Jedrick Wills was arguably the best offensive tackle in the nation last season on one of the most successful offensive lines in the country. But while studying his Auburn game, it was impossible not to be impressed with the absolutely massive young man playing beside him. Alabama Crimson Tide right guard Deonte Brown needs more publicity because he’s one of the best in the nation.
Who is Deonte Brown?
It’s hard to imagine another interior lineman handling the power and technique a player like Derrick Brown possesses with such consistency and dominance. The matchup between the seventh pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and Brown is one of the more underrated individual engagements of the season.
Each delivered blows to the other, but it was the relatively unknown Brown who got the best of his more recognized namesake. One well-timed spin move that ended up being a touchdown pass and one over-extension near the goal line were the only two outright losses for Deonte.
But the Auburn game wasn’t a one-time thing. Results were much the same elsewhere, including the Louisiana State game where he faced more athletic opponents, such as first-round picks K’Lavon Chaisson and Patrick Queen.
Even the mystery surrounding the six-game suspension he served in the final two games of 2018 and the first four of 2019 should bring attention to the massively framed guard. What was originally described by head coach Nick Saban as a violation of team rules, ended in an NCAA violation.
For now, all we can do is evaluate what we know, and look forward to what we need to see for Brown to become a bonafide first-round caliber player.
Where Brown wins
Brown is an absolute mauler in the run game. Despite his lack of anatomical length, he doesn’t display many instances where that becomes an issue. His stout frame and natural power allow him to absorb blows and use his hands and lower body strength to close the gap and get his hands inside the defender’s breastplate.
His strike is compact and violent, which helps jar defenders enough to then reestablish, control and steer them out of the rush lane. His hand placement is consistent, and his natural strength means he rarely feels the need to overextend himself to get a push, keeping necessary leverage.
But he isn’t simply a point of attack power player that can’t move off the starting block. As PFN draft analyst Matt Valdovinos explained, Brown can get up and go outside the tackles as a puller too. He isn’t often tasked with combos up to the second level, but he’s displayed a good understanding of timing and angles to take for the cut-off, along with the athletic ability to mirror defenders.
But pass protection is king in football due to the rising emphasis on the passing attack. So one could deduce the lack of publicity for Brown could be because he struggles in pass protection, but that’s not the case either. Brown is an impenetrable wall. He’s King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans holding off the Persians from slipping through the Thermopylae Pass. The only way to beat him is to go around him.
Brown’s areas of improvement
Therein lies the first issue. You can, with advanced hands and some lateral quickness, beat him as a pass rusher. Although he does a nice job mirroring and has enough power to shove defenders out the way of the quarterback if he is beat, if he loses the immediate hand fight, he possesses the propensity to allow immediate pressure.
Another issue in Brown’s game stems from his ability, or inability, to quickly locate disguised pressure and a lack of communication with the center when defensive linemen and linebackers play games.
The last issue and the only one that’ll be difficult to fix is his lack of high-end athleticism. He’s quick enough to hang, but he won’t wow with his ability to move laterally.
If Brown fixes those first two issues he could very well hear his name called on April 29, 2021. Because being an elite run blocker and a brick house pass protector can take him a long way in the NFL. If he gets the mental aspect of pass protection down he’s going to make an NFL team very happy.