After upgrading their offense with their first two selections in this year’s draft, the Buffalo Bills went to the defensive side of the ball and selected Louisville linebacker Preston Brown with their third-round pick in this year’s draft.
The 73rd overall selection, Brown is a physical, thumper middle linebacker who can provide depth and rotate in at the position with veteran free-agent addition Brandon Spikes. The Bills had a need for depth at the position and can groom Brown into a potential starter for 2015, as Spikes is only signed to a one-year contract.
This draft choice, however, doesn’t look to be one of the Bills’ best. While he could ultimately emerge into a key role on Buffalo’s defense, he’s unlikely to make a major immediate impact in his rookie year and was a subpar value in Round 3.
The pick shouldn’t have come as a surprise, as Brown is now the third consecutive selection by the Bills who was among the team’s 29 predraft visitors, but it reeks of the team being forced into a draft choice they might have not been prepared to make at that slot.
It’s quite possible the team had been holding out for either USC interior offensive lineman Marcus Martin or Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton, who were both predraft visitors of the team but were selected three spots and one pick before the Bills, respectively.
Either way, the Bills had to start adding talent to their defense at some point in this year’s draft, and Brown is a player who should be able to contribute quickly on both defense and special teams.
Brown is at his best when he is playing downhill. He is a strong wrap-up tackler who drives opponents back upon contact. He is good at fighting off blocks and fills gaps effectively at the line of scrimmage.
Athletically, Brown is limited. He doesn’t have a great burst and is a stiff mover who does not have much lateral quickness. While he is good at making the plays he should make up the middle, he won’t be mistaken for a player with sideline-to-sideline range.
If he reaches his ceiling, he’ll be a similar player to Brandon Spikes, so this move could bode well for 2015. What the Bills needed at linebacker for 2014, however, was a player who could come in and spell Spikes in coverage situations, and Brown is not that player.
Both Spikes and Brown are what football writers often call “two-down” players. They are strong run-stoppers up the middle but are often liabilities when forced to drop back and pick up tight ends in coverage.
Brown could make an impact as a blitzing pass-rusher up the middle on passing downs, but his limited explosiveness will lower his effectiveness in that capacity.
The 6’1”, 251-pound Louisville product’s best chance to make a significant impact as a rookie will likely come on special teams, where he will be expected to contribute from day one. With the proper development, he could end up working his way into the starting lineup in his second season.
All measurables courtesy of NFL.com.
Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.