The Buffalo Bills’ third-round selection, and first “not-defensive-end”
By the time the third-round picks started being named, a small but not insignificant portion of Bills Twitter was vocally wishing that the Buffalo Bills would go into full “eff it” mode and select another defensive end for their growing collection. Instead they went with offensive tackle Spencer Brown, the off-the-charts athlete from Norther Iowa. Well, not “off” the chart exactly, but it’s still a hell of a chart. Let’s dive into the film to see if there’s talent to go with the athleticism.
Let me introduce you to physics. I mean, Spencer Brown. In a land of big men, Spencer Brown is still looked up to and I mean that in a very literal “tilt your head up” kinda way. He’s 311 lbs if that spider chart is to be believed. He only looks so svelte because he’s over 6’8”. These things are very important as I’ll soon try to convince you of.
There are people I would consider to be very large gentlemen like what we see in this play. Spencer Brown would not consider these people to be very large gentlemen. When he gets a clear shot on these “not-very-large-to-him gentlemen” the default victor is physics. Brown has all the physics.
His height is something I’m sure he’s heard about his whole life and I’m not about to stop that trend. I used this play to show his stance because I like how quickly he knifes through to the second level. It’s unfair how fast and agile he is for his size. I also used this play because he’s completely removed from the line so we get a better look at what it looks like for a 6’8”+ human being to try to engage in a battle know as “low man wins.” He’s very, very low all things considered. He is still very, very high compared to his opponent.
I cited the same with Ty Nsekhe. I’m confident both learned to get low naturally because they have no choice. Both are good at doing it. Both have problems as a result of this. Brown needs to get SOOOO low at times it impacts his ability to pivot/push/etc. At some point a person’s body becomes too compressed to move as effectively. You can see Brown starts to look a little awkward on this play but he wins due to the drastic size mismatch.
One technique that Spencer Brown uses a lot is blocking one-handed. This seems to be a natural response to the problem I noted above. Rotating the shoulders allows a stance variation in which the player can get lower without sacrificing lower body strength. This does sacrifice the ability to pivot in many cases and of course you need to be strong enough to hold off a defensive lineman with one arm. If the spider chart is to be believed, Brown is plenty strong enough to pull it off and his film did show that he was overall quite effective with one-hand blocking.
Here’s an example of what happens when an opponent establishes good leverage due to the height differential. Brown’s stance isn’t atrocious and he’s working like crazy to try to get under his man, but that initial loss became a continuous one.
Look how low he started. This is what I meant when I suggested that getting too low creates mobility issues. I did see a fair few plays where Brown lost inside on similar situations.
Ending on our usual high note, look what happens when he decides to latch onto some jersey. His hand strength is on full display here.
There are a few concerns for Spencer Brown otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted until the end of the third round. While I like his technique overall, his height did lead to some inconsistent moments. He’s fast enough to match up with speed rushers but still lost when forced to rotate with a “too low” base. Brown was really good blocking one-handed in college, but against the biggest and strongest opponents in the NFL I can say the habit could quickly become a problem.
As a thought exercise: Can you think of a scenario that requires getting super low and working from nearly the dirt? Did you think “power run game?” If you did, guess what role I didn’t really like Brown in. That said, I love the ceiling for Brown in Buffalo. He’s not alone with a relative weakness in the power run game and that’s a nice transition to his positives.
It seems literally unfair how well the man can move at his size. I think a good coaching staff can turn him into a dangerous blocker on the move. In pass protection, he brings a solid skill foundation and a physical presence you just can’t teach. If he’s all about that growth mindset, Brown might be seen as a draft steal before too long.