Many did away with Orlando Brown Jr. after he posted some of the worst NFL Combine numbers in the history of the event. His poor performance led to analysts and coaches downgrading his overall evaluation simply because of failing to test to the caliber of his contemporaries.
Context on Orlando Brown's Combine, per @pfref's combine database:
19.5" vertical (would be worst of any player ever drafted)
82" broad jump (also would be worst ever drafted)
5.85 40 (2nd-worst, the other was a 7th-rounder in 2001)
14 bench reps (tied for 4th-worst amongst OLs)
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) March 2, 2018
His Combine postings were poor and, though using the excuse of his massive frame (6-foot-8, 345 pounds) as a reason to pardon his unattractive numbers, he still tested lower than some of comparable size.
Brown’s name quickly escaped first-round chatter and even that of day two consideration. It was evident that teams wrote the highly-acclaimed Oklahoma senior left tackle off their list when seeing historically low numbers on paper. Brown already showed some inconsistencies on film prior to his Indianapolis audition, but not enough that organizations would shy away from.
That all changed on March 2, 2018.
Brown’s draft stock dropped immediately and it came down to which organization would take a risk on him.
Praised for his success at putting together quality draft classes, Ozzie Newsome eyed the upside of the Oklahoma tackle and selected him 83rd overall.
“We brought him in for one of our 30 visits,” Newsome said in a press conference following the draft. “He comes in and has an opportunity to compete at our right tackle spot.”
And that’s exactly what Brown has done so far during fall camp. The rookie started at right tackle in the Hall of Fame preseason game versus Chicago with a team-high 59 offensive snaps. He followed that with another team-high of 60 offensive snaps the following week versus the Los Angeles Rams.
— PFF (@PFF) August 14, 2018
“His tape was overshadowed by a poor workout at the combine,” NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks said. “Is he the best athlete? Absolutely not. Is he the strongest? No. But somehow, someway he gets those positives at the end of the play. It’s not always pretty and textbook, but he has some traits you want to work with.”
Orlando Brown Jr.(#78)
I know he is way too high but it seems like that is something we're just going to have to live with.
One of his bigger weaknesses in college was slow engagement skills and poor hand placement. In this rep, he puts those to bed. pic.twitter.com/skMKbDRVQR
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) August 13, 2018
Making tangible improvement from one NFL offseason to the first preseason game is not uncommon, but it can be a tall task. Brown used his long arms and stronger punch in college to overcome some of his poor technique, but that’s not going to cut it in the NFL.
In spurts, the rookie has shown vast improvements in hand placement and timing, as shown above. His struggles came when not being able to quickly snatch his defender, followed by outside hand placement. He also still shows a lack of lower body flexibility.
One of his better pass pro reps concerning foot speed. Still, nothing sexy but got it done. He gets in a habit of showing somewhat of a false step (not so much here) and doesn't gain too much turf on initial step. But, here, does enough to keep him outside and off the QB. pic.twitter.com/zRsF3OgKIM
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) August 13, 2018
Brown still has struggles of dropping his weight and bending his knees to anchor and sustain throughout a play. However, he has looked better when unlocking his hips and has shown adequate foot speed to catch the edge rusher. He is still a work in progress in this regard, but if he continues to improve his foot quickness, he is on a path of vast improvement.
The rookie’s foot quickness is escalating, and so is his awareness. Brown operated in mainly a zone blocking scheme at Oklahoma and participated in a hefty amount of pass plays that required slide protections and a moving pocket. It was not out of the ordinary that Brown would have to pick up a blitz on the exterior in college, but it was something he was not necessarily accustomed to doing.
As preseason continues, Brown's awareness has grown. Picks up corner blitz here to give Flacco a semi-clean pocket to hit the third down throw. (#78 RT) pic.twitter.com/6JvOHYEuyN
— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) August 16, 2018
Though a simple cornerback blitz, Brown shows the patience and trusts his lower body to strike the defender and eliminate him from the play. He recognizes the semi-delayed blitz on the outside and shows a near unorthodox change of direction display to snag the defender.
Following the path of Brown’s draft prospectus was interesting. His tape had its flaws but nothing to indicate he would fall outside the top 40 selections. His draft stock dropped within the span of a day, but it had little to do with character issues and did not include any off-the-field issues. The adventure came to a close when Newsome selected Brown in the third round.
He is still leaps and bounds away from being a staple at right tackle, but as the preseason progresses, Brown is managing to prove many doubters wrong.