After solidifying some of the more pressing offensive needs with the first two picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bills added to their linebacker depth with the 73rd overall pick, grabbing Preston Brown from Louisville.
"He was consistent for three years as a starter and fit a lot of things we're looking for," said Director of Player Personnel Jim Monos.
Brown played in every game of his career at Louisville and was a starter for the last three. He brings a physical style and a never-ending motor to Buffalo. Although he is not expected to start at linebacker, the Bills believe he can contribute from a variety of positions.
"We see him a little bit as a 'Mike' (middle linebacker) right now, but he's versatile enough (to play outside)," said Monos. "He can do both in my opinion. He's done it, but that will be more up to the staff."
Brown was the leader of one of the most dominant defenses in college football last year, totaling 98 tackles including 12.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks at middle linebacker. His stout play in the middle of the field helped the Cardinal hold opponents to just 12.2 points per game (second best in the country) and 4.2 yards per play (third best in the country).
"Coach (Charlie) Strong and coach (Vance) Bedford are two great defensive minds so it was great being underneath them for four years," said Brown. "We were such a great pressure team that it was fun to see how we grew over the years, going from an all-right defense to being the No. 1 defense in the nation. It was exciting to see how much we grew."
Brown rolled up 301 tackles in his career, leading the Louisville defense in both the 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
"Just being around the ball as much as possible," said Brown when asked about his playing style. "That's one thing I try to do, I try to be around the ball and slide to the ball. Pursuit, I'm always going to be the guy trying to rip the ball out and be around the ball. Any aspect of being around the ball I feel I'm going to be there."
He will likely get the opportunity to be around the ball on special teams for the Bills. He joins a linebacker group that includes Kiko Alonso, Brandon Spikes, and Keith Rivers.
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"Just going out there and trying to help the team any way I can," said Brown. "Special teams, linebacker, any position I can help the defense win games."
Some scouts saw Brown as more of a day three prospect, citing pass coverage as a concern. The Bills front office has a lot more faith in him to make sure to grab him early in the third round.
"He played at a high level program. Lots of production, lots of good character guys there and played for a good head coach at Louisville," said Monos. "He will [play special teams as well]. He runs well and is a good athlete."
"You can't get upset or take it personally," said Brown of the critics. "They have a right to their own opinion. You've just got to go out there and prove to them that you are better than what they think you are. I just want to prove the doubters wrong any way I can."
Brown will primarily be backing up Spikes in new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense. The linebacker was known for making stops against the run and playing sideline-to-sideline at Louisville, and will likely play a similar role given the opportunity in Buffalo.
"We'll see how they're used, but I think it's going to be a battle," Monos said of the group of linebackers. "That's what we're trying to do, create competition at the position."
Brown is just eager to be a part of that competition in Buffalo after making a pre-draft visit with the team last month.
"I thought it was a nice town. It reminds me a little bit of my hometown of Cincinnati. It's kind of a big city but still kind of quiet. That was good to see and the staff I really enjoyed being around those guys for the duration of the day," Brown said. "I'm just overjoyed and excited right now and ready to get to work."