With the 21st pick in Pride Of Detroit's 2013 NFL mock draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown. Northern Lite is serving as the Bengals' general manager, and his reasoning for the pick is below.
To me, the early rounds of the draft are all about finding value. I was hoping that Bjoern Werner or Jarvis Jones would slip down to me, but alas, that has not happened. Now I find myself with several interesting prospects, many of whom have shown up as second-round picks in some mock drafts. This did not make me happy, because no matter who I was looking at, I could see someone calling the pick a "reach," and that was the last thing I wanted to do.
The positions I was mainly looking at were S, LB and RB, with names like Jonathan Cyprien, Arthur Brown and Giovani Bernard as my main targets for each position. Kenny Vaccaro was my No. 1 S and also No. 1 on my big board. With my No. 2 safety (Cyprien) and No. 1 LB (Brown) on the board, I found myself in a tough position. Below I will discuss my reasoning for the Brown pick, but I did find it interesting that he is the only LB on NFL.com/drafttracker who is rated above 90. I guess I did find some good value after all.
Arthur Brown, older brother of Eagles RB Bryce Brown, is a 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker coming out of Kansas. He appears to be an undersized LB at first glance, but that is far from the whole story. Brown originally started his college football career with Miami, but after being there for two years and not being able to crack the starting lineup, Brown decided to transfer. Some viewed this as a character concern, but Brown quickly proved those people wrong, fully committing to his new team and working to become a better leader vocally and through his play on the field. In fact, the only comments I could find about him from Miami featured praise from his coaches. One coach went so far as to draw a comparison to Ray Lewis. He said he saw the light click on for Brown during his second year much like he saw the light click on for Lewis many years prior. Now, that is not to say Brown will be the next Lewis -- in fact, he is a very different player than Ray -- but drawing favorable comparisons to one of the greatest LBs in NFL history is never a bad thing.
At K-State, Brown showed up on the scene with a bang. After redshirting in 2010, he became the starting MLB for the Wildcats and started in all 13 games in 2011. During his first year seeing starting action, Brown racked up 101 tackles, with 9.5 being for a loss, and was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year. The first glance at Brown may leave you feeling that he will be a bit undersized for LB in the NFL, but when you watch his tape and analyze his skills, you realize this kid is the real deal. Literally there are no weaknesses in his game. Brown has the speed (around 4.65; some say he is faster) to be an elite coverage LB. Brown has no problem playing man coverage on RBs, TEs and slot receivers. He also excels in zone coverage, passing off his receivers while maintaining the integrity of his zone seamlessly. Though smaller in size (I hardly call 6'0", 240 lbs. small), Brown has become known as a premium run stuffer at the LB position. Here is what some draft experts and mockers have had to say about Brown:
"Stacks and sheds better than his size should allow -- doesn't stay blocked."
"Keeps clean by using strong, violent hands."
"Keeps his pad level down and isn't afraid of taking on lead blockers in the hole."
And this praise via NFL's Future: "Brown's size should be a deterrent to his effectiveness in the run game. I don't see that on tape. Brown's aggressive nature and instincts have him in the right place at the right time. His speed and ability to read and react have him beating blockers to the punch on many occasions. Brown has fierce hands that keep OL away from his chest. He stacks and sheds as well as any linebacker in the draft. Brown's physicality outweighs his size as he often is the one delivering the blow in the hole against guys that outweigh him by almost 100 pounds."
It's true Brown is a beast in the run game. While watching game tape on him, I found several instances of Brown taking on a pulling guard while still finding free space to make the tackle on the back. Brown even has the power to bend OTs backward and push back blocking TEs. To be that fundamentally sound in the run game while still displaying excellent coverage skills makes Brown truly unique. Brown made interceptions against RGIII and Geno Smith during their final years, and actually, he has so much speed he was used and was effective as a spy against RGIII. With this impressive skillset, Brown gets most commonly compared to NaVorro Bowman of the 49ers. The only negative I could find about Brown was that scouts felt that he would sometimes overrun the hole with poor vision and not be able to reset. With that being said, NFL.com describes Brown as having the best reads and reactions of any LB in this draft, so I'll take the negative criticisms with a grain of salt.
The Bengals need help at LB. With former second-round pick Rey Maualuga being labeled as a "bust," they are likely to move Vontaze Burfict to the middle. Thomas Howard is likely to play weakside linebacker in Cincy, which leaves the strongside backer position open. Many say the Brown would be too small to play this position, but if you look at his skillset, he could more than adequately fill that role. The plus side would be having a three-down SAM instead on a two-down thumper. Brown can stay on the field in all packages, and this only helps increase his value. Brown can really play any LB position, and with him and Burfict on the roster, the Bengals would have a talented corps of LBs to bring into the future.
I knew very little about Brown last month, but after doing the research, I am extremely high on this kid's potential. Other considerations for this pick were DeAndre Hopkins, Cyprien and Bernard.
Check out the 2013 Pride Of Detroit Community Mock Draft tracker for a look at all of the picks.