ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, NFL.com described Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning as a player "with all the physical tools."
Lance Zierlein, the analyst who scouted Browning, wrote that the former Buckeye had the "desired blend of size, length and strength."
As Browning took part in the Broncos' rookie minicamp this weekend after being drafted in the third round, though, he pushed back against the notion that his athleticism would carry him in the NFL.
"I think it can help me a lot, but I don't like that word that people often use," Browning said. "I want to be known more as a technician. I don't want to be known as a guy who is an athlete. I want to be known as a guy who is a technician. That's where my focus is."
In college, Browning didn't put up the crazy numbers that some linebackers in the class posted, and praise of his athleticism was accompanied by questions about his production. He had a strong season in 2019 when he posted 11 tackles for loss and five sacks, but he totaled just 19 tackles for loss and seven sacks to go with 109 tackles during his career. Browning posted those numbers while moving between the inside linebacker and outside linebacker spots in Columbus, and after the draft, Head Coach Vic Fangio said Browning was hampered by that constant movement.
"Good athlete, runs really well," Fangio said the night the team picked Browning. "He's got versatility. Sometimes his versatility has hurt him a little bit in his development. We'll figure out where we're going to put him first and see how he does there then make a final decision at some point. We like his speed, like his athleticism. We think he will be a major contributor on special teams and compete for one of the linebacker spots."
Fangio has since noted that the team will place Browning at inside linebacker to begin his career and keep him there for "a bit" to cut down on the constant movement.
Browning believes staying at one spot should allow him to focus on the minute details of his technique in ways that he couldn't while he was at Ohio State.
"I think it's a great feeling just because I can focus on that one position and critique every small detail," Browning said. "When you're asked to do so many jobs — I embraced that role and I feel like I'm a very selfless player and a team player — it's hard to find all the small intangibles and critique yourself the same way you could if you're playing one position."
At inside linebacker, Browning's ability in pass coverage could make him a candidate to play in the team's nickel defense. He'll likely compete with Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell and Justin Strnad for snaps in that role, and he believes that focusing on one position could help him play his best football yet.
"I definitely agree," Browning said when asked if honing in on one position could aid his game. "No matter how good of an athlete you are, if you give somebody a lot of responsibility, all those different responsibilities start to blend together. You're trying to be cautious and make sure you're doing the right thing before you read what you see and go because you don't want to have a mishap. I think playing one position allows you to play faster."
Asked how long he thinks it will take him to adjust to the inside linebacker spot, Browning didn't miss a beat.
"I felt comfortable [Friday], so I guess not long," Browning said.
Since being drafted, Browning said he's spent extra time studying the team's playbook and has already started to work with Linebackers Coach Reggie Herring and Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell to learn the finer points of the Broncos' defense and to continue to mold himself as a "technician" in the team's defense.
As a 6-foot-3, 245-pound player with 4.5-second 40-yard dash speed, Browning has the size and speed to thrive in the middle of a defense against running back and tight ends.
Over the coming weeks and months in Denver, though, Browning will look to prove he's so much more than just a good athlete.