In a league that's starved for defensive lineman, the 2019 draft class served as a replenishment for lots of teams throughout the league. Nick Bosa and Brian Burns are off to hot starts, but we're still waiting for Clelin Ferrell and others to prove their worth. While the 2020 class may not be as deep, there are once again plenty of talented defenders.
Interior vs. edge pressure continues to be a highly debated topic and one that has logical reasonings from both sides involved. At the center of it all is Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown. The mammoth-sized 6-foot-5, 318 pound interior defender is piecing together another dominant season in what is his last with the Tigers.
Brown was originally born in Greenwood, Mississippi, which is the hometown of his mother, Martha Brown, and father, James Brown. Both graduates of Mississippi State, but both wanted to move away from the terrors of the town.
The couple moved to Georgia when Derrick was only 3-years old. While raising him in an unfamiliar area, they wanted to get him involved in a sport of his liking. As soon as he turned nine, the family immediately got him involved in football. Playing in a local league, many questioned his age because of just how large Brown was.
Fighting demons of his own, he suffered from a severe case of bullying growing up, but he’s thankful of that stage because it taught him that he needed to toughen up and use his size to his advantage. A two-sport athlete (basketball) and product of Lanier High School (Georgia), Brown was an immovable force following his impressive junior campaign, where he recorded 101 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, and 17.5 sacks.
A breakout season (2014), that helped him become a five-star prospect and arguably the top-ranked interior defensive lineman in the country. East Carolina was the first school to offer him a scholarship and the light was finally beginning to come on for him. After a standout junior season, he finished his career strong with 106 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, and 12 sacks.
The results of those numbers brought his career totals to 270 tackles, 81 tackles for loss and 33.5 sacks during his three-year varsity career. Astronomical numbers, Brown was selected as a 2016 USA Today All-American and Class 5A first-team Georgia all-state selection. Choosing Auburn was highly celebrated by many and he wasted little time living up to the hype -- playing in all 13 games as a true freshman.
Now as a sophomore, the 2017 season is one where he flourished. Starting all 14 games, he finished the season with 56 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. Brown followed up his previous season with an even better performance in 2018.
Recording 48 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, starting all 13 games. Labeled as one of the top interior defensive lineman in the country, it was a huge surprise to see Brown return for his senior season.
Where He Wins (+)
Brown possesses a jaw dropping height, weight, and athleticism combination. He has a wide bodied frame that contains a well distributed portion to all areas of it. Agile and light footed along the interior that allows him to cause disruption on a consistent basis. Brown demonstrates outstanding ball get-off and explosion out of his stance. He's able to transition speed to power immediately and the presence from his heavy hands are consistently utilized.
Brown has lots of positive plays that are unnoticeable. The ultimate role player that maximizes exactly what he’s asked to do schematically. Has the strength to eat up double teams on a down-to-down basis that enable second level defenders to roam freely over the top to effect plays positively
He shows to be consistent with switching up his plan of attack. When burying his head and executing a bull rush, it is simply unstoppable. Blockers quickly surrender by hanging on for dear life as he walks them five-plus yards into the backfield. True up-the-field penetrator that takes pride in disrupting the timing of offenses because of his ability to puncture concepts. When used as a one-technique, one-on-one matchups are a recipe for disaster for the opposition.
Where He Must Improve (-)
While he has an urgent first-step, Brown can sometimes stand straight up while firing off of the ball. This allows many blocks to win inside leverage and slow down his vertical destinations. This also hurts him a bit as a run defender as back blocks from centers were frequently effective when he played too high. Maintaining a lower pad level and also keeping his eyes up will help him anticipate those tactics and disengage from the contact.
Because of his nose-down and get up the field type of penetration playing style, he can become a bit too eager, which leaves gaps completely voided. Stretch runs to the sideline and ones that put him in a bind were often effective as a result. Play recognition and awareness are lacking in lapses and Brown becomes fixated on only getting up-the-field.
When forced off his spots or not being able to create penetration vertically, he runs into trouble when forced to seek other avenues in order to have an effect on plays. If his initial plan is unsuccessful, the implementation of a backup or counter move is hit or miss way too often.