In the last few weeks, we’ve been going position-by-position and previewing this year’s draft class. Before we get into the reports though, it’s important that we explain how our grading scale works. As a scouting staff, we use common terminology to grade every trait that we evaluate. We use a 1-9 scale with a 1 representing a “Reject” grade and a 9 meaning a “Rare” grade for whatever trait we are evaluating. We spend a lot of time in our internal Scout School making sure that our scales are calibrated with one another, and this common scale and set of language is a key aspect to ensuring that our evaluations are consistent (that…and cross-checks).
Additionally, for each position in the book, there are positional grading scales. As opposed to grading traits, these scales apply to stacking the final grades for each prospect.
The final middle linebacker scale is as follows
|9.0 – 7.0||High-end 3 down starter. Pro Bowl level.|
|6.9 – 6.7||Strong starter who plays on all 3 downs.|
|6.6 – 6.5||Low-end starter. 3rd down coverage LB.|
|6.2||Versatile backup with positional flexibility.|
|6.1 – 6.0||Developmental. Top traits but needs time.|
|5.9||Top backup. Quality special teamer.|
|5.8||Average backup. Quality special teamer.|
|5.7||Low-end backup LB with growable upside.|
For this preview, we will look at Ohio State middle linebacker Baron Browning.
Baron Browning: MLB 2 of 13 | Final Grade: 6.5
Report by Blake Moore, Jake Johnson, & James Ashley
Browning is more “athlete” than football player at times with inconsistent instincts, but he has an excellent blend of size, speed, physicality, and movement skills to deploy at the linebacker position.
Baron Browning is a versatile off-ball linebacker in Ohio State’s 4-3 defense, as he has rotated through all 3 linebacker roles in his career. He played in 43 career games with 10 starts. He had surgery for a shoulder labrum injury prior to the 2017 season. He has great size and excellent length. He’s a fantastic athlete for the position, with great speed and leaping ability at his size but lacks some lateral agility. He plays with a high motor and toughness to fight through injuries and still contribute.
Browning was not asked to be the signal-caller at Ohio State, but he showed sufficient communication skills as he moved around to different alignments. He is a good coverage linebacker when matched up with backs and tight ends. He sticks in and out of cuts well and has impressive ball skills when put on an island to compete at the catch point. However, his man coverage success doesn’t translate against slot receivers as well. He gets good depth to his zone drops and flows to his spots quickly and fluidly. He has good awareness to keep his head on a swivel and knock underneath receivers off their routes as they pass through, but his instincts and feel for space are inconsistent. He has great range in pursuit in the open field and drives downhill hard to the ball. As a blitzer, his speed and strength are great assets in the trenches. He lacks bend around the corner and shows sufficient hand technique to hand fight and cut inside.
Browning has all the physical tools to be a strong run defender, but he doesn’t put them all together and can be slow to process. He is very willing to engage with blockers, but his lower body stoutness doesn’t match his attacking mindset, and he can struggle to anchor and shed in the box. He doesn’t use his fantastic length to keep blockers at bay consistently. He has issues navigating traffic and finding holes to knife through, but when he does, he flies to the ball and makes good, strong tackles. He has shown mediocre balance when changing direction quickly in tight quarters. His range outside the box is very impressive, and when he diagnoses plays early, he uses his natural athleticism to make unexpected plays and big hits.
Browning has played both Mike and Will linebacker in his career, but his combination of size and athleticism will give him a higher ceiling as a Mike. Playing inside a 3-4 defense will allow him to show his best traits in both areas. His playing time at Ohio State has been up and down due to his inconsistencies against the run, but he showed improvement as a true three-down player in 2020. His coverage abilities are better suited as a Mike, as the added responsibilities of playing as a space backer could expose some weaknesses. He has a great skillset and just needs to further develop his instincts to match his raw athleticism. Additionally, he should be a force on special teams.
|Play speed and range||Instincts and processing|
|Natural athleticism||Short-area change of direction|
|Size and length||Stack and shed|
|Year||Broken Tackles||BT%||Tackle Share||ATD+||PBU||Deserved Catch %||YAC||EPA||Man||Zone||Total|
|Pass Rush||Total Points||Total Points Rtg|
|Year||Blitz%||Pres%||Sack%||Run Def||Pass Rush||Pass Cov||Total||Per|