Rare athletes have a way of rising up the ranks. It’s simply the nature of the NFL Draft‘s developmental focus. Prospects who have the potential to do more are sought after, at every position. And while he still needs to prove that he belongs, UNI offensive tackle Spencer Brown has the potential to do more than most of his 2021 NFL Draft counterparts.
Spencer Brown NFL Draft Profile
Weight: 320 pounds
Position: Offensive Tackle
School: Northern Iowa
Current Year: Redshirt Senior
As transcendent as Spencer Brown’s profile now appears, there was a time when nobody saw that potential. Nobody but Northern Iowa.
Brown went to high school in Lenox, Iowa. The town, which has a population of less than 1,500, only fielded a football team with eight players. On that team, Brown was a 6-foot-8, 244-pound tight end. He stood out amongst his peers, but no one came to see him. He was a zero-star recruit in the 2016 class, and none of the nearby powerhouses — Iowa, Iowa State, and North Dakota State — showed any interest.
Nevertheless, all it takes is one. The Northern Iowa Panthers approached Brown with an offer late in the process, and Brown signed in February of 2016. The Panthers’ coaching staff saw potential in Brown and aimed to mold him into a standout player on the offensive line.
Spencer Brown’s career as a UNI offensive tackle
In the end, Brown developed even better than the UNI coaches might have imagined. But it still took time for him to ready himself for perpetual contact in the trenches.
Brown redshirted his freshman season, building up weight and learning the nuances of offensive line play. As a redshirt freshman, he got his first experience as a reserve tackle. His on-field reps helped him apply what he’d learned in real-time, and slowly but surely, Brown started to develop and hone his natural talent.
Browns’ transition to a starting role
In 2018, Brown got the first start of his career. He wasn’t full-time at this point. Nevertheless, as he continued to add to his frame and learn the position, the UNI tackle flashed more and more. He became a full-time starter in 2019 and played well enough in that season to be named a preseason FCS All-American for the 2020 campaign.
Unfortunately for Brown, who was now a towering behemoth, the 2020 FCS season was delayed until spring. Brown could have transferred to a Power Five school, in an attempt to quell concerns surrounding his competition level. But Brown didn’t, citing loyalty to the program that developed him.
Soon, it became clear that he wouldn’t play the spring season, either. The UNI tackle declared for the 2021 NFL Draft in late August and later accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in January of 2021.
Analyzing Spencer Brown’s NFL Draft profile
We’ve covered plenty of tremendous athletes this offseason, but few of them have the sheer combination of size and mobility that Spencer Brown has. Brown stands around 6-foot-8, 320 pounds for the Northern Iowa Panthers. Although we’ll get confirmation of his numbers at the Senior Bowl, the point to be taken is: He’s big.
Brown is a high-hipped tackle with long arms, and yet, he moves extremely well for his size. The UNI tackle has good spryness both out of his stance and moving laterally. He also brings a wide base as a pass blocker. As a run blocker, he has the athleticism to seek out his targets and drive them out of the play.
Brown also provides impressive change-of-direction skills and flexibility. As a run blocker, he has the ability to change his blocking angle as the play progresses. On pass blocking reps, he has the freedom of motion to turn his hips and drive his opponent to the ground, once that opponent gets around to the back of the pocket.
Furthermore, with all his size and mobility, Brown also brings visible power and grip strength. His length helps him to convert whatever strength he has into force on the field, but Brown also brings a good amount of natural power as well. When the UNI tackle times his extensions well, he can move his opponents back with ease and create space for his teammates. It helps that he has a true finisher’s mentality, and he seeks to put his adversaries in the dirt.
What are the issues with Brown?
The natural talent is immense with Spencer Brown. However, there are a few withstanding questions regarding his transition to the NFL level. As is always the case, FCS prospects may need more time to acclimate. Brown, with his rare physical profile, adds another layer of uncertainty.
Against FCS competition, he appeared to have the requisite athleticism for his size. But against bigger, stronger, faster defensive linemen in the NFL, how will he fare? Will Brown lack the lateral quickness required to employ his length? Will he play too high to combat bendy edge rushers? Even though he appears to have high-quality traits, the uncertainty is magnified with Brown’s transition to the professional game.
Additionally, there are some visible areas of improvement on the field with Brown. He shows flashes of violent, powerful, and precise hands, but he can be inconsistent there. He can also have trouble responding to counters, and he doesn’t have the elite recovery athleticism or balance necessary to compensate.
Furthermore, Brown can also be inconsistent with his blocking angles. There are reps where he covers the field well but then fails to levy direct contact by taking a faulty angle. He’ll have to clean that up, given the faster overall pace of the NFL. He is trending up with his awareness and IQ, but there’s still work to be done.
Spencer Brown’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Given his size, one could argue that Spencer Brown is a near-elite athlete at the offensive tackle position. His athletic traits should be able to translate. However, with those traits, he also brings plenty of room for improvement. Time will tell if the challenge of the transition will impede his ability to keep refining his game.
Having said that, Brown clearly has the tools. That fact should be reinforced at the Senior Bowl. There, Brown will have an opportunity to prove he can compete against future NFL talent. But even beyond that, all Brown has to do is show up and validate his traits, and scouts will be interested. Scouts have long had an interest in rare athletes at the offensive tackle position, and Brown qualifies for that title.
What destinations mesh with Brown’s talents?
As of now, I see Brown as an early Day 3 pick whose upside prevents him from falling too far. However, if Brown can stand out at the Senior Bowl and separate himself against FBS competition, he can solidify his status as a Day 2 prospect.
In the 2021 offensive tackle class, there’s a good amount of depth. But Brown has the physical traits to make his way up the ladder. In the Day 2 range, teams like the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams, and Los Angeles Chargers might look to add Brown as a strong swing tackle with starting potential.
Nevertheless, teams that need tackle depth or an experienced right tackle with starting upside could do far worse than Brown. And when seeking out developmental talent, they couldn’t do much better. Spencer Brown is a high-upside prospect who brings a lot of the necessary foundational traits to his game. He needs to prove he can carry that over to the NFL. If he does, he can be an impact player.