For me, one of the more intriguing prospects in the 2013 NFL draft, at least among the ones who may be available when the Ravens are on the clock at No. 32 overall, is Kansas State inside linebacker Arthur Brown.
Brown, the older brother of Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce Brown, played two years at Miami before transferring to Kansas State. In his junior year, he made 101 total tackles, including 9.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. As a senior, he had 100 tackles, seven for a loss, and one sack. He has three career interceptions.
Measured at the NFL combine as 6-feet-flat and 241 pounds, Brown has drawn comparisons to retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis -- also a former Miami guy -- because of his size and range running sideline to sideline.
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Sports Illustrated draft analyst Tony Pauline has been trumpeting the “next Ray Lewis” hype as loud as anyone, writing a few months ago that “the undersized Brown is being compared to Ray Lewis.”
“The fierce defender displays terrific speed and covers a lot of area on the field. Brown is proficient defending the run or covering the pass. He offers potential at a number of linebacker spots and should quickly break into a starting lineup at the next level,” wrote Pauline, who recently echoed those comments here.
Scouts and draft analysts often compare prospects to current and former NFL players as they try to paint a picture of the player he might become. The Lewis comparison is obviously high praise.
Each scout and analyst has their own opinions, of course. And NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout with the Ravens and other teams, has a hard time comparing anyone to Lewis.
“They’re probably similar in size coming out, but being around Ray Lewis for four years, I don’t compare anyone to him,” Jeremiah said in a phone interview. “It just seems like sacrilege.”
Now that we have that out of the way, Jeremiah does think that Brown is “a good player” who will likely go early in the second round but could sneak into the late first round, where the Ravens and teams such as the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers could be looking to fill their needs at inside linebacker.
“My first tape on him was against Oregon in the [Fiesta Bowl], and he did not play well in that game. In the subsequent games that I watched -- Miami and others -- he was pretty good. He has a lot of range sideline to sideline. He’s got some snap on contact,” he said. “He does need to get a little bit stronger. Overall, he’s a solid player. But I wouldn’t put him anywhere near the class of Ray.”
There will probably never be another inside linebacker and leader Ray Lewis. But someone has to fill the void left by his retirement and the free-agent departure of Dannell Ellerbe. The Ravens could sign a vet like Karlos Dansby at some point, but they are expected to address the position in the draft. And like I said, Brown is an intriguing prospect who might be available when they finally pick.
This highlight video shows Brown’s range against the run, but in my mind, what separates him Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and LSU’s Kevin Minter is that Brown is a three-down inside linebacker who can stay on the field in passing situations. Some draft analysts see Te’o and Minter as solely being run defenders, but we'll see.
You could argue theoretically against drafting an inside linebacker in the first round -- I know I have -- unless they are a special player like Lewis or San Francisco’s Patrick Willis. Not saying that they do, but if the Ravens feel Brown is special, why not go for it?