Combine height: 5-10 1/4
Combine weight: 210 pounds
Combine 40 time: 4.51 seconds
Brown led the nation with 2,187 yards on 367 carries (6.0 yards per carry) as a junior, scoring 18 touchdowns and adding 125 receiving yards on 21 catches. For his abbreviated UConn career, Brown carried 698 times for 4,032 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and 33 touchdowns, with 48 catches for 276 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver.
The first and most obvious question when it comes to Brown is, how does what he did at UConn translate to Sundays? He has decent size for the college game, but scouts are concerned he lacks the power to pick up yards after contact in the NFL—let alone hold up to anything resembling the 20-plus carry workload he shouldered for the Huskies. While his 4.51 40 at the Combine wasn’t elite, it suggests he has plenty of speed in the open field. More importantly, Brown gets to full speed quickly and displays shiftiness and good cutting ability. He also has decent hands and some experience as a receiver but may need work on pass protection technique.
Scouts worry that he lacks the vision and patience to let holes develop and also point to previous backs who have been similarly productive in the UConn system but failed to translate that success to the NFL. Others point to Kevin Smith, who faced the same types of questions last season and was solid for the Lions as a rookie. There are certainly no concerns about Brown’s drive or work ethic, so any struggles at the NFL level won’t be due to a lack of effort.
While it’s possible Brown sneaks into the bottom of the first round—perhaps to the Cardinals if Knowshon Moreno and Beanie Wells are already off the board—the comparisons to Kevin Smith suggest he’ll be shaking hands with Gene Washington instead of Roger Goodell. The Browns will have a pair of chances to add backfield depth and a potential heir to Jamal Lewis, with their own pick at 36 and with the Buccaneers’ selection at 50. Cincinnati could also use a complement/heir to Cedric Benson and holds the 38th pick. The Jaguars may move at 39 to add a back who can spell Maurice Jones-Drew, or the Eagles at 53 could view him as a backup plan to and eventual replacement for Brian Westbrook. And if he slides to the end of the first day, the Cardinals aren’t exactly set at the running back position and could certainly do worse with the 63rd overall selection.
While the 2009 crop of running backs isn’t nearly as deep as last year’s offering, there are still teams in need of a feature back or one to play a significant complementary role. Brown is talented enough to warrant consideration by NFL teams to fill such a spot—and yet he’s far enough down the overall draft board that he may end up on a team with enough surrounding talent to allow him to make a significant initial impact. That said, it’s difficult to see Brown in a situation where he’d be anything better than a third fantasy back on draft day—though in the right situation he’d be a third back with plenty of upside.
Dynasty leaguers might be best served if Brown finds himself in a situation without an immediate impact, because he’s certainly lesser known to the fantasy football masses than either Moreno or Wells. And while he may not project to have the same upside as those backs, he does have the talent to be a feature back in the NFL. So if he lands on a team where his initial impact will be dampened by an entrenched starter, Brown could be a late-round pick you can stash away and bring out in a couple years if and when he takes over the full-time gig. Of course, there’s the risk that his collegiate productivity won’t translate to the NFL, but if he’s targeted early on by a team with a need that risk will be offset by the potential of immediate impact—and if he’s stashed on an NFL roster, the pick you expend to get him will lessen that risk as you stash him on yours.