The New England Patriots were prepared to trade down and out of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft and even had a trade lined up, before a player fell down the draft board that surprised the front office. When the Indianapolis Colts skipped over defensive tackle Malcom Brown in favor of wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, the Patriots backed out of the trade and selected Brown.
Three years later, the Patriots should be thrilled with their draft pick (and the fact they added Dorsett in a later trade is just the icing on top).
“[Brown has] been here for a little bit now and understands what we're trying to do week in week out,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “I think he's someone that works really hard at what we do and understanding full concepts of it. Him being able to understand it and move into different positions certainly does give us some flexibility there.”
“Malcom, in general, I would say is someone that really studies hard, works hard, tries to understand the opponent,” Patricia added. “[He's] a guy that has really improved throughout the course of the season...You can put a lot on him. You can trust him to really understand what you're trying to do that week and he'll go out there and try to execute it to the best of his ability. It may not be a great, ideal situation for him. He understands that if he's got to go into a different position, but he's going to go out there and give you everything he's got.
“In particular for him, when a guy demonstrates that ability to really try to take ownership for what you're doing and understand that even when you're not even in the situation where he can play, that's when you really trust a guy to go out there and execute it when he does have the opportunity to play.”
Brown has increased his playing time from 46.5% as a rookie to 57.1% as a sophomore to 62.3% in games he’s played in 2017. He hasn’t had a major role as a pass rusher simply due to the Patriots reliance on smaller players like Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise, but he had 3 sacks and 5 quarterback hits in both 2015 and 2016 and is on pace to achieve the same in 2017 with 2.5 sacks and 4 quarterback hits on the year. He’s also appeared generally more disruptive.
The third-year defensive tackle has always been more valuable in the run game and he’s appeared to have taken another step in 2017, despite missing some time with an injury.
“Malcom's worked hard this year,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “He, unfortunately, missed a couple of weeks there in the middle of the season as he was, I think, really kind of getting into a good weekly groove, and then had to take a little break before he was able to get back to that. I'd say it happened relatively quickly but, still, there’s a process of playing after having not played which he had to work out and go through. He’s done a good job of that.
“He’s stayed very involved with the team, with the game plan, knowing what we're doing even in the games that he didn’t play, so he’s really showed a lot of leadership and continued to work on the things he could work on even though there were some things he couldn’t work on. He did a good job of that.”
Brown is more Ty Warren than Vince Wilfork or Richard Seymour and there’s plenty of value in that skill set for the Patriots. Brown will continue to develop as a pass rusher to complement his already-elite run defense and that should open up plenty of opportunities.