I've just finished watching the tape from USC vs Oregon State which took place at the weekend. I put most of my focus on the Trojans' left tackle Charles Brown, a prospect who's generated some buzz recently and could be a candidate to move up draft boards. He's 6'6" and 285lbs, with the kind of athleticism you'd expect to see from a converted tight end. Brown also fits Seattle's zone blocking scheme, which favors intelligent lineman with agility. He'll be 23 years old by the 2010 draft next April.
I'd had a chance to watch USC in the past and my initial impressions of Brown were that he had good footwork, had some value as a run blocker to match his obvious pass protection skills and could be a potential top end first round pick, form permitting. So what did the tape throw up today?
Again I was impressed with Brown's footwork. When he stands up and uses his feet to get into position, he had success. His real quality is getting into position quickly to make a sufficient block. Frequently Brown opted to use a cut block with less success. Sometimes it did the trick, sending the defensive end to the ground and giving Matt Barkley a free pass on his blind side. On other occasions (such as the Trojans first touchdown) Brown missed his man and needed Joe McKnight to help keep Barkley on his feet. It just all seemed a bit unnecessary, especially the frequency with which he went with the cut. When he stood up and relied on that excellent footwork, he was a lot more effective.
Sometimes Brown was caught a little flat footed. With 4:57 in the first quarter, Oregon State sent a two man blitz from his side. He didn't know which man to block, when he really should have taken the rusher inside and left the outside threat for Joe McKnight who was quickly into pass protect. In the end that indecisiveness allowed the inside guy a chance to burst through and Brown was fortunate not to get called for holding, pulling him back by the jersey. On the positive side, he recovered quickly to get back into position and help McKnight. The play actually led to a Barkley interception, but that was a quarterback error and no blame could be pinned at Brown.
I liked his determination to get to the second level on running plays. One one example with 5:49 left in the second quarter, he takes on the first defensive lineman but diagnoses quickly that he can let the left guard take that man, allowing him to move on and tackle a linebacker at the next stage. He drives back a linebacker doing enough to give the running back a bit of room to get the first down.
Sometimes he was driven back into the quarterback. It never cost him in this game, but it highlighted to me that he could stand to add some bulk to his upper body. He hasn't got a big punch from the snap and he occasionally loses leverage when a rusher gets underneath his pads. There's room on that frame to get up to a more ideal 305lbs and that's something he should be trying to do now ahead of any work outs during the off season. It shouldn't affect his footwork or agility too much as long as the weight goes up top and not on the midriff.
Overall I was satisfied with Brown's performance. I'm not sure I saw enough evidence to suggest he was going to rise up the boards like Jason Smith last year. Much will depend on his ability to add a bit of bulk and perform consistently throughout the rest of the year. As things stand, I'd classify him as a borderline late first round pick or an early second. He could push up into the middle of round one, particularly if teams are unconvinced by the rest of the senior offensive lineman, including Russell Okung and Trent Williams. The premium nature of his position could aid his rise up the boards, but for now I see no reason why Seattle couldn't target him with Denver's pick should they wish.