Brandon Brooks is a name that only the hardcore draftniks are going to recognize, but in a few years' time he could be one of the biggest draft steals of the last few years. The powerful offensive lineman was a four-year starter at Miami of Ohio at guard and left tackle, and earned rave reviews from coaches and teammates for his work ethic and character.
Brooks first broke onto the national scene in the East-West Shrine Game when he weighed in at a ripped 350 lbs. He then continued to impress as the best player at the practices. He was consistently able to move defenders off the line in the run game with his power and good leverage, yet against pass rushers he used his frame and long arms well. He was also surprisingly agile for a big man, and was able to blank anybody who lined up against him.
In short, he was the best player at the East-West Shrine game, and made himself a third- to fourth-round pick.
Brooks was a surprise snub from the NFL Scouting Combine, and at his pro day a week ago he certainly showed that he should have been there. His performance was every bit as impressive as Dontari Poe's combine-stealing workout.
Brooks ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds, and had a 1.71 second 10-yard split. He also benched 225 lbs 36 times despite his 34" arms, and his vertical leap of 32 inches bettered Poe's mark. Finally, his 20 yard short shuttle was completed in an astonishing 4.52 seconds. For comparison's sake, this is two hundredths of a second slower than Dwight Bentley, a 5'10", 182-lb cornerback.
His pro day was not all athleticism, though. Brooks was also put through his paces by team coaches, and impressed in his positional drills. He showed improved footwork from the Shrine Game, good agility and unbelievable power when asked to hit bags. In short, his performance moved him from a fringe third-round pick to a top-five guard, and possibly being picked in the second round.
Despite the hype that has built around him, Brooks still does have holes in his game. His footwork still needs to improve to allow him to make the most of his athletic gifts as a pro, and he has struggled to consistently block smaller, faster defensive players due to their speed, burst and small frames.
However, this weakness was highlighted primarily because he played left tackle in college, and as a pro he will never face athletes with similar measurables to outside speed rushers. Brooks also has issues blocking players at the second level, but this is to be expected with big offensive linemen.
Brooks fits the Lions' blocking scheme to a T. This seals the deal for me, and makes him an absolute priority for the Lions come draft day. The Lions run a man/power blocking scheme up front. This calls on offensive linemen to take the man opposite them and beat them in the run game. There is very little finesse to it. For this to succeed, our offensive line needs to be big, strong and aggressive. Power is put at a premium, and players with below-par range are accepted if they have requisite bulk.
Brooks embodies this scheme. He will not have elite range as a pro, but he will be able to overpower opponents and open holes in a man/power scheme. His ability makes him an early third-round pick in my eyes, and with this in mind the Lions would probably need to take him with their second selection, although they could trade back a bit to get another third- or fourth-round pick.
As a final thought to leave you with, I totally believe that Brooks should develop into a better pro than Carl Nicks, formerly of the New Orleans Saints. He is more athletic and more refined coming out of college, and has a similarly imposing frame.
When you consider that Nicks has been a top-four guard according to Pro Football Focus every year for the last three years, and recently signed the richest interior offensive lineman contract ever with the Tampa bay Buccaneers, this is high praise indeed.