In full disclosure I should probably start off by saying that I am a Kansas State fan and alum.
I can also confidently say that before last week I was not sold that Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown would be a good fit for the strong inside linebacker (SILB) role with the Kansas City Chiefs. But after watching some tape and analyzing the needs and past issues for the Chiefs defense Brown looks like a good fit.
Yes I'd take Brown at No. 34 overall if he's still there. Despite what some boards have him at right now there were a LOT of people at the Senior Bowl who think he'll be a first-round pick when it's all said and done. I imagine he'll move up the rankings as we get closer to the draft and more time is spent watching his tape.
The SILB position is where Jovan Belcher had played and Brandon Siler had finished the season. It's not considered a glorious position because it's very big on taking on blocks and playing in heavy traffic when the Chiefs in the base defense, which was only 50 percent of the time last season. Being on the strong-side of the formation you're going to have to deal with more offensive lineman and stacking than you would on the weak-side (Derrick Johnson). With new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton we're going to see a new scheme change but that doesn't mean teams won't still be trying to spread the Chiefs out. That's just the way the NFL is headed right now.
It's for these reasons that I didn't think it'd be best suited for Brown, a player who's already considered on the smaller side of the linebacker position at ~ 228 pounds. (Although he didn't weigh-in down in Mobile). Normally you'd see players in the 245-plus range at that linebacker position.
Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson is considered the prototypical SILB at 249 pounds. Johnson was one player who I was really looking forward to watching down in Mobile. The stigma attached to SILBs is they can't cover or play in space -- that fits with Johnson. Although there is enormous talent on the Alabama defense Johnson was often pulled off the field in passing situations. With prototypical SILBs you're looking at two-down linebackers and with as much time as the Chiefs were spending in dime sets last season (50 percent), the trends are moving away from having guys on the field that are liabilities in pass coverage.
When facing 11-personnel (1 back-1 TE, basically 3 WRs) the Chiefs often went auto-dime on defense. They'd pull off a defensive lineman and a linebacker and put out two more defensive backs. This often left the Chiefs in bad situations facing the run. It varied from game to game and situation to situation but this is a basic example of the Chiefs problem on defense.
They don't have guys versatile enough to play in both situations. Along the defensive line Dontari Poe and Tyson Jackson gained value by playing in both sets. They'd be the two defensive lineman in the 2-4-6 dime defense. If the Chiefs can get the same from a SILB then they will be in a much better position not having the weakest link always tested.
Enter Arthur Brown.
He fits into this whole picture because he excels at playing at space and despite his size he CAN play against the run, take on blocks and be the physical player needed in the middle of the defense. He's not the ideal 'thumper' that we're used to talking about but he could easily fit the best-player-available (BPA) strategy at No. 34.
A few examples to prove my point...
In this play against Miami you'll notice that the running back initially flows to the quarterback as if the run is going off the left side. You'll see that Brown doesn't bite or flow that way as the offense would have hoped. Once he see's right guard pulling and coming around he's diagnosed the play. This counter-action by the offense is hoping Brown would flow to his right and the pulling guard could seal him to the inside and the running back could bounce the play outside. Not only did Brown show discipline by not flowing he shows physicality with the offensive lineman and running back to blow up the play. This is 11-personnel vs a nickel defense with six blockers on six defenders in the box.
I love this play for several reasons. First thing that jumps out watching this clip is the athletic ability to drop into coverage and show 'fluid hips'. This is something the Chiefs don't have right now. The second thing that jumps out is the recognition of the play-pass. Brown sees the OL stand-up (common indicator of pass) and immediately starts his drop while keeping his eyes in the back-field to watch for the draw. Once he knows it's not a draw he peeks the route (which he's already taken away by getting deep enough on his drop) and the post is not there for the quarterback. Athleticism in pass coverage combined with great technique and high football IQ.
Miami goes unbalanced to the left and Brown is right there in the middle of it to start. The tight-end attempts to block Brown initially but you see the quick and violent swim-move from Brown combined with quick feet that gets Brown into open space. After that it's all about closing speed. Play-making in the red-zone.
In case you weren't impressed that he chased down a scrambling Miami quarterback maybe this would impress you more. This is against Baylor from 2011 and that's RGIII. It's not a matter of athleticism with Brown. He's got that.
Here's a short-yardage situation against West Virginia. Brown meets the tight-end (acting as FB) in the backfield to blow up the play and stuff the run. He takes on the contact and even rocks the tight-end a little bit. This play is a little more head-on as far as taking on a blocker than the one above which is more at an angle with a pulling guard. But it still shows ability to make a play through contact.
Here are a few scouting reports on Brown, so you don't think it's just the KSU grad talking him up:
Stacks and sheds better than his size should allow - doesn't stay blocked.
Keeps clean by using strong, violent hands.
Speed and instincts get him to the spot before blockers are in position.
Keeps his pad level down and isn't afraid of taking on lead blockers in the hole. via NEPatriotsDraft.com
Brown's size should be a deterrent to his effectiveness in the run game. I don't see that on tape. Brown's aggressive nature and instincts have him in the right place at the right time. His speed and ability to read and react have him beating blockers to the punch on many occasions. Brown has fierce hands that keep OL away from his chest. He stacks and sheds as well as any linebacker in the draft. Brown's physicality outweighs his size as he often is the one delivering the blow in the hole against guys that outweigh him by almost 100 pounds. via NFL's Future
Arthur Brown is a starting, three-down NFL linebacker from day one. I understand the notion that the SILB spot isn't as 'valuable' as other positions in warranting a pick at No. 34 for what it's called to do in the Chiefs defense, but if we're talking about BPA and bringing in guys that can stay on the field in all situations then Brown is our guy. I like the idea of taking a player like AJ Klein late in the draft also. He's your prototypical 'thumper' that can play special teams from day one. Should anything happen to Derrick Johnson then Brown could slide over and Klein comes in as your 2-down thumper like we've seen over the past few seasons.
It's that versatility that Brown brings and it's that versatility that we need. You're only as good as your weakest link on a defense and as long as we trot inside linebackers on the field that struggle in pass coverage, even in non-passing situations, opposing teams will target that weakness and take advantage even on earlier downs.
Thanks to Clay Wendler for the help on this post.