Saying that Andrew Brown’s career at Virginia was disappointing is an understatement. The 5-star recruit spent much of his freshman year dealing with a shoulder injury. His sophomore year didn’t go a whole lot better because of turf toe. But that’s not to take away from his success with the Virginia Cavaliers and his prospect of playing at the next level.
Once head coach Bronco Mendenhall came in and implemented his 3-4 defense, Brown was actually pretty good. Between his junior and senior seasons, Brown totaled 84 tackles (23.5 TFLs) and 9.5 sacks. He also forced and recovered a fumble. Not exactly the mind-blowing numbers Virginia fans were hoping for when Brown committed. But Brown was an integral part of this year’s 40th ranked defense.
Obviously, the injuries held Brown back. And, at times, the lack of talent around him also held him back. But, that’s not the full story. There were times when his effort seemed to be questioned by the coaches. It’s been widely rumored that he apparently had a great deal of friction with defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. Nobody really knows how much of that is on Brown and how much is on Tenuta. Tenuta is a well-respected “football guy,” so NFL teams will do their due diligence on that.
Brown performed very well at the Senior Bowl. He also tested pretty well at the NFL Combine. He measured 6’3” and 294 pounds. His 5.03 second 40 time is pretty slow. But nobody really cares about 40 time for interior DLs. His 20-yard shuttle time was 4.48 which is outstanding for a DT, and he put up 31 bench press reps, which is also outstanding. His 3-cone drill time of 7.51 seconds was also among positional leaders.
Here are a couple of highlights for Brown. This first one is actually two highlights in one, both plays from the Virginia-Pitt game this year. In both plays, he’s lined up as a 3-4 DE on the right side of the offensive formation. In the first play, the run is away from him, with linemen pulling from his side. His first step off the ball is so good, he’s able to chase down the RB from the backside before the run even gets started. In the second play, the run is to his side. He pushes the blocker into the backfield, fights off the block and makes the play. That’s two TFLs in about 10 seconds.
This second highlight is from the Senior Bowl. In this play, though it is tough to tell from this angle, he’s lined up as a 4-3 DT. Again, his quick first step beats the blocker and gets him into the backfield before the play even gets going. He’s on the RB almost before he has the ball.
Having played in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense, Brown can be an asset to any NFL team. His role in Bronco Mendenhall’s 3-4 was different than it would be in the NFL. For the most part, 3-4 DEs are there to occupy blockers and maintain edge control. Brown was asked to do more than that, because he was capable of doing more than that. Brown’s best role in the NFL will be as a 4-3 DT. He’ll avoid the constant double-teams and he’ll be able to use his quickness off the snap to break down the pocket from the inside.
Mock drafts have Brown anywhere from the second or third round to even the fifth or sixth. I think there’s a good chance Brown is the first Cavalier off the board, probably in the third or fourth round. Brown is likely to be a better NFL player than he was in college, if for no other reason than his remaining healthy.