Peak offseason is in full effect as Auburn’s first game against Washington is still over 100 days away. To satisfy everyone’s football cravings, The Plainsman will be posting biweekly predictions on the players that will have the most impact during the 2018 season.
Auburn’s defensive line is stacked once again this upcoming season, even with the loss of sack leader Jeff Holland to the NFL.
The Tigers will be looking within their current roster for someone to step up as Holland did when Carl Lawson left. The player with the best chance to fill the 9.5 sack, 12.5 TFL void is none other than Derrick Brown.
Last season, Brown started all 14 games for the Tigers and wreaked havoc among opponent’s offensive lines, racking up three sacks, tied for third on the team. The sacks are just icing on the cake when it comes to Brown’s presence, as his true impact was blowing up the offensive line, totaling 9.5 tackles for loss last year, second to the newly departed Holland.
Brown’s abilities have caught the eye of NFL Draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay.
“I think Derrick Brown is the guy to watch,” Kiper said during an ESPN media call. “Derrick Brown is an unbelievable talent. He’s the one that just jumped out. I circled him in just about every game I saw. It was Derrick Brown, Derrick Brown, Derrick Brown. I’m looking at the circles. He is a guy that definitely jumped off the page.”
Both Kiper and McShay have Brown listed as the No. 15 overall player in their way-too-early 2019 NFL Mock Drafts.
Brown has a special ability to command the line of scrimmage with his length and strength even if he does not look like your typical defensive tackle. At 6-foot-5 but 325 pounds, he is taller than your typical interior defensive lineman, making him look less powerful than he is.
“He’s a real long guy, and he’s stronger than he really looks,” Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “When he grabs hold of you, there’s not too much you’re really going to do with him. When you see him, you think he’s about 290, but he’s not moving.”
“When you can command double-teams inside… that’s rare,” Tigers defensive coordinator Kevin Steele added.
Brown has used this offseason to improve on the little things that he saw throughout film sessions.
“I think I have room to improve in every area,” Brown said. “Going back and watching the film after the season. I had good games, stats wise, but there were a lot of little mistakes and things that eat at me personally that I want to improve.”
PREDICTION: Brown will double his career sack total and have double-digit TFL numbers in 2018. He will take the helm as a leader among the stout Auburn defensive line and emerge as one of the better defensive linemen in not just the SEC, but the entire country.