Can Penn State running back Journey Brown make a play for the RB1 crown in the 2021 NFL Draft?
It’s early in the 2021 NFL Draft scouting cycle, but summer scouting gives us insight into players’ potential and areas they need to grow. Projecting breakouts is often part of the deal as well, as every analyst wants to find the next prospect who will rise into first-round consideration from off the radar.
While he might not be totally off said radar, Penn State running back Journey Brown certainly can make a play for the top running back in the 2021 NFL Draft with a strong 2020 season. In 2019, Brown rushed for 890 yards on 129 carries and 12 touchdowns, averaging nearly seven yards per tote.
It’s possible he becomes a bigger focal point in 2020 for the Nittany Lions, and follow both Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders as running backs to make an impact in the NFL.
Let’s take a look at his early scouting report.
There are quite a few traits that stand out with Brown when diving into the tape. His strength and balance through contact are very evident, and against Ohio State, a brutal matchup, Brown showed excellent balance and fought off several tacklers en route to a score. He also showed off a nasty stiff arm. Brown keeps his legs driving through contact to pick up extra yardage.
There’s also a natural explosion to Brown’s game. When he gets into open space, Brown hits a second gear and that initial burst makes him tough to catch early on. Ripping off big runs in the Big Ten is no easy task, but Brown did just that in 2019.
Vision and patience are two important traits to look for in a running back, and Brown shows so much potential in this area of the game. Brown is able to process things quickly in front of him and can manipulate second and third-level defenders into bad positions, and only kicks runs out to the perimeter when absolutely necessary. He gets skinny between the tackles as well to reduce surface area. His patience is very good too, as Brown often waits for cutback lanes to open up as well as second-level blocks to get into position for him.
Don’t forget about his ability to make defenders miss in space. He processes things well in space and manipulates defenders well while also showing good lateral agility and crisp cuts.
Brown also shows good ball security and picks things up pretty well in pass protection in terms of set assignments.
The biggest issue with Brown’s game comes as a receiver out of the backfield. While he wasn’t targeted much as a receiver in 2019, Brown has a ways to go in that area. There are some drops evident on tape, and he isn’t very crisp with routes working the middle of the field. However, there were a couple of reps that show growth is possible in this area.
The only other minor concern is Brown’s long speed. While he has good burst and shows natural short-area explosion, he definitely runs out of gas on plays over 60 yards. It’s not a major deal, but it’s something to monitor.
Journey Brown is so advanced in some of the most important areas, especially with his vision and contact balance. There are some areas that need a little polish, and it would be nice to see him get a feature role in 2020, which he didn’t have last season, but there’s so much to like with his game right now.
The seven yards per touch is exciting to see, and if there’s marked improvement in the passing game, Brown has a serious chance to contend for the top running back spot in the 2021 NFL Draft.