INDIANAPOLIS — Oklahoma left tackle Orlando Brown came into the 2018 scouting combine with a lot to confirm for NFL executives. The 2017 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year played a key role in the Sooners' passing offense, paving the way for quarterback Baker Mayfield to earn impressive success. Weighing in at nearly 6'8" and 345 pounds, Brown looked every bit the modern power-blocker. If he did well in combine drills, he could cement his status as a first-round prospect and the potential key man in an NFL offensive line for the next decade.
Sadly, none of that happened. After a combine performance that has to go down as one of the worst in the history of the event, NFL talent evaluators in need of a franchise left tackle will be scrambling back to Brown's game tape to see if there's enough evidence to mitigate his horrible performances in the drills.
It's not that his 40-yard dash time of 5.85 was much of a surprise; Brown has only recently learned to keep his weight down, and he's not the most agile guy on the field. But as former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz said on Twitter, teams don't care about his 40 time. They care that he ran a two-second 10-yard split—frequently the yardage used when judging the explosiveness of offensive and defensive linemen—when you want something in the 1.75 range.
Then, you factor in the strength and explosiveness exercises, and you wind up with a real concern for a player who was supposed to be a first-day pick. Per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread, Brown finished dead last among offensive linemen in the 225-pound bench press (14 reps), the vertical jump (19.5 inches) and the broad jump (6'10").
"It's appropriate to have the conversation that that's going to hurt him, in addition to the 14 reps on the bench," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Brown's 40-yard dash. He added, "If you look at him, he's really kind of underdeveloped in his upper body."
That's what happens when a prospect tests this badly in combine drills. Not only will NFL evaluators go back to Brown's tape to see what they may have missed, but they'll now also try to avoid looking at that tape with a jaundiced eye. Brown's performance at the bottom of his positional group in so many drills shows he was not prepared to participate in the most important testing event of his young life.
Moreover, his explanation as to why he was able to put up just 14 reps on the bench press Thursday raised a lot of eyebrows.
"I didn't stick to my breathing routine," Brown said Thursday afternoon. "That's the lowest I have ever done, and I'll redo it at my pro day. Keeping it real, it will be held against me. All my numbers will be held against me. As an offensive tackle, my numbers are going to be compared to other offensive tackles. That's just the reality of it."
Oklahoma's pro day will be packed with NFL scouts, coaches and executives primarily due to Mayfield's presence, but it will also give Brown one more public opportunity to redeem himself.
Perhaps he should adhere to a different breathing routine.
At his media session Friday, Mayfield told me Brown's combine performances shouldn't be held against him.
"It's not about the numbers," Mayfield said. "If it was about the numbers, I wouldn't be standing up here."
Sure, but what kind of football player is behind these worrisome stats?
"Orlando's a great football player. He's a guy that … in the locker room, he's somebody you want to have. On the field, mentally, he wants it more than everybody else. He's passionate about the game; his mentality—he's fearless. He's got that lineman mentality you want. He's nasty when it comes to the game of football. He wants to bury that guy in front of him, and he wants to be better than them on all fronts. And so, you look at the stats and the numbers, you watch him run … when are you going to watch Orlando Brown run 40 yards down the field? Never.
"So, you can watch last year's tape and see that he had zero sacks [allowed]. I'd say that's pretty important for a left tackle."
Per Pro Football Focus, Brown also didn't allow a single bull-rush pressure all season.
So we are left with the schism between a player's bad combine performance and the quality of his tape. When you watch Brown play, there are impressive stretches but also serious concerns that may or may not have been mitigated with a better combine.
Brown is absolutely a mauler. When he gets his hands on your numbers and starts driving you back, you're going to have to be incredibly strong to overcome it. At times, you'll see him just throw outside pass-rushers aside, and if he's accurate to his targets in space and at the second level, he can be equally formidable.
However, "if he's accurate" is a big caveat. Brown often lumbers around when he's not at the line of scrimmage and blocking in short areas. He doesn't have especially nimble feet, which leaves him susceptible to speed rushes both outside and inside. Moreover, when he hits the NFL, the NFL will hit back harder; there aren't too many professional pass-rushers who allow themselves to be thrown around like a sack of potatoes.
Brown's tape reminds me of another prominent big-school offensive tackle who had a worrisome scouting combine a few years back. When Alabama offensive tackle and reigning Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith came to the 2009 combine, he did so out of shape. And he set tongues wagging with his early departure from the event on the day he was supposed to perform the same drills Brown stuck around for a decade later. Smith ran a 5.28 40-yard dash on a favorable track at Alabama's pro day and was able to put up just 19 reps in the bench press.
How did that affect Smith's draft status? The Cincinnati Bengals selected him sixth overall, and after a few rough years in which next-level edge-rushers tested his agility and footwork severely, Smith developed into a more-than-serviceable blocker. Hardly the kind of offensive lineman who merits a top-10 pick, but not the epic disaster his combine might have suggested.
Now Orlando Brown must move past this awful week and focus on his March 14 pro day, which he'll hope can reduce the influence of one of the worst combine performances in recent memory.
The worst of all time? Hard to say. At least Brown stuck around for his drills, and if he's selected where Andre Smith was, he'd certainly take that deal at this point.