The Bengals came into the 2018 NFL Draft needing to bolster their defensive line depth.
So on Day 3, they used their second fifth-round selection, 158th overall, to take Virginia Cavaliers defensive lineman Andrew Brown.
The Bengals were expected to take a defensive tackle sometime in this draft, possibly as early as Round 1. Geno Atkins is set to hit free agency next year. Pat Sims is still a free agent, and Andrew Billings hasn’t proven he can be a reliable contributor, while Ryan Glasgow has done well in only limited snaps.
That’s why Brown may not only make the roster as a rookie, but he may even be active on gamedays. The 6’3”, 296-pound lineman recorded 26.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks in four years at Virginia. He also batted down four passes, recovered a fumble and forced one.
The problem with Brown is, while he played well, he never found a true position. He played all around the defensive line at Virginia, though he’s expected to be a 3-technique defensive tackle in the pros.
Despite not having a more clear position, a lot of experts were high on Brown going into the draft, some even rating him as a Day 2 prospect.
ESPN’s Todd McShay had Brown ranked 127th overall coming into the draft, while Mel Kiper ranked him 88th. NFL.com ranked Brown 125th, CBS Sports had him ranked 169th.
The Cold Omaha Consensus Big Board, which factors in every major draft ranking, had Brown ranked as the 128th-best prospect in this draft.
The 30-spot difference between where Brown went and his consensus value made him one of the Bengals’ best value picks this year.
Looking ahead, Brown certainly has the talent to play in the pros, but he’s far from being a lock to make the 53-man roster. The Bengals already have Atkins, Billings, Glasgow and Chris Baker having a leg up on defensive tackle spots.
There’s also defensive end Michael Johnson, who was actually more effective as an interior pass rusher in 2017, lessening the need for an extra defensive tackle.
That’s why Brown needs to have a good training camp and preseason to ensure he’s on the Week 1 53-man roster.