Last year, we were fortunate to have fantastic interior defensive linemen like Quinnen Williams, Jeffery Simmons, and Ed Oliver enter the draft. Derrick Brown was expected to declare for last year’s NFL Draft, but he decided to return to Auburn for his senior year, and it made all the difference. In 2018, Brown was a good player, but there were things he needed to improve on; for example, his pad level would far too often get too high and he would lose leverage and it would allow him to get overpowered. However, in 2019, Brown has refined his game and has taken it to the next level.
You might be asking, what makes him a top-5 player? That’s what I’m here to answer. When watching a player’s tape, the games that mean the most are the ones against the toughest competition. In the SEC, tough competition isn’t hard to come by. Brown has dominated against teams like LSU, Alabama and Florida. Don’t just take my word for it, see it for yourself.
Pass Rush Ability
In this first clip against LSU, Brown is lined up in the center of the Auburn defensive line over the offensive guard. When the ball is snapped, Brown is the first person moving and it allows him to get his hands on the lineman first. Brown is able to stay low and maintain leverage. He initially stuns the offensive lineman with his powerful hands and can go to work.
Once Brown has his hands inside, he uses his strength to push the blocker away from him. When he has his arms fully extended, you can see the back of the guard start to bend; at this point Brown has already won. He then pulls one arm off the guard and pushes his left arm into the shoulder of the blocker with all his strength, resulting in the lineman getting pushed back into Joe Burrows lap, which then leads to a sack.
Plays like this show how disruptive Brown can be as a pass rusher, but another big part of an interior defensive lineman’s game is run stuffing.
In this play, Brown is highlighted by a yellow circle on your screen. As the ball is snapped, Brown immediately stuns the offensive lineman with a powerful punch and is able to push him back and reset the line of scrimmage. Brown is keeping his eyes on the running back during the whole play and knows exactly where he is going. Until the running-back makes a move towards Brown, he’s just sitting there, ready to throw this lineman away to make the stop.
As soon as the running back cuts to get up field, Brown quickly discards the offensive lineman. In doing so, Brown clogs the running lane and secures the tackle. This play shows just how versatile Brown is. He’s shown the pass rush, and now the run stuff. As an interior defensive lineman, maintaining blocks and then being able to get-off of them with ease, something called stack and shed, is incredibly important, and Brown has shown that he is more than capable of doing that.
Derrick Brown is a 6-4, 320-pound defensive lineman, so it makes sense that he’s strong and is able to overpower blockers. People who are that big aren’t typically able to move very quickly, but Brown is different.
This play is just absurd. Brown is lined up over the guard on the near side of the defensive line. Even though he doesn’t get the sack, this is exactly what you want to see from a pass rush standpoint. Yet again, he is quick off the snap and is moving before anyone else. He shoots forward like he is going to engage with the blocker. Rather, he swipes the blockers hands away and quickly spins to the inside. There’s not much to say about this play other than how impressive it is.
The quick get-off made it so the blocker doesn’t have much time to diagnose what Brown is attempting to do, so he tries to just get his hands on Brown but it doesn’t succeed. Right as the lineman reaches to engage with Brown, he begins his spin move. The blocker doesn’t connect with anything, so he stumbles forward slightly. As a result, this gives Brown a clear lane to the quarterback once he gets out of his spin. The quickness Brown shows in the play shouldn’t be allowed for someone his size.
As we near the end of the college football season, draft season begins. Derrick Brown has been nothing short of incredible this season and his final grade will reflect that. When it’s all said and done, Derrick Brown will be a top-5 player on my big board. More so, I will not be shocked to see him dominate in the NFL.