Ohio State LB Baron Browning drafted by Denver Broncos with final pick of third round

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning runs the 40-yard dash during an NFL Pro Day at Ohio State University Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Baron Browning became the second Ohio State linebacker to be selected in this year’s NFL draft when he was taken by the Denver Broncos with the final pick of the third round on Friday night.

He followed Pete Werner, who was snagged by the New Orleans Saints late in the second round.

On a Broncos media call, Browning said he had expected to be picked earlier on the draft’s second day, but was relieved when his name was called.

"At the end of the day, I'm just thankful for the opportunity," he said. "I'm definitely going to have a chip on his shoulder. I'm definitely ready to do whatever the team needs me to do, and I'm just ready to play some football."

In his four seasons with the Buckeyes, Browning lined up at both inside and outside linebacker and could find himself at various positions with Denver after it used the No. 105 overall pick to take him.

General manager George Paton mentioned the team is open to trying him at multiple linebacker spots. 

"We think he could play inside or outside," Paton said. "Kind of like Ohio State did. He's that talented."

Coach Vic Fangio hoped he might settle into a more defined role, though discussed the potential to use him in various situations. 

"He’s the type of athlete that, on obvious passing situations, we have some freedom and flexibility where we put him," Fangio said. "Then on the more non-obvious downs, such as first and second down, I think we’ll try him at inside first. But not for sure. Then if it's not working out, we'll put him outside and maybe even cross-train him. But I'd like to get him at one spot when he first gets here."

During his college career, some of Browning's potential at times seem unfilled while moving around, though he made strides in his final two seasons, mentored by linebackers coach Al Washington.

He was voted as a third-team All-Big Ten selection by the league's coaches last season and honorable mention by media members. 

Fangio aknowledged the dynamic. 

"Sometimes his versatility has hurt him in his development," he said.

Along with his versatility, Browning's draft status was also owed to his athleticism. He raan the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds at Ohio State’s pro day in March, an impressive time for a linebacker who measures 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds. He also had a 40-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 10 feet, 10 inches.

A former top prospect out of Fort Worth, Texas, Browning was a part of a heralded 2017 recruiting class for the Buckeyes that included defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah, who were the second and third overall selections in last year’s draft.  

According to the composite rankings compiled by 247Sports, Browning was the 11th-overallranked prospect in the high school recruiting class.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman