Last year, the Northwestern Wildcats had no players drafted to the NFL. This year, they have a legitimate first-rounder in Rashawn Slater. They also have an ascending cornerback prospect in Greg Newsome II. Could Northwestern edge rusher Earnest Brown IV be another Wildcat that warrants attention in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Earnest Brown IV NFL Draft Profile
- Position: EDGE
- School: Northwestern
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’5″
- Weight: 270 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Earnest Brown IV Scouting Report
Positives: Athletic, underrated pass rusher whose college career was interrupted by injury. Fires off the snap with a quick first step, plays with excellent pad level, and gets leverage on opponents. Athletic, easily changes direction, and fluidly pursues the action. Plays with consistent knee bend, effectively uses his hands to shed blocks, and displays an inside move. Has a closing burst, makes big-league plays on occasion, and shows explosiveness.
Negatives: Struggles against the run and gets stood up by blockers. Too often out-positioned from the action.
Analysis: Brown is a terrific next-level prospect with the size, athleticism, and growth potential, to be used in a variety of schemes. He displays speed as a pass rusher and excellent movement skills, and projects as a defensive end in a four-man line.
Earnest Brown IV Player Profile
He may be flying under-the-radar compared to his Northwestern teammates but edge rusher Earnest Brown IV arrived at Evanston under much different circumstances. He was one of the program’s highest-rated recruits. The former four-star high school prospect was the sixth-ranked defensive end in the 2017 class, and the 36th ranked player in Texas.
The edge rusher became highly regarded following a successful career at Billy Ryan High School. The Aubrey, Texas, native made a name for himself as a junior. With 21 tackles for loss and 9 sacks, Brown earned the District 5/6A Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
As a senior, he became the Texas District 5/6A Defensive Player of the Year following a season where he racked up 80 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Not only did he excel on the football field, but Brown is a true multi-sport athlete. He captained the Billy Ryan basketball team while also representing the school in the shot put and discus.
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As a result of his high school exploits, and his high standing in the recruiting standings, his recruitment as an edge rusher was heavy. In addition to local interests from Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Texas, he attracted national attention.
In March 2016, he committed to Northwestern, with the academic reputation of the institution a prime consideration. Although he had his eye turned by Ohio State in the months following, he stuck firm, enrolling at Northwestern in June of 2017.
Earnest Brown IV’s college football career at Northwestern
In the year that Ifeadi Odenigbo became the last Northwestern edge to be selected to the NFL Draft, Earnest Brown IV arrived on campus. Making his debut against Nevada, he would go on to play in 11 games as a backup defensive end in his true freshman season.
Although he had very little production on game day, he impressed on the practice field. Brown earned Northwestern Defensive Practice Player of the Week honors following the Penn State game.
The efforts put in on the practice field would pay dividends in 2018. In his sophomore season, Brown contributed 7.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks to the Wildcats’ defense.
He also secured his first career touchdown with a fumble recovery returned for a score against Nebraska. His most impressive performances came down the stretch. Over the final four games of the season, he racked up 6 tackles for loss, including 2.5 in the Big Ten Championship defeat to Ohio State.
With an impressive performance in the Holiday Bowl against Utah, Brown appeared to be building momentum for a spectacular junior season. He opened 2019 with a then career-high 6 tackles against Stanford, following it up with 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks against UNLV. Unfortunately for the Northwestern edge rusher, injury would limit him to just six games in 2019.
Despite a shortened 2020 season, his senior year would be his most productive. Making his first career start against Maryland, and racking up a career-high 8 tackles against Michigan State, he totaled 32 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4 pass breakups, 1 sack, and a fumble recovery. Following the conclusion of the season, Northwestern edge Earnest Brown IV declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Earnest Brown IV’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Northwestern edge rusher Earnest Brown IV is an intriguing late-round prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. At 6’5″ and 270 pounds, he brings prototypical size to the position and demonstrates the ability to disrupt the game in coverage. His best fit figures to be as a rotational defensive end in a 4-3 system.
Some teams with a need and scheme fit include the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, and Minnesota Vikings. However, there are a number of other teams that will look to add an edge rusher like Northwestern’s Earnest Brown IV in the 2021 NFL Draft.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.