Preston Brown provided a big presence in the middle of the Louisville defense the past few years. His size, strength and ability to impact the running game have allowed the Cardinals defense to put speed on the outside and attack the opponent, putting them in obvious passing situations and allowing them to win with their speed and ability to cause turnovers.
For the NFL, Brown has a skillset that could allow him to succeed, but he has been winning because he was bigger and stronger than opponents. His fundamentals are really bad as a result and he needs to play lower, be a better tackler, and basically become a top of the line run defender. At this point, his ability in coverage is virtually non-existent, so if he cannot make himself invaluable as a run defender, he will not be able to survive in the NFL. Brown could go in the late rounds of the draft, but it would not be a surprise if he were to go undrafted, getting a shot to make a roster as a free agent.
Vitals & Build
Brown measured 6’1” 251lbs at the scouting combine with 33 ½” arms. He looks the part of an inside linebacker and has a good amount of strength and power, but is abysmal in maximizing that strength in terms of function. Brown has impressive speed and burst going forward, but he is stiff in his hips, struggles with changes of direction as well as bending and playing low. His potential comes with maximizing his fluidity.
Brown shows he can be a powerful tackler with good pop and the ability to lay the wood. He is woefully bad when it comes to bending and is almost always tackling with higher pad level than the ball carrier. As a result, he simply has to overpower the opponent to get them down and while he has had the strength to do this in college, this presents a problem at the next level.
When he does get lower with his pad level, it is because he is lunging at the opponent, putting his head down and making a risky play in order to try to make a big hit. Brown also needs to do a better job of consistently wrapping up on the opponent.
There is no question that Brown can be a powerful tackler, but his fundamentals are really lacking and unless addressed, it will be difficult for him to get on the field.
Brown can be impressive in run support. He is a thumping presence in the middle of the defense. Brown is always looking run, so he tends to get a good jump on it, which can result in him being caught in play action, but allows him to be in position to take on the running game.
He has shown he can get take on a block and shed, getting to the ball carrier. Again, he tends to be too high which makes him have to work harder than he should. Brown has shown he can have quick hands and get off of blocks effectively at times.
The Louisville defensive scheme has had Brown run blitz quite a bit and he is impressive when he is able to get a head of steam. Brown is able to generate momentum quickly and can be powerful in the middle of the offensive line, able to drive back linemen or put a good hit on the ball carrier.
In terms of range, Brown is relatively limited. He tends to be late or out of control when he attacks wide and has too many instances where he gets caught at an awkward angle, overruns the play or is trying to catch the play from behind. Brown is at his best going basically from guard to guard, keeping his shoulders square to the line and being able to be a powerful presence in the box.
There is a role Brown can fill in the NFL, but he has to get better when it comes to playing with leverage, shedding blocks more effectively and not missing the plays he should make. If he can do those things, he can be a nice role player and specialist as a hammer inside.
Brown struggles in coverage and has been limited to getting into short zones. His ability to see and react to plays tends to be slow. Unless the play is virtually at him, he has trouble making an impact. His drops are slow and his backpedal is too high while his hips and fluidity to respond are no better.
If the pass is basically on him, he can work to knock the ball down but it has not been difficult to throw passes at his zone and take advantage.
Perhaps as a result of the scheme and the way Louisville plays, they always have him set to play downhill and attack the run, so he can get caught on play action fakes and get victimized. Given his struggles in coverage, this is probably the best use of his skills anyway.
Pass Rush & Blitz ability
Brown can be a nice A gap pass rush threat. With his hips forward and his timing of the snap, he can get downhill in a hurry and get into the pocket. With his bulk and strength, he can occasionally collapse the pocket with his momentum, but he could do better if he was better at playing lower.
While he is usually a hammer in his blitz approach, he will show some decent handwork and beat blockers at times and keep the rush coming. And considering his power, he can be a scary presence for the quarterback if they see him coming, because he can land a big hit. They may be flushed out or pushed into other opponents coming on the pass rush.
Brown’s best fit is as a hammer in the running game and more specifically, as a thumping presence inside in a 3-4. Limiting the amount of ground he has to cover and letting him get downhill as quickly as possible has yielded the best results for him in college. Ultimately, his best bet in the NFL is as a run specialist that can help a team get the opponent into obvious passing situations.
Brown has some similarities to Justin Tuggle of the Houston Texans, who went undrafted out of Kansas State but managed to make and stay on their roster. He has size and potential much like Brown does and if was able to contribute for the Texans this past year.
Preston Brown has shown he can be a two-down run specialist, but he has to eliminate the technical errors. If he can do a better job of playing with lower pad level and maximize his functional strength, he can have a productive career in the NFL. His physical tools and potential could get him drafted in the late rounds of the draft, but it would not be a surprise if he went undrafted and had to prove it as a free agent tryout.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com