocked back. Now, this is not a consistent thing you see during this game and over his time at Texas, but it is something he will need to work on at the next level.
As the game went on, Brown turned into a man possessed—even when his team was down 27 in the fourth quarter. The relentless pursuit and non-stop drive from his legs was seen throughout this game, as BYU threw different blocking schemes and attempts at him. One specific example of his power and relentlessness early on can be seen in the GIF below, as he destroyed his man off the line of scrimmage. He missed the tackle on the running back, but instead of sulking he got right back up and was able to combo-tackle for the stop.
Another thing you notice with Brown—which is something a lot of people forget when studying defensive line prospects—is that he is constantly “doing his job.” This is something that does not show up on the stat sheet, but as you can see throughout this game—he provides plenty of opportunities for his teammates by taking on two defenders, filling his gaps and shrinking the pocket/running lanes right off the snap.
An excellent example of this is in the play below, as he absolutely blows by his guy off the snap. His ability to create early penetration wrecked the pocket early, and as you will notice, he was the only one doing it on the play. This continued down to the wire, as later in the game he was seemingly the only one on his team still fighting down 27 points in the fourth quarter—as a big hit of his (7:00 mark of the video at the beginning of this section), ending up causing a fumble.
Overall, the BYU game was the best of the three games for Brown that I watched. He was very consistent throughout this game—bringing constant pressure and wreaking havoc in the run game. What was very impressive was his “never quit” attitude, despite his team being down by 27.
The next two games—Oklahoma and Arkansas—can be lumped into one section, because both of these teams did a lot to limit Brown’s effectiveness. Oklahoma pushed the tempo from the very first snap, while Arkansas would call plays to go opposite of Brown throughout the entire game.
Against Oklahoma, Brown was powerful at the very beginning of the game (same with Arkansas). He displayed some good reaction skills early in the game—shedding his defender to make a stop on a run play. However, after that there were a number of underwhelming plays which showed his 20-year old age.
On a drop-back by Trevor Knight, Brown is being double-teamed and looks frustrated by it for the first time on film. He continued to fight, but did not show his usual level of intensity and motor that you saw during the BYU game. He would also be pushed around from time to time by No. 71 on the Oklahoma offensive line, which was something that also did not happen against BYU.
Brown displayed an above-average spin move later in the game and the ability to get good push to collapse the pocket more, but his overall effectiveness against Oklahoma seemed to be limited thanks to the up-tempo offense.
In the Arkansas game, it looked like Brown was going to have a monster performance. He absolutely blew up the running back on the first play of the game (see below), and then had a fantastic move a few minutes later to force the QB out of the pocket. Brown was also seemingly being held all game long—which could have had a lot to do with why he was having some difficulty at times.
Overall, he showed much better push and fight in this game than the Oklahoma game, but still showed off some raw tendencies. His hand-fighting in pass rush situation again needed work, and he needs to learn how to stay square instead of trying to “get skinny” to slip between two defenders.
Looking at Brown, there is a lot to really like about him—especially with the No. 19 pick in the first round. His ability to come in and instantly impact the run game at any of the three positions on the defensive line would be a major plus for the Browns. With guys like Phil Taylor, John Hughes and Desmond Bryant likely slated to start on the line (Taylor at NT), Brown would be able to work his way into the rotation without a high demand for snap count early on.
Head coach Mike Pettine utilized a rotation of defensive linemen last season—partly due to injury—which ensured freshness for his big guys up front. This is another thing that will be good for Brown, on top of learning from that group of guys and free agent acquisition, Randy Starks.
If the Browns have already addressed wide receiver, the team should absolutely give Brown a look at No. 19. At just 20-years old, he already has a very valuable skillset that could come in and make an impact for the Browns. On top of that, the more raw aspects of his game can be refined through good coaching—and with talk that he is an intelligent kid who loves the game and loves to learn, the Browns could walk away with a future Pro Bowler who turns into a major disruptor up front for years to come.
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