NFL Draft Projection: Curtis Brown

Now that's really high.

I'm going to be honest:  With the threat of a lockout, this is the least I've paid attention to the NFL offseason in years, including the draft.  I've practically ignored it.  However, I always love football talk and I obviously care where Longhorn players are projected to go.

Aaron Williams, as PB pointed out, will most likely be the first Longhorn taken and has a chance to be selected on Day One, partially due to his ability to switch to safety.  After him, the next highest rated Longhorn prospect is his fellow CB Curtis Brown.  While the two corners provided a strong pairing for Texas in the secondary (if not for punt returning), the two are perceived quite differently.  AW developed a reputation for being a physical, mean tackler who had explosive athleticism, while Brown was often criticized for being "soft," although he was also credited with cat-like quickness.

Unfortunately, there are some Longhorn fans who never fully appreciated Brown's growth as a corner because he had to develop on the job, along with the rest of the secondary, during the 2008 season, and there was no more painful a lesson than that final play in Lubbock against Michael Crabtree.  The truth is that Curtis Brown became a very good cornerback, and he and Aaron Williams gave us one of the best pairings in college football.  We were justifiably expecting big things from them in the following season.

However, the problem was that our team, well, stunk last year.  And it stunk in a way that made it difficult for these guys to make plays in the passing game.  Texas only saw 305 pass attempts and 25.4 pass attempts per game in the 2010 season, good for 4th lowest in the country and 11th lowest in the country, respectively.  When your offense is as putrid as ours was, you give the other team very little incentive to take any risks in the passing game when they bother to pass at all.  To be fair, part of the fault lies with both Brown and Williams as well, dropping punts in pretty inopportune times, to say the least.  Nonetheless, they didn't get the best of chances to showcase their skill, and when other teams did pass, they often targeted our safeties instead (see:  Baylor game).

This is not to excuse Brown for the mistakes he made.  It is true that he wasn't the best tackler and he also never snagged a lot of interceptions, getting one each in 2009 and 2010.  Nonetheless, Brown developed into a strong cover corner and has a lot of athletic upside that NFL teams will covet.  His combine numbers are very impressive, posting a 4.51 forty (4.35 on pro day), 39.5 inch vertical leap, 10'8 broad jump, 6.59 second three cone run, 4.00 second 20 yard shuttle, and 11.00 second 60 yard shuttle, ranking in the Top 5 or better among CB's in these categories except for the 40.  He is a gifted, fluid athlete and has the quickness and speed to keep up with the vast majority of receivers.  His problems in coverage were normally against big, physical types who were able to use their bodies to gain separation; of course, big receivers like that are a tough cover for anyone.  Because of that, Brown needs to improve his strength and maybe gain a little weight or he will have trouble jamming NFL receivers. 

Having only two career interceptions is a bit of a concern, but it may surprise some people that Brown is considered to have very good hands for a corner (just remember that catching punts is not the same as catching passes).  Also, it is worth noting that he took both of his interceptions long distances, one going for a score and the other nearly getting there.  As far as versatility, he did show a nice ability to make plays in the punt return game... if he caught the ball.  It is doubtful an NFL team will have the patience to help out his punt-catching, but his playmaking ability with the ball in his hands should not be discounted.

In short, he has elite quickness and agility, strong straight line speed, and solid coverage instincts, and with the NFL turning more and more into a pass-happy league, teams can never have enough quality corners.  These characteristics put him in the 2-3 round range, and I doubt he'll stay around for much more than one full round after Aaron Williams is picked.

Links:

Big Cat Country

Behind the Steel Curtain

Big Blue View

CBSSports

NFL Draft Scout

Videos:

 


Curtis Brown breaks up a pass and then showcases his quickness by beating the receiver to the ball and racing off for a TD.


 

Here's Brown's interception against Texas Tech last season.  Seemed to tighten up at the end which allowed Baron Batch to catch him, but great play nonetheless.

And then his Combine video.

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