Panthers draft Derrick Brown: Why a lack of pass-rush prowess will hinder value of Carolina’s first-round pick

With Derrick Brown, the Panthers drafted a mammoth, run-stopping monster with a high motor who’ll immediately boost their efforts against opponents’ ground games. 

But Brown will have a hard time providing Carolina the value teams want from a top 10 pick, because he’s not a premier pass rusher at the defensive tackle position. Beyond his bull rush — which is spectacular — Brown can’t consistently win in any other way. His hand work is average at best, and as we saw at the combine, he’s a lower-level athlete for the position. 

Don’t get me wrong, Carolina’s run defense — which finished dead last in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA in 2019 and just lost Luke Kuechly at the second level — needed a difference-maker and got it with Brown. 

But the NFL today is about passing and stopping the pass, and Brown doesn’t have the skill set right now to routinely disrupt the passer. Sure, he’ll overwhelm some NFL interior offensive linemen as a rookie, but with really only one way to win, pro blockers will be able to know what’s coming from Brown on pass plays.

The Auburn star has a high floor. He won’t bust out of the league. The motor never stops running. And he’ll make impact plays against the run. But it’s not super difficult to find quality run stuffers in the trenches outside the top 10, and Isaiah Simmons was still on the board for the Panthers. What’s weird too: new head coach Matt Rhule made it known he built the Baylor program so quickly by prioritizing recruits with supreme athleticism, and Brown is not a great athlete compared to others at defensive tackle. 

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