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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LB Baron Browning

  • The Draft Network
  • December 26, 2020
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PROSPECT SUMMARY

Baron Browning is an enticing prospect when accounting for his dynamic athletic profile and flashes of production via splash plays throughout the course of his career at Ohio State. Browning has all of the physical skills needed to be a standout starter at the pro game, but his irregular play across multiple spots in the linebacker group during his time in Columbus has left some irregularities and inconsistencies in his game. With that in mind, Browning finished his career with excellent play down the stretch with the Buckeyes and his role in coverage. Browning should shine in a familiar role at the pro level; illustrating the needed discipline in zone coverage drops and as a pressure player in blitz scenarios for a team looking to boost their mid-level defense. 

Ideal Role: 4-3 WILL

Scheme Fit: Gap control defensive front to keep him clean on B-level, front diversity to allow him some reps as a blitzer off the edge.

FILM EVALUATION

Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Cincinnati (2019), Penn State (2019), Michigan (2019), Wisconsin (2019), Clemson (2019), Nebraska (2020), Indiana (2020), Michigan State (2020), Clemson (2020), Alabama (2020) 

Best Game Studied: Clemson (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Nebraska (2020)

Tackling: Browning’s closing burst and speed to the football really flash off the screen when he’s triggering into the play. He’s got ample wingspan and a sturdy build. He aggressively wraps up his fits and will have little issue with bigger ball-carriers to finish through the ground. His discipline to break down in space can be hit or miss and he can overrun his fits from time to time; his issues here are fundamental, not mechanical. 

Football IQ: Browning has been tried all over the second level for the Buckeyes—SAM, MIKE, and WILL—and he has yet to really settle into a fixed position with consistency. Browning was a part of a matchup specific rotation of LBs in 2019 and was called upon against teams with more speed to take advantage of his athleticism; and while his exposure and potential for cross-training across multiple spots are enticing, you certainly wish he’d have mastered one of those roles to project him as a starter early on. His best bet feels to come at WILL, where he can be more content to ID the play and rally to the ball.  

Competitive Toughness: Physically speaking, this is an impressive dude. Browning is explosive and he has some tenacious finishes on his tape—it is often a matter of getting everything to click into place and when it does, the results are strong. Physically capable of thumping between the tackles, Browning is best served attacking the edges and defeating blocks on the hashes. 

Pass Coverage Ability: Browning has everything he needs to be a successful coverage linebacker and Ohio State has afforded him reps in this area in the past. Athletically, he can match tight ends and not get bullied at the catch point, but where he really showcased himself down the stretch was playing and collisioning vertical stems and getting depth to take away throwing windows in zone. 

Run Defending: The ability to shoot gaps on run blitzes makes him capable of hitting home runs—he’s got the quickness to beat blockers out of the chute and if he’s walked up onto the LOS, he’ll claim wins and challenge the mesh point. He’s come crashing through traffic with speed to rip down ball carriers, too—he’s fully capable of negotiating traffic. But from a read and react perspective, he’s more effective to make patient reads and then drive on the play instead of trying to anticipate flow early in his read steps and gaining ground. 

Block Deconstruction: Browning possesses the length and punch power to stack up blockers with success and maintain a sturdy wall along the defensive front. He’ll rip through lateral challenges and successfully press through contact to hunt the ball. He will be a difficult assignment for slot receivers who he will be walked overtop of against spread sets. 

Lateral Mobility: From a pure athleticism perspective, this is a sideline-to-sideline caliber athlete. I’ve seen him flip and open to the boundary and match Travis Etienne in a footrace to the corner, so he’s got plenty of range to his game—enough to cover for some of the lapses you’ll have along the way. He’s going to make certain plays that others wouldn’t sniff with his athleticism. 

Flexibility: Fluidity and natural athleticism are hallmarks of his game tape. He’ll make transitions look easy when he’s in space and his ability to flip and open himself to accelerate and begin to chase down plays is a big plus and a reason why you’ll always advocate for playing him in space. Browning has shown the ability to get leverage as a tackler, getting low to win contact. You appreciate how fluid his lower half is for a 240-pound athlete as well. 

Leadership: Browning transitioned to MIKE LB after an injury to teammate and team captain Tuf Borland and did his absolute best to pick up the slack and learn the full gauntlet of calls and assignments. He was credited as being proactive with coaches and also with former MIKE LBs in the program. While Browning has made selfless transitions, he never really managed to wrangle a featured role, nor was he voted a captain for a program that had two linebackers in such roles in 2020. 

Versatility: Browning was a big-play catalyst for the Buckeyes in 2019 when the team was loaded at LB. He could be used as an a la carte weapon in pressure situations and blitzing off the edge, which he was very good at.  

Prospect Comparison: TBD

SCOUT GRADES

TDN Consensus: 84.88 / 100

Kyle Crabbs: 85.00/100

Jordan Reid: 84.00/100

Joe Marino: 85.00/100

Drae Harris: 85.00/100

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