Brown ready for call

Brown ready for call

CHAMPAIGN — The NFL draft has treated Illinois well in recent years.

At least one former Illini  has heard his name called in the first three rounds of the last six drafts.

The trend likely won’t continue this year.

Of all the mock drafts out there, you have to search long and hard to find any Illini getting much predraft love.

If Illinois has a player drafted — it has had at least one player selected in 39 of the previous 40 drafts, with 2006 the lone exception — linebacker Jonathan Brown is the one most likely to hear his name called.

But don’t expect it until the third day of the draft Saturday. When rounds four through seven take place and all the pizzazz coming Thursday night from Radio City Music Hall is long gone.

“I don’t have the pressure of giving everybody invites to New York, so that’s a bonus,” Brown said with a laugh. “I don’t think I’ll be a first-day guy, so I’ll just have the luxury of just chilling with my family. Everybody can come over and watch it.”

The NFL invited 30 players to attend the first round in New York, and Brown wasn’t on that radar even by the time his final season at Illinois ended.

Brown — who compiled a team-high 119 tackles last fall, which ranked second in the Big Ten — didn’t exactly wow scouts and personnel at the NFL combine in mid-February at Lucas Oil Stadium. A bit undersized at 6 feet, outside linebackers in the NFL need speed. His 40-yard dash time of 4.98 seconds at the combine left NFL teams wanting more. For comparison’s sake, Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, projected as the first linebacker selected Thursday night, had a 4.59 for his time in the 40.

Brown improved his time at Illinois’ pro day in early March, bettering it to 4.87, but question marks are out there.

“I was very disappointed in my combine workout,” Brown said. “I don’t think it was the plan to gain that much (weight), but I knew I needed to put some weight on coming from the Senior Bowl. Going into the combine, I think we put too much on, but we’ve corrected it.”

Brown has spent his offseason training in Atlanta and his hometown of Memphis, Tenn. He is represented by Chad Wiestling with Sports International Group, the same agent who counts former Illini and current New England Patriot Tavon Wilson, along with wide receiver Steve Hull, among his clients.

“I saw his body of work, and he seemed like a good guy,” Brown said. “It’s almost like picking a school.”

Now Brown is anxiously awaiting what will play out this weekend. And if an NFL team will take a chance on him.

“I’ve just been trying to stay in shape, so that when minicamp hits, I’ll be ready,” Brown said. “I don’t know what teams like me the best right now or who’s about to draft me, but I’m going to do everything on my part.”

Who’s next?
Jonathan Brown could become the first — and only — Illinois player to get picked during the NFL draft. What about some other Illini off the 2013 team? Beat writer MATT DANIELS takes a glance at five others who may find themselves on an NFL roster this month:

Spencer Harris, WR
His phone will ring with ... a free agent offer.
NFL teams should take a chance on him because ... they loved what he did at Penn State (10 catches, 81 yards) last November.
NFL teams are hesitant to because ... the Arkansas native didn’t do that enough in his career.

Steve Hull, WR
His phone will ring with ... a free agent offer.
NFL teams should take a chance on him because ... of the big-play ability he showed in the second half of 2013.
NFL teams are hesitant to because ... injuries slowed him down, and he played wideout for only one season.

Ryan Lankford, WR
His phone will ring with ... a free agent offer.
NFL teams should take a chance on him because ... he’s fast and could possibly become a dynamic kick returner.
NFL teams are hesitant to because ... he’s not that big or strong, and he’s coming off a dislocated shoulder.

Corey Lewis, RT
His phone will ring with ... a free agent offer.
NFL teams should take a chance on him because ... he epitomizes the term overcoming adversity.
NFL teams are hesitant to because ... knee injuries suffered at Illinois robbed him of his skills.

Evan Wilson, TE
His phone will ring with ... a free agent offer.
NFL teams should take a chance on him because ... he’s an easy target for quarterbacks to connect with at 6-feet-6 and 250 pounds.
NFL teams are hesitant to because ... his blocking skills are a little suspect, and he wasn’t exactly a go-to target at Illinois.

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