Jerod Mayo finished third in the league in total tackles (147) and was selected to his second Pro Bowl in 2012. Brandon Spikes had something of a breakout season with a career-high 92 tackles and quickly asserted himself as a force against the run. Then there was rookie first-round pick Dont’a Hightower, who totaled 60 tackles and six tackles for loss in 14 games and just continued to improve as the season went on.
The trio played a big role in the Patriots’ defense allowing just 3.9 yards per rush on the season, which ranked sixth best in the NFL. But while they helped establish a prominent run defense, the group of linebackers also contributed to the NFL’s fourth-worst pass defense.
So, while the Patriots have a group of very talented and capable linebackers, they could definitely use some help in coverage. There are a few quick, athletic linebackers in this year’s draft class, and one of the foremost coverage prospects is Kansas State’s Arthur Brown.
Brown spent just two seasons in Manhattan, Kan., but he established himself as both stout against the run and dependable in coverage during that time. He has speed comparable to most receivers and even some running backs, but he also packs a punch up the middle when playing the run.
Mayo and Hightower are locked up under contract for three or four more seasons, meaning New England has a firm base at linebacker going forward. But Spikes’ contract runs out at the end of this season, giving Bill Belichick more than enough reason to seek a viable replacement for beyond 2013.
Brown may have his drawbacks, including his lack of ideal height and, at times, overzealous play, but he did visit with the Patriots ahead of the draft and would fill a need for now and could be a quality addition well into the future.
Editor’s Note: NESN.com will evaluate and analyze one potential Patriots draft prospect every day from March 27 up until the start of the NFL Draft on April 25. Brown is the 21st player in that series.
Height/Weight: 6-feet, 241 pounds
*40 Time: 4.56 seconds
*Bench Press: 21 reps
*Brown’s 40-yard dash and bench press numbers are from the Kansas State pro day, as he was unable to fully participate in the NFL combine.
After playing a limited role, which included zero starts, in two seasons with Miami (Fla.), Brown transferred to Kansas State to finish his college career. He immediately made an impact with the Wildcats, recording 101 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss as a junior in 2011. He then followed that up with 100 tackles, seven tackles for loss and a sack in 2012. He was a first-team Big 12 player in both seasons and was also named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.
Brown’s speed and tackling ability make him an immediate option at linebacker for almost any team. He seems to ready to assimilate and make an impact right away. The Patriots do have Hightower, Mayo and Spikes as their mainstays at linebacker as of now, but they may still be looking for some depth to help on passing downs.
He should be. Brown is a very favorable prospect, but he is undersized for the position, which has some teams skeptical about his ability to translate at the next level. The skeptics should see him drop at least into the latter half of the first round and maybe into Day 2 of the draft. So, if the Patriots are really interested, he should be primed for the picking late in the first round.
Strengths: Brown is very adept in coverage and more than capable handling slot receivers and tight ends. He is very active and aggressive blitzer. His speed helps in getting to runners quickly and also keeping up with receivers out in space. He is a very strong tackler and is sure not to miss when in pursuit. He also has very good eyes for the football and goes hard on every play until the whistle.
Weaknesses: He is a bit undersized as a linebacker, which may draw concerns for some teams. He doesn’t get very physical in trying to shed blockers on run plays. He also displays poor vision at times and often misjudges or overpursues running lanes.
Scout Brown for yourself below.
Next Up: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
Other potential prospects: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State | Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee | Justin Pugh, OG, Syracuse | Alex Okafor, DE, Texas | Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor | Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina | Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia | David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State | Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee | Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut | Margus Hunt, DT, SMU | Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M | Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU | Barrett Jones, C, Alabama | DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson | Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State | Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech | Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama | Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia | Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
Photo via Facebook/Arhtur Brown