With the 17th pick in the NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers have announced they will select Kansas State middle linebacker Arthur Brown if he is still on the board. We kid – although it’s not impossible to imagine him headed to the former City of Steel given the way Brown has been shooting up the draft boards since a shoulder injury prevented him from participating in the combine and diminished his draft stock. But the Steelers need outside linebackers for their 3-4 defense first and foremost – a position designed for a player with more bulk than Brown. So where will he end up? Our very own Shane Summers predicts Chicago, and between there and Minnesota, it seems highly likely Brown will play in the NFC North this fall..
With the 20th pick, several mock drafts have Brown headed to Chicago – including FanSided’s own mock last week. The Bears will look entirely different in 2013 as Brian Urlacher was not resigned and currently sits on the free agent market, while fellow starting linebacker Nick Roach jumped to sign with the Oakland Raiders. The Bears have already brought in D.J. Williams and James Anderson to fill the void, but conventional wisdom is that the organization is looking for more than stop-gap measures – they need a franchise player in the middle. Additionally, the Bears have a new defensive coordinator in Mel Tucker who occasionally utilized the 3-4 defense in Jacksonville – a front demanding even more depth at the position. Georgia’s Alec Ogletree has been mentioned here as well, but there’s a very real chance that Brown plays in the Windy City this fall.
If not Chicago, another NFC North team could come calling in the first round. Minnesota is absolutely going to pursue a linebacker in the early rounds, and may pursue the best option available at the 25th position, be it Manti Te’o, Brown, or another option. The Vikings already have strong ties to K-State’s linebacker unit, as Ben Leber played for Minnesota from 2006-2010. However, Brown’s impact here would be greater than Leber’s given his upside. Additionally, Minnesota is in a situation where they almost absolutely must draft a middle linebacker – linebackers coach Mike Singletary stated that “We know we have to get one. That’s no secret. When we do, we just have to teach him as much as we can, as fast as we can. It’s going to be a lot of work.”
While the Vikings are five spots lower in the draft and lack the same recent reputation of being defensive stalwarts as the Bears, Minneapolis could be the better fit for Arthur Brown. The Bears are a team in transition and don’t actually have a defensive scheme established – they’re rumored to be moving away from the Tampa 2, but there is no clear direction on a team that could be starting three entirely different players at linebacker than in 2012. However, the Vikings Cover-2 scheme is certain to stay and requires a smart player to not only relay calls and assignments on the field and in the huddle, but also to take play a major role in pass coverage by assuming responsibility of the middle of the field. And if there’s one linebacker in the draft with the speed to assume that role, it’s Kansas State’s Arthur Brown.