Career Recap: Brown entered the starting lineup for the Illini as a sophomore in 2011 and became an immediate playmaker. He flew around the field and consistently generated splash plays. Brown had 108 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, four passes broken up, a forced fumble and an interception. He was tied for eighth in college football in tackles for a loss. Brown played well against Wisconsin and stepped up against Illinois' better competition. He had 31 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in backup role as a freshman.
2012 Season Outlook:
Illinois needs Brown to play like he did last year if not improve as a junior. Brown made some plays off of the disruption caused by defensive end Whitney Mercilus. Brown won't have that luxury this season with Mercilus in the NFL.
At the same time, Brown could be even better in 2012 having gained a year of experience. He has a lot of physical talent and upside, so there is no reason to think that he can't be better as a junior.
Many pro prospects who have come out of Illinois in recent years have been fantastic athletes and Brown definitely fits the mold. While Ron Zook couldn't turn the Illini into a Big Ten powerhouse, he recruited a lot of elite athletes to Champaign. Vontae Davis, Arrelious Benn, A.J. Jenkins, Rashard Mendenhall and Mikel Leshoure all entered the NFL in recent years from Illinois. Like those players, Brown has an NFL skill set.
Brown has blazing sideline-to-sideline speed. His first step is excellent, and it allows him to fire behind the line of scrimmage before the blockers are in position to pick him up.
It would be ideal if Brown added weight, but right now, he would meet the minimum. Brown plays well in space and has the potential to be an excellent pass-defender. He has the speed and athleticism to matchup with tight ends and running backs. Brown is extremely dangerous as a blitzer, so he would be an asset rushing off the edge.
Given his body type, Brown looks like a 4-3 outside linebacker. He probably doesn't have the size to fit in a 3-4 defense as an inside or outside linebacker. A pro comparison for Brown would be Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Zach Brown or Tampa Bay outside linebacker Lavonte David. Both were speedy playmakers in college.
Jonathan Brown might not be a little slower than Zach Brown, but the Illinois product is more instinctive. Jonathan Brown has a special combination of speed and instincts while being an elite athlete. He definitely has the physical talent to be a starter in the NFL.
2013 Draft Expectations:
Right now, Brown looks like a second-day pick. If his production stays steady, he could be a second-rounder. Brown could warrant some first-round consideration if he has massive season or two.