No-nonsense Derrick Brown would give Lions a 'straight animal' on defensive line

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — The media sessions at the NFL combine are littered with big personalities and interesting personal stories. Then, there is Derrick Brown. 

During his 20-minute media session on Thursday, the Auburn defensive lineman's answers were about as compelling as a plain baked potato. It couldn't be any more clear that self-promotion isn't his cup of tea. 

Auburn defensive end Derrick Brown could be an option for the Lions at No. 3 in the NFL Draft.

That's fine, because Brown's tape does the talking. And others who know him, teammates and competitors alike, had no problem trumpeting his abilities. 

"Yeah, I'm an enthusiasm guy," defensive linemate Marlon Davidson said. "I normally talk, joke with him all the time. He tells me to shut up, let me play ball. 

"He has his moments where he wants to play around, be a big teddy bear, but when it's time to play ball, it's time to play ball. He ain't talking to nobody. ...He gets in one of those silent moods and just goes to work. On the field, he's a straight animal."

Auburn offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho agreed. 

"Have you seen that man?" Wanogho asked rhetorically. "Have you seen him play? Just try to block him as he's coming around. That's pretty much tough. He's got that get-up. That speed is powerful. We call him 'Big Baby,' but that's a grown man."

Brown easily could have declared for the draft last year and likely would have been selected in the first 50 picks, but his decision to return to Auburn proved to be the right one, personally and professionally. It allowed him to remain near his young son, Kai, all while Brown elevated his performance, earning him the opportunity to be a top-10, potentially top-five selection come April. 

"I am (happy I stayed)," Brown said. "I graduated and I was able to be with my son the first year of his life, so I've got no regrets about that."

As a senior, Brown fought through a steady diet of double-teams to record 54 tackles without missing a single one. 

"He was pretty much doing whatever he wanted to do," LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire said. "He just pops out on film, and then ultimately in a game. He’s somebody I pretty much always had my eyes on, especially in run plays and knowing how fast he was coming off the ball and his whole presence on that defense was felt.”

Georgia guard Solomon Kindley, a behemoth who weighed close to 350 pounds last season, didn't hesitate when asked the best lineman he faced last season. 

"Derrick Brown, Auburn Tigers," Kindley said, before acknowledging South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw, another potential top-10 pick, was another tough assignment. "Both of them have the same (attributes), the same type style of play. They’re very big, they don’t get tired.

"Some guys who go to a school, he might be a big guy that can pass rush, this guy might be big, but he can’t pass rush, but he can (beat) run blocks. Both of them got everything. They can do everything. They’re really good players."

Brown is aiming to be that next great defensive tackle at the next level. He said he enjoys watching many of the league's current standouts, from Fletcher Cox to Chris Jones to Aaron Donald, to a man he's been compared to on multiple occasions, former Detroit Lion Ndamukong Suh. 

"I respect Suh a lot as a player," Brown said. "I hadn't seen (the comparisons), but that's a guy that plays with power, so that's not a bad comparison."

The Lions are currently slated to select No. 3 in the first round. It's their highest pick since selecting Suh at No. 2 in 2010. It's realistic, given the team's current needs along the defensive line, as well as Brown's talent level, he could be Detroit's pick this year. 

There are some connections there. Former college teammate Kerryon Johnson is Detroit's starting running back and Bo Davis, the Lions defensive line coach, heavily recruited Brown coming out of high school while working under Nick Saban at Alabama. 

Late last year, Johnson joked about picking on Brown when he first arrived on Auburn's campus, giving the big freshman the nickname "Brownie" because he was soft. Brown said at the time he wasn't in a position to retaliate against one of the school's offensive stars, but said the two are now friends and would welcome reconnecting in Detroit. 

Schematically, adding Brown would be an adjustment. He's a versatile player, having lined up in various spots along the defensive line, but he essentially has no experience defending two gaps at once, something he'd be required to regularly do in Detroit. 

"I feel like I've got the ability to learn, so anything they ask me, that's what I'm going to try to do," Brown said. 

Unlike many players this year, Brown also intends to compete in all the drills at the combine, rubber-stamping his resume and staying true to his no-nonsense mentality. 

"I'm a high-effort guy and I'm here to work," Brown said. "I'm not here to sit out. I'm here to put on the best show possible."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers