Next up in the Unpacking a Future Packers countdown is Tre Brown. The Oklahoma cornerback checks in at number 61 in the countdown.
A team can never have enough talented defensive backs. The Green Bay Packers found that out the hard way in the NFC Championship game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kevin King was beaten for two touchdowns. Chandon Sullivan gave up two completions on third downs that extended the opening drive that ultimately ended in a touchdown.
The Packers have a lockdown cornerback in Jaire Alexander, but Brady went after the other cornerbacks, showing general manager, Brian Gutekunst that he needs to improve the talent at cornerback this offseason for the Packers.
The good news for Gutekunst is this year’s draft is stocked with cornerback talent. A cornerback that Gutekunst could target on day two or early on day three is Oklahoma’s, Tre Brown.
Brown started 33 games for the Sooners during his four years in Norman. As a freshman in 2017, Brown made one start and broke up two passes.
As a sophomore, Brown recorded 58 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks, and 12 pass deflections. Brown earned second-team All Big-12 as a kick returner, averaging 23.7 yards per return.
In 2019, Brown recorded 40 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception, and 12 pass deflections. This past season he picked off three passes and broke up nine more.
Brown is undersized at 5’10”. He overcomes that lack of length with his game-changing quickness. He possesses excellent footwork. He’s quick-footed to match wide receivers in press. Brown has excellent recovery speed and doesn’t panic when the ball is in the air.
“Brown’s biggest strength is his speed,” Eric Bailey, the Oklahoma beat writer for Tulsa World said. “It’s allowed him to make an impact at cornerback and also on special teams. One of his most impressive plays was a touchdown-saving tackle in the 2019 Big 12 Championship game against Baylor when he made up closing speed on a long reception. He’s extremely quick and he knows how to use his talent.”
Brown may only be 5’10”, but he’s tenacious and plays with a “my ball” mentality when the ball is in the air. He gets into the frame of the receivers, disrupting them at the catch point.
“What’s impressed me is that he’s always played bigger than his size,” Bailey said. “Of course, his speed makes up for some of that, but it’s also his mental awareness of offenses and what they like to do. His ability to disrupt the passing game only improved as he matured as a college player.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Brown never gave up more than 70 yards in coverage and never gave up a completion longer than 39 yards during a game during the past two seasons.
“Brown would often draw the best wide receiver on the opposing team,” Bailey said. “On a week-to-week basis, especially in the Big 12, he’s been responsible for covering some of the nation’s top wide receivers. He did well under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch over the past two seasons, which has to have elevated his draft status.”
Brown has a knack for making game-changing plays in big moments. In the 2018 Big 12 Championship game, with the Sooners holding a 30-27 lead with just over eight minutes left to play, Tre Brown sacked Sam Ehlinger in the end zone for a safety.
The following year in the Big 12 Championship Game, Brown made a touchdown-saving tackle against Baylor with 5:30 left in the game with the Sooners holding a 23-20 lead. The Sooner defense held the Bears to a field goal and the Sooners ended up winning the game in overtime.
In 2020 Big 12 Championship Game, Brown recorded the game-winning interception against Iowa State.
“Brown has the ability to place himself in the right place at the right times,” Bailey said. “He’s had two game-sealing interceptions in two of Oklahoma’s past three Big 12 title games. When he entered the starting lineup, it was like he accepted the challenge of teams going at him when he was young. As opponents grew aware of his strengths, he wasn’t tested as much.”
All three of those players displayed the variety of ways Brown can impact the game. Brown can also impact the game on special teams as a kick returner.
In 2020, Brown only returned two kickoffs. Both of those returns came in the Big 12 Championship Game against Iowa State.
With under two minutes left to play in the first half, Brown returned a kickoff 43 yards to set up the Sooners in good field position. The Sooners capitalized by scoring a touchdown before the half to take a 24-7 lead into the locker room.
Then in the fourth quarter, Brown returned another kickoff for 43 yards. The Sooners went on to score a field goal to put the Sooners up 27-21 with 2:01 left in the game.
“With the era of fair catches on kickoffs and also the ability of Big 12 kickers to force touchbacks, Brown didn’t get as many opportunities as OU fans probably would have liked,” Bailey said. “From his high school days at Tulsa Union High School to what he’s been able to do at Oklahoma, his kickoff ability was a huge asset. In his final game at OU, he had an important second-half kickoff return that kept Iowa State at bay.”
Brown didn’t allow his smaller frame to stop him from being an asset against the run. Brown finished his career with 141 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss.
“Brown wasn’t shy to try to disrupt run plays,” Bailey said. “He would get his nose into the action. Perhaps what surprised me is he didn’t have more quarterback sacks from his cornerback position, especially given his speed. But of his college sacks, the biggest was a momentum-changing sack of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the 2018 Big 12 title game.”
Fit with the Packers
The Packers will be in the market for multiple cornerbacks this offseason. Brown is the type of cornerback that can impact the game in a variety of ways.
Just go back and look at the impact plays he made in the last three Big 12 Title games. He recorded a sack that resulted in a safety to help the Sooners defeat Texas in 2018.
The following year he made a touchdown-saving tackle thanks to his speed. In 2020 he showcased his ability as a kick returner and also had the game-winning interception.
Brown is likely to go mid-day two or early day three in the draft. If he’s on the board when the Packers are on the clock in the third round he could be the pick for the Gutekunst.
“You just can’t coach speed, which is what Brown has,” Bailey said. “He’s also matured a lot as a player under different systems (Mike Stoops and Alex Grinch) and has proven to digest changes in coaching. He had good practices during Senior Bowl week, which should give GMs an idea of the type of player that they would get. Brown can also make an impact on special teams, which could be attractive to some franchises.”
Brown played on the boundary at Oklahoma. His best fit at the next level is likely in the slot. However that outside/inside versatility is just another reason why Brown is an attractive target for Gutekunst as he looks to upgrade the cornerback position.
If Brown were to become Green Bay’s nickel corner, it would be an upgrade over Sullivan, who was exposed in the NFC Championship Game. That game showed how important it is to have multiple playmakers at the cornerback position. Brown is a bonafide playmaker that has a history of making big plays in big games.