INDIANAPOLIS – A popular question for the offensive linemen here at the NFL Scouting Combine is which defender was the toughest to block. A name that kept coming up among the SEC offensive linemen was Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown.
"I think the toughest opponent all-around I played was Derrick Brown," LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry said. "He's the total package. Great power, speed, getting on you fast."
Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas quickly and emphatically responded "Derrick Brown."
Brown (6-4, 326) is a versatile defender who moved up and down Auburn's defensive front, playing everything from the zero to five technique. He recorded 55 tackles, tied for the team lead with 12.5 tackles for loss, had four sacks, defended four passes and forced two fumbles for the Tigers this past season, despite facing constant double teams. He's big, strong, fast, has position flex, and is certainly someone the Lions will do their homework on with the No. 3 overall pick.
View photos from media availability at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 in Indianapolis.
"A lot of teams said they don't even scout for defensive tackles or nose guards anymore," Brown said Thursday of conversations he's had with NFL teams here at the Combine. "They scout for defensive linemen. They want to find guys that can play any position across the board."
Brown has rare athletic traits and quickness for a player his size, and there are some analysts in Indy this week that think he's the best defensive player in this draft, better than even Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young.
Brown could have been a first-round pick in last year's draft, but returned to Auburn for his senior season, and it really paid off for him.
"Just trying to be more consistent and trying to consistently dominate the game," Brown said of returning for his senior season. "Day in and day out going out to practice and trying to have that new attitude and trying to work every day."
Brown earned first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC honors and was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy this past year. He developed his pass-rushing techniques to go with his tremendous power and speed.
The Lions sat down with Brown here in Indy. Brown said he's always liked Lions defensive line coach Bo Davis, who recruited Brown out of high school when he was coaching at Alabama.
Detroit is certainly in the market for an interior defender after recently releasing Damon Harrison Sr. Two of their other defensive tackles – A’Shawn Robinson and Mike Daniels – are unrestricted free agents.
Brown's versatility and ability to push the pocket from the interior fits head coach Matt Patricia's philosophy on defense. He could be a nice chess piece alongside other versatile Detroit defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Da’Shawn Hand.
"I think I'm one of the top guys on defense (in this draft)," Brown said. "I try to impose my will on people."