Perhaps the biggest steal of the 2013 NFL Draft was the selection of Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown by the Baltimore Ravens.
Brown, easily a first-round prospect, slipped to the second round and right into the arms of the Ravens, who desperately needed an improvement at the inside linebacker position.
The team signed Rolando McClain to a one-year deal to help fill the voids left by Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe, but his days in Baltimore could already be numbered after yet another arrest. Even with the uncertainty of McClain’s future, the team still needed an improvement at either inside position in the team’s hybrid 3-4 front.
The second-round pick is already a better linebacker than either McClain (Rolando or Jameel) and his unique skill set will prove to be essential as the team continues to undergo a rapid, one-year overhaul of the defense.
Brown steps in as a former team captain at Kansas State, and his presence and skill on the field will be a welcome addition after the departures of Lewis and Ellerbe. Brown is by no means a perfect prospect, but he has few flaws and rarely gets exploited, especially when it comes to reaction and awareness on the field.
Let’s take a look at some plays from college in which Brown displayed his well-rounded playing style.
In 2011, Brown got the best of then Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. In the fourth quarter, Griffin is lined up in the shotgun with a running back to his right as Brown settles in on the left side of the defense.
Griffin sets off toward the right side as his right guard and right tackle open a hole, which Brown quickly identifies and shoots through.
Once Griffin begins to initiate the option offense, Brown has to make the decision of whether or not to stay on the quarterback.
In this case, he successfully stays on the quarterback, forcing Griffin to pitch it, resulting in a negative play.
In today’s NFL, the read option is a growing trend and Brown’s discipline against the option will be a valuable asset.
In the same game (in fact the very next play) Brown shows an ability to make a quick decision and identify that Griffin intends to throw the ball after a fake handoff.
Brown quickly redirects and drops back into coverage:
He settles himself in the middle of the field, right in Griffin’s line of vision. With the aid of a quarterback hurry, Brown is able to position himself to easily intercept a pass that Griffin underthrows.
On this play, Brown displays his inherent discipline to stay put instead of committing to the running back.
Now let’s move on to 2012.
In a late-season game against Texas, Brown faces a wildcat offense look by the Longhorns.
The wide receiver comes in motion from the left side.
Brown identifies the handoff to the receiver and quickly begins to chase him down toward the right side.
Instead of committing to the ball carrier, Brown rightfully continues to move laterally instead of forward. This is helpful as the receiver begins to make a cutback move.
After a quick juke step, the ball carrier continues his path toward the right side, where he is met by Brown, who remains disciplined and continues to move to his left.
The ball carrier has nowhere to go but sideways, and the Kansas State defense is able to easily push him out of bounds for little-to-no gain.
Another aspect of Brown’s stellar game is his ability to take on blockers.
In this 2012 game against West Virginia, Brown is lined up on the strong side.
He quickly shoots the gap after the snap and meets the fullback in the backfield.
The ball carrier comes right at Brown, and with the fullback still on him, Brown tackles the running back (basically with one arm).
Despite perceived size concerns, Brown is a well-built player who plays much bigger and stronger than his size suggests. He’s a willing blitzer who can consistently take on a blocker, shed him and make the tackle.
Brown has a unique set of skills, which include a high level of field awareness, immense strength and an ability to drop into coverage quickly after he identifies the play.
He’s a polished player who will not only play at a high level in 2013, but for many years to come in Baltimore.