Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina

Scouting reports of the inside and outside linebackers in the 2012 Draft.
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Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina

Postby Pudge » Wed Mar 14, 2012 4:46 pm

North Carolina Senior
40: 4.50


Very fluid athlete that looks natural moving in space. Has very good speed and straight-line burst in pursuit, and has excellent range and ability to cover a lot of open space. Does a good job moving in pursuit and will make plays sideline to sideline because of it. Can make plays on the backside pursuit, and does his best work when he's allowed to attack upfield and off the edge. A very good blitzer that because of his speed and burst is a handful for most offensive linemen when coming off the edge. Shows enough ability to shoot gaps and beat guards, making plays in the backfield. Flashes teh ability to shed the tight end or blocker on the second level. Will take on the lead blocker in the hole. Does a nice job recognizing screens and can make stops there. Has very good hips and plays with the sort of footwork and balance you sometimes don't see in corners. Does a nice job running with slot receivers and tight ends down the seam, and shows the ball skills to break up passes. Can drive on the quick outs and throws into the flat, able to cover tight ends and backs there with relative ease. Does a good job keeping things in front of him with good burst to the ball to close after the catch. Also works on special teams.


Doesn't play with great instincts or awareness. Is an underwhelming run defender, particularly at the point of attack. Is not a sound, or physical tackler. Will hit, but lacks pop as a tackler. Tackles too high and tends to be a drag-down guy that misses too often. Relies on his speed too much rather than taking good angles in space, leading to a lot of overpursuit and missed stops. Doesn't always see what he's hitting, looking for the hit and whiffing on other tackles. Tentative about taking on the lead blocker in the hole, won't deliver the blow to clear it out, and doesn't really know how to shed him. Doesn't do a good job shedding lineman on the second level, and tends to try and run around blocks. Lacks the short-area power to beat the back in blitz pickup, leading to him getting stalemated when forced to beat a block as a pass rusher. Too easily washed out of plays when he's asked to beat blockers. Tends to be hesitant when asked to read and react and plays too much on his heels. Gets sucked up by the play fake and will blow coverage assignments because of it. Gets caught looking in the backfield too often and not getting enough depth on his drops.


Brown is an elite athlete playing the linebacker position that has the sort of fluidity, speed, range, and coverage potential that could make him the prototype third down guy at the next level. But he's a pretty underwhelming run defender. And while he has the potential to improve there, he lacks that intensity and physicality to his game that will make him a great player there. Unlike his former teammate Bruce Carter, who was very physical, Brown is much more of a finesse linebacker. He's at his best when he's blitzing or attacking upfield, which takes a lot of the instinctual limitations out of the equation. He's a very good blitzer because of his speed and burst. Whether he's blitzing or in coverage, he has a tendency to shine on third downs. But it's the questions of whether he can be disciplined enough and tough enough on the early downs that is the biggest issue going forward. He played at Hargrave Military Academy his senior year. He is a former HS running back, that also wrestled and ran track (10.67 in the 100m dash), but he's not nearly as physical as you would expect from a former wrestler. He has the potential to be an elite weakside linebacker in the NFL, but a lot of it might depend on him getting into the right scheme. He first really began to emerge when players like Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant were held out of the lineup last year due to suspensions.


(9/3) vs. James Madison: 1.5 TFL, 1 sack
(9/10) vs. Rutgers: 1 stuff, 1 sack, 2 QB Hits, 2 pressures, 1 missed tackles; 1 target., 0 rec., 0 yds; 1 penalty (facemask)
(10/22) at Clemson: 1 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 key blocked, 2 missed tackles; 2 tgt., 0 rec, 0 yds, 2 PD
(11/17) at Virginia Tech: 0.5 TFLs, 2 QB hits, 1.5 pressures, 1 key blocked; 2 tgt., 2 rec., 15 yds (7.5 avg), 0 YAC, 1 TD
(12/26) vs. Missouri: 2 TFL, 1 stuff,2 key blocked, 2 missed tackles; 2 tgt., 2 rec., 41 yds (20.5 avg), 12 YAC, 0 TDs; 1 INT; 1 penalty (personal foul)


2011: 13 GP/12 GS, 105 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 3 INTs, 4 PD, 3 FF, 1 FR
2010: 13/5-72-1.5-0.0-3-0-0-0
2009: 13/6-47-4.0-0.0-1-0-0-0
2008: 13/0-6-0.0-0.0-0-0-0-0


There are times when Brown reminds me of a player like Lance Briggs or Sean Weatherspoon, and his potential to make plays in coverage and be an effective blitzer are some of those reasons. I do think he has the potential to be an elite weakside lineabcker at the next level, and I think in a scheme that likes to drop their linebackers into zone and allow him to cover ground can really maximize his potential. But while he'll make plays vs. the run, he's not the sort of physical player like either of those guys are and despite his range, I don't think he'll be that much of an impact run defender. I think he can improve against the run, but he's not a particularly sound or physical tackler, and therefore I don't think that skillset will ever develop at this point in his career. He's always going to be a guy that will probably cause headaches there. His inability get off blocks also is concerning too, and again an NFL team is going to have to find a way to live with that. I think a team can do so if they play with an aggressive, attacking scheme that will allow Brown to do what he does best which is attack upfield. PLaying him beside a smart, disciplined middle linebacker that can help cover up his mistakes also should help. There is some boom/bust potential with him because as a run defender, he's much closer to Geno Hayes than Briggs. But because the league is becoming so much more a passing league, and Brown's potential to impact there both as a pass rusher and cover man, means that I doubt he'll be a bust. And thus he'll be an everydown player that can potentially do a great job helping some teams match up against the number of elite tight ends in the league. If he continues to develop in coverage, he's the type of player that you could potentially leave on an island against a guy like Rob Gronkowski or Jason Witten and effectively contain him. And thus why I think any team should be willing to gamble on that upside. So while he may not be the most consistent player, he'll be able to add a lot of value to a lot of defenses in the way that Thomas Davis or Michael Boley does. And eventually, I think if he doesn't become an elite guy like a Lance Briggs, he'll at least be as good as those guys are overall, although again he probably will be a lesser run defender than either. Eventually, he can develop enough experience that some teams may move him inside to the middle, but he'll probably never show the sort of instincts to make that a permanent move. Instead, he might work better there in a 3-4 down the road because of his ability and potential as a blitzer that sort of reminds me of Lawrence Timmons, but again not nearly as good a run defender.


Michael Boley, Giants.


Brown plays the same position as Weatherspoon, and unlike Weatherspoon probably doesn't have the versatility to play other positions. So likely the Falcnos would move Spoon to a new position. The value that Brown adds immediately is that he can supplant a guy like Tatupu in nickel situations, and be the sort of player that can give the Falcons defense an advantage against tight ends such as Jermichael Finley and Jimmy Graham. He won't be that guy right from the start, but in a year or two he can help alongside Spoon being one of the two premier nickel defenses in the league, at least when it comes to coverage from the linebackers. Like Spoon, Brown is also a very good blitzer because of his speed and burst and can add value again on passing downs because of his ability to bring pressure. Going forward, one would imagine a scenario where Brown plays on the weakside, and Weatherspoon is moved to the middle as the heir apparent to Tatupu in a few years. But at least as a rookie and possibly his second year, Brown would be a nickel linebacker that supplants Tatupu and/or Nicholas on passing situations.


Brown has first round talent, but because he may not be a great run defender you probably want to target him in the latter portion of the first round. If he lives up to his potential in coverage, he'll ultimately be well worth that pick. If he was to fall to the early portion of the second round, he would make an excellent value pick.

1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite

Speed: 9.5
Strength: 5.0
Tackling: 4.0
Coverage: 8.0
Point of Attack: 4.0
Instincts: 4.5
Pass Rush: 7.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.

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