NFL Draft analysis: offensive tackles — Orlando Brown Jr.

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DENTON, Texas (KNTU) Continuing my analysis of NFL 2018 Draft candidates, it’s time for the breakdown of my picks for the five best draft-eligible offensive tackles. At #5:

Orlando Brown Jr., Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma — 6’8″ / 345lbs — (RS) Junior #78

  • Who is he?

After going undrafted in 1993, Orlando Brown Sr. signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent and spent nine seasons as a right tackle for the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens franchise. This year, his son Orlando Brown Jr. is on his way to the NFL, but as a much more highly coveted prospect.

After a long journey from being an overweight, out of shape high school player in Georgia to receiving a last-minute offer to play for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma to being named Big 12 offensive lineman of the year in consecutive seasons (2016 and 2017), Brown has worked his way into the first-round conversation. Despite some of the best game film among all the 2018 tackle prospects, huge questions linger after Brown’s nightmare performance at the NFL Combine.

  • Positives

On film, Brown looks like one of the best tackles in this draft class. 2017 was Brown’s third year as a starter, and he only allowed 11 pressures all season. With 35-inch arms, Brown has impressive length, well above most NFL thresholds. He combines his ability to create space with excellent strength, turning the quarterback’s blind side into a brick wall. Brown snaps to his set quickly and has a powerful punch. His feet are sharp, and he easily mirrors rushers upfield, keeping his back straight and rarely leaning into his man.

In the running game, Brown is a mauler. He engages and redirects well on both zone and power runs. He’s mobile for his size and gets downfield to make plays. He’s not a swing tackle, but he functioned well in a Sooners scheme that demanded its offensive lineman to move in space.

  • Negatives

You could ask 10 different NFL scouts about how much stock they put into game film when evaluating talent versus how much they put into the NFL Combine and pro days, and you’d get 10 different answers. I put about 90% into the tape and the other 10% into the Combine and pro days.

What I want to see at the combine is whether or not players are meeting necessary athletic thresholds for NFL. If they do, it serves to confirm what they’ve shown on tape. If they don’t, it’s a red flag and causes doubts about how a player’s skills project to the next level.

Brown had one of the worst combine performances in the history of his position. If you look at his spider chart, there are critical categories where he tested as a zero (0) percentile athlete; not just when measured against other tackles, but across all offensive line positions.

There are two ways I can explain Brown’s combine performance, and neither is good. The first is that Brown is a terrible athlete, which would mean there’s a good chance he never becomes anything more than a backup in the NFL. But Brown’s father was a starting NFL tackle for almost a decade. It seems odd that he would inherit so little athletic ability but all of the size, and still find so much success in the college game.

The second explanation is that he showed up completely out of shape, meaning his numbers aren’t an accurate indication of his athleticism. If that is the case, it isn’t as big of a red flag, but it’s still worrisome. For a player to make a mental mistake like that would be massive, and it would drop him out of first-round discussions. And if that was the case, who’s to say Brown is a 50-plus percentile athlete even when he is in shape? The 90% of the value I place on game film means nothing if it isn’t propped up the other 10%.

  • Summary

A month ago I thought of Brown as one of the best tackles in this class. But after his combine performance, I can’t see him being drafted before the third round. Brown has impressive technique, but unfortunately, technique means nothing if a more athletic player can simply run around him. If Brown does eventually start for a pro team, I would expect it to be at right tackle instead of left.

  • Relevance to the Cowboys

With Tyron Smith’s history of back injuries, there’s some speculation that he may be on the back-end of his career. But left tackle is one of the most critical positions on offense, and if the Cowboys are in the market for a replacement, they should look for a star-in-the-making. Brown doesn’t fit that profile.

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