Earlier this week, word came out that 49ers rookie linebacker Darius Fleming tore his ACL, potentially ending his season before it even begins. The 49ers drafted Fleming and Cam Johnson in hopes of developing some depth behind Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith and Parys Haralson. The loss of Fleming places Johnson in firm position to secure a roster spot, and potentially make significant contributions in the 49ers pass rush rotation.
Following the draft, the 49ers signed undrafted rookie free agent Kourtnei Brown. The former Clemson linebacker will get some reps at outside linebacker after a senior season in which he registered 25 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 4 TFLs, 1 INT and 1 FR. One of his biggest highlights from college was returning both the interception and fumble for touchdowns.
There's not a whole lot of scouting reports or video on Brown, so I got in touch with Shakin' The Southland, our Clemson blog. They passed along a position analysis post from February in which they broke down their defensive line's performance in 2011. Brown played defensive end for the Tigers, but will move to outside linebacker in the NFL.
DrB had a few comments about Brown in the breakdown:
Kourtnei Brown has the build and speed to be a good end, but he never developed as an overrated 4-star recruit. Brown was one rated so highly on just a few observations by guys like Farrell for his potential, because he does have some raw skills. Brown should've been redshirted as a true freshman (played 286 snaps, the highest of his career) and took his RS in 2009 due to being buried on the depth chart. His fundamentals were not good this year (but they did improve) and he's nonexistent on the pass rush despite pretty good footspeed. What I said last year could be regurgitated for the most part here:
What we don't see, however, is much technique or gap discipline. Kourtnei overpursues plays and leaves his assigned gap instead of letting plays come to him. He doesnt use his eyes. Block down step down is almost nonexistent at times. Pass rush technique, even on the speed rush that should be his forte, is not good. I think highly of Coach Hobby but I don't believe Brown will acheive his potential at End.
I did not see a lot of Brown at Clemson to give a fully-informed opinion. However, based on the current depth chart and the players against whom he is competing, it seems like it is quite the uphill battle for Brown. The 49ers went with three OLBs last year in Brooks, Haralson and Smith. If Cam Johnson can show some consistency in training camp, he would seem like a strong candidate for the fourth spot. It seems highly unlikely the 49ers will keep more than four outside linebackers on the roster. The practice squad would seem to be a likely destination for Brown.