Every team will be looking for hidden gems in the later rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, and if a team is looking for that player among this year’s EDGE rusher prospects Earnest Brown IV, out of Northwestern, fits the bill.
Brown, a long, powerful defender, spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his time at Northwestern, which areas of his game he’s looking to improve, sacking Justin Fields in The Big Ten Championship, and why a team should take a chance on him in this year’s draft.
JM: Now that you’ve had some time to really sit and reflect, how do you look back on your time at Northwestern?
EB: I don’t regret going to Northwestern. I wish that things went a different way at times. I started just one year. I played behind some great players. Joe Gaziano was a great player for us. He led the team in sacks. I also played behind Sam Miller who was a great player in his own right as a multi-year starter. Looking back, I’m happy with my career at Northwestern. I wish I got a few more opportunities to prove myself but nothing ever went wrong for me. I would never blame anybody. I love Northwestern.
JM: We appreciate your honesty. You were a starter for the 2020 season, as you said. You had a sack in The Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State. You brought down Fields. We know how fast and elusive he can be. Tell us about that sack.
EB: Two years ago, I actually tore my pec while playing against Justin Fields (laughs). That sack felt good. He’s an incredibly strong quarterback. He’s a big-bodied guy. He carries his weight so well. Going through that play, it was a three-man rush. We had to contain the QB. You know that Justin Fields just ran a 4.4 at his Pro Day (laughs).
You have to play some contain on a three-man rush against him. He can scramble and get out of the pocket. He’ll hurt you with his legs. I actually missed my first attempt on him (laughs). I was able to get up and finish the play. I got him on the ground. It was great. There’s a good reason he’s about to get drafted very early. It was a big sack for me.
JM: That’s awesome. At this time, would you say your game is more refined as a pass rusher, or as a run-stopper?
EB: I would say I’m more refined as a pass rusher. It didn’t always pop up on tape. That’s why I’m so excited to show my skills at the next level. I know I have the ability to be a great pass rusher in the NFL. I can produce a ton of sacks in the NFL. I can rush the passer. I have great length and hand usage. I’m going to surprise a lot of people.
JM: With that said, tell me about your pass rush arsenal. I’m interested in what you consider to be your go-to moves, and some counter moves that you can work off of them.
EB: I’ve spent the last year learning the cross-chop. I’ve been working with pass-rushing coach Brandon Jordan. He’s taught me so many things. We’ve worked on creating separation between yourself and the offensive tackle. That’s the best way to get around the edge. He’s helped me a ton. I have 34.5-inch arms. I have great length. I love using a long arm move. I use the stab-chop. I can do anything that involves a long arm.
JM: You have terrific length. Your Pro Day was back in March. We’d love to discuss some of your results.
EB: I had a decent day. I wish I ran a bit faster in the 40. I hit a 7.26 in the three-cone. I had a 4.5 flat in the short shuttle. My broad jump was a 9-foot-7. I had a 31-inch vertical jump and I put up 25 reps on the bench press.
JM: You had yourself a nice day. You’ve spent the last few months meeting with NFL teams on Zoom. What’s that process been like for you?
EB: I’ve spoken with a solid two handfuls of teams. I can’t speak on specifics, but my conversations have been going well. I have to keep the details confidential out of respect to the teams. The process has gone great. I’m extremely blessed to be in this position. I entered the draft as a one-year starter but teams are showing interest in me. They see beyond that. God has put me on the right path. The future is incredibly bright for me. I can’t wait to repay the faith that an NFL team is about to show in me.
JM: We couldn’t be happier for you. There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. Northwestern demands a lot academically. What was it like balancing school and football?
EB: It was definitely very difficult at times (laughs). It was the hardest thing. Northwestern is known as one of the more prestigious schools in the country. It was very hard. It’s a top 10 school in America. I had to learn how to balance academics with athletics. You have to love football, but you also need to do well in the classroom. I had to keep my grades up. Northwestern isn’t an easy school to attend.
JM: There’s no doubt about that. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what sort of impact is Earnest Brown IV going to make at the next level?
EB: I’m going to make an immediate impact. I’m ready to show the coaches that they’ve welcomed a great guy into their building. I’m going to work hard both on and off the field. My film speaks for itself. I’m a competitor at the end of the day. I’m going to prove myself on every single down.
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