Photo via Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics
With the Oakland Raiders not re-signing linebacker Perry Riley Jr. and losing out on Zach Brown in free agency, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is likely scouring every inside linebacker in the 2017 NFL draft’s footage as we speak.
Former Ohio Bobcats inside linebacker Blair Brown could be the perfect candidate.
Brown is an extremely talented linebacker, but he lacks prototypical size, which could see him drafted as late as round No. 5, (or possibly later). Said potential fall could provide McKenzie with yet another high-value pick who could prove to be a long-term contributor at a crucial position.
Brown had an impressive year in 2016, racking up 131 total tackles, forcing 16 quarterback pressure and notching four sacks.
A decent sideline-to-sideline roamer, Brown relies on above average instincts and awareness to put himself in the right position regularly, whether on running or passing downs.
The 5-foot, 11-inch, 238-pound Brown ran a strong 4.65 second 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. He also posted an excellent 37-inch vertical jump, a mark that ended up second-best at his position among all players who participated.
Overall, Brown possesses strong athleticism but a shorter build that may trouble some NFL general managers.
Brown is considered the second-best run defender out of all inside linebackers coming out of the 2017 NFL draft prospects, according to Pro Football Focus, ranking behind former Alabama Crimson Tide LB Reuben Foster.
The former Bobcat possesses elite play recognition which leads to excellent tackling efficiency. Brown is always disciplined in his gap, and has the quickness to not let ball carriers get outside.
Brown’s coverage skills may not translate to the NFL.
Scouts concerns are rooted in his lack of top-end speed could cause problems on deeper-developing routes down the middle of the field. Oakland has struggled in recent years to cover tight ends, which could be the exact reason why McKenzie may steer clear of Brown.
Fit with the Raiders
The Raiders need all the help they can get at inside linebacker, and Brown could be a two-down backer Day 1.
His weaknesses in coverage can be alleviated by taking him off the field in third-down and some subpackage situations, and since Brown isn’t expected to be a high draft pick he doesn’t present too much risk as a selection in the middle rounds.
Should Brown surprise scouts and improve his coverage abilities, he could prove to be a starter for McKenzie & Co. for years to come. As it is, he’s certainly worth a gander in the middle rounds for the reigning executive of the year.