You know it’s officially NFL Draft week when the rumors start swirling at an increasingly hyperactive rate. Of course, it’s also general managers’ last chance to throw some misdirection out there in an effort to mask their true intentions for this weekend.
So keep that in mind when it comes to the latest rumor surrounding the Detroit Lions and their first-round pick. According to MMQB’s Albert Breer, the Lions have a draft-crush on Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown.
“I’ve heard rumblings that the coaching staff has taken a real liking to Auburn DT Derrick Brown,” Breer wrote in his Monday column. “I’m sticking with Okudah here, for now. But I think Brown is very much a possibility.”
Brown was a popular pick for the Lions in early mock drafts, but he has since slid out of the conversation almost completely. Lions fans have gravitated more towards South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who has better athletic traits and is perceived as more of a pass rusher than Brown, who many view as a pure run-stuffer.
However, PFF’s Brett Whitefield joined our PODcast this week and rejected that notion about Brown and Kinlaw.
“When you look at defensive tackle prospects, (Brown) is elite as they come,” Whitefield said. “Everyone wants to compare him to Kinlaw and make the claim that Kinlaw is automatically going to be this better pass rusher—and there’s a case to be made that Kinlaw has better physical traits—but when you look at the data, look at the numbers, Derrick Brown has been every bit as good as a pass rusher as Kinlaw has in college. Whether that’s their PFF pass rush grade, which is literally identical over the last two years, or their win rate, which is both over 17 percent. Pressure rate is neck-and-neck. Brown has more pressure than Kinlaw does, he has more sacks and hits, he’s got more batted passes. He’s out produced Kinlaw in just about every way as a pass rusher over the past two years.”
The other knock on Brown has been his athleticism. His showing at the NFL Combine, to some, dropped him out of the top-10 conversation completely.
But, again, Whitefield had a response for that.
“He’s getting a lot of crap for athleticism, (but) if you look at the three most predictive things for pass success translating to the NFL, it’s PFF pass rush grade, weight-adjusted broad jump and weight-adjusted short shuttle. He checked all three of those boxes actually pretty well,” Whitefield said on our PODcast this week. “While he’s not a great athlete, I think he’s athletic enough to do what he does well at the next level.”
But even after all that praise, Whitefield, like many, don’t believe the position he plays is worthy of a top-three pick, and maybe not even in the top 10.
“I’d probably be comfortable with him (going) between 10 and 20,” Whitefield said.
So if the Lions are truly obsessed with Brown, it still may only make sense for Detroit to pick him after a significant trade down in the draft. But we’ve seen the Lions “reach” for their guy before. Could we see it again on Thursday?