Being a first-round draft pick carries lofty expectations; being traded for a first-round draft pick might even be worse.
If you are a first-round draft pick, you only have to worry about your play on the field and proving you were worth the position where you were selected. But if you're like Orlando Brown Jr., and you were traded for a first-round selection, you run the risk of always being compared to the phantom player who was not selected because they traded for you.
That's exactly the position Chiefs left tackle Brown found himself in this offseason when the Kansas City Chiefs traded their first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to the Baltimore Ravens for his services.
Brown's contract is up at the end of this year, leaving the Chiefs with a decision to make. They can choose to extend him and sign him to a long-term deal, they can place the franchise tag on him and delay their decision for another year, or they can choose to let him walk and seek to replace him via the draft or free agency.
On Wednesday, Brown spoke to the media about the progress he's made since arriving in Kansas City — and what it's like blocking for a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes.
"It's just been a lot of fun playing here, man," he said. "I really enjoy just getting better, playing within the system, especially as a tackle. There's a ton of one-on-one blocks and blocking for Pat specifically is great. What he's able to do with the football by itself is awesome. It definitely gives you a little extra motivation as an offensive line playing for him."
As with any new team, there was a bit of a learning curve for Brown when he first arrived in Kansas City. But, as offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy mentioned back in August, Brown rarely makes the same mistake twice.
“Orlando’s doing a very good job,” Bieniemy stated. “I know those guys are doing some things, learning some communication, but the thing that I’m impressed about is that the mistakes that he does make, he doesn’t repeat them — so that’s a great sign.”
Brown has played 100% of the Chiefs' offensive snaps at left tackle this year, and out of 456 dropbacks, he has only allowed three sacks. In Brown's mind, though, there is still a lot of work left to be done.
"Honestly, I grade myself," explained Brown. "I'm my biggest critic and it's a ton of different things I've been focusing on and trying to get better. Like I said, I just want to continue to grow as a player. It's been a ton of different stuff that I've been working on, trying to get better each and every week to help us win games."
It can be challenging for a player coming to a new city to truly comprehend the complex emotions that Chiefs fans feel during Raiders week. Any time the Chiefs play Las Vegas, it's sure to be a playoff-like atmosphere. But for a new player to the area, it's unfair to expect them to hate the Raiders as much as someone born and raised in Kansas City.
That doesn't mean Brown doesn't grasp the importance of this week's game, even if he isn't still annoyed about the Raiders Week 5 victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium last year.
"Yeah, that's funny. Every level, no matter high school, college, little league, you've got your rivalry games," said Brown, flashing his trademark smile on Wednesday. "You kind of understand the big picture and what it's going to take, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity to compete. When you look into rivalry games, digging too deep and too far into them, I feel like you kind of ride the emotional rollercoaster when you get out there, and I'm approaching it just like any other Sunday. You know what I mean? Especially with it being primetime, I'm just super excited for the opportunity to play in this league on a Sunday night."
We'll see if he still thinks it's just like any other game after the Chiefs travel to Allegiant stadium to face the Raiders on Sunday night. Reid said that taking a victory lap around an opponent's stadium was not the Chiefs style last year.
“Listen, they won the game, so they can do anything they want to do. They ended up winning the game. That’s not our style, but we’ll get ourselves back, ready to play. That’s where we’re at.”
A playoff atmosphere on the way? Brown will be ready.