Vontaze Burfict, ILB
02/29/2012 - 2012 NFL COMBINE FALLERS: Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State: After characterizing himself as misunderstood, Burfict raised more than few eyebrows during interviews with the media by blaming the ASU coaching staff for his erratic play in 2011. He then proved much less athletic in drills than scouts had hoped, registering a 5.09 40 that finished dead last among linebackers tested in Indianapolis this year. - Rob Rang/NFLDraftScout & Derek Harper/The Sports Xchange
Though Arizona State has been a solid Pac-10 program over the years, head coach Dennis Erickson's signing of highly-touted Burfict (ranked a top 20 prospect nationally by recruiting analysts) was a coup few expected. His intensity, strength and production was often on display, although so was his penchant for off-field issues and issues with the former coaching staff and he chose to leave the Sun Devils after his junior season.
"After thoughtful and in-depth discussions with my family, I have decided to skip my final year of eligibility at Arizona State University and make myself eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft," Burfict announced Jan. 4. "I would like to thank every one of my coaches and professors at ASU. I plan to return to ASU and get my degree and I will always support the university and its football program. I cherish the memories and great times I had as a student-athlete at ASU and I hope to make the university proud of my future accomplishments on and off the field."
Erickson and his coaches wasted no time getting the California native on the field. He appeared in every game, starting nine, in 2009 making 69 tackles, seven for loss, and two sacks. His big hits resulted in two fumbles and five pass break-ups. There was no sophomore slump for Burfict, as league coaches named him second-team all-conference and The Sporting News the conference's Defensive MVP in 2010. He was credited with 90 tackles, 8.5 TFL, two forced fumbles and three pass deflections on the year.
Burfict's junior season showed more production, but also a trouble trend of personal fouls. That included two in the regular-season finale against Cal that saw him benched for the final 24 minutes of the game, and he didn't play in the team's blowout bowl game loss to Boise State.
Burfict's hard-hitting style has drawn some comparisons to Ray Lewis, and the Ravens' star spoke to Burfict during the offseason about how to play with aggression and discipline.
"I just spoke with him about discipline and how you need to make up your mind in life and on the field," Lewis told the Arizona Republic. "Make sure that you are doing the right things to be a productive player and more importantly, a productive person."
Burfict is explosive. He can rock ballcarriers in the hole, is particularly adept rushing the quarterback and plays with a ferocity that could quickly make him a fan favorite. There are plenty of aspects about his game that translate well to the next level. However, he has been prone to immature behavior that has cost his team penalties at critical stages of games throughout his career.
He's not as instinctive as his reputation might lead you to believe, has a soft build and hasn't shown any real improvement since first stepping onto the ASU campus.
Read & React: Brings good instincts to the middle of a defense, but his reaction time is what stands out for a player his size. Combining that reaction time with his speed results in crushing hits. A step late recognizing screens at times and can be fooled by misdirection in the offensive line because he relies on his keys.
Run defense: Between-the-tackles thumper with mike linebacker upper and lower-body builds, but also agile and quick enough to get through gaps to make plays in the backfield. Avoids lineman blocks in space with quickness, strong hands, and even a dip move, though he lines up seven yards off the line to see them coming. Also strong enough to anchor against lineman blocks; could be more consistent shedding to reach ballcarrier as he runs by.
Pass defense: Agile enough to attack throws in front of him when in zone, can make the big hit which separates the ball from his man. Taken out in nickel packages, though, as he lacks the suddenness to get a deep drop or handle jerk routes of quicker slot receivers. Must read the quarterback's eyes to jump and affect passing lanes if not getting home on the blitz.
Tackling: Explosive tackler who gets low to stop backs in their tracks. Plays like a downhill missile on most snaps, making huge hits that result in turnovers. Also brings down backs by their leg if slipping down during the tackle. Anchors quickly after inserting himself into a pile to prevent forward pushes. Capable of reaching either sideline on a given play, taking deep angles when needed to prevent the touchdown. Gets low to shoulder down college backs, but NFL ballcarriers may avoid those tackles. Misses some tackles when trying to intimidate with a lowered helmet or shoulder instead of wrapping up.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Used as a blitzer off the edge and up the middle, showing a lot of potential by pressuring quarterbacks into throws but rarely getting home (zero sacks in 2010). Explodes from his stance but lacks a variety of moves and does not use his hands to beat initial block. Athletic enough to jump over running back cut pass pro blocks, but should be able to bully them instead.
Intangibles: His utter lack of discipline is a major concern for scouts; draws too many personal foul flags for late hits and constantly talks with officials and opponents. Has reportedly matured during over the past year, becoming a vocal leader on the field and in the locker room. Removed from starting line-up for one game in 2010 for head-butting Oregon State QB Ryan Katz. Stamina could be improved.
NFL Draft Risers and Fallers
2. ILB Vontaze Burfict Arizona State
This isn't the first time Burfict has made the "fallers" list, but his draft stock continues to tumble with every test. He produced extremely disappointing numbers and poor reviews from the interview process at the Combine, turning off NFL decision makers and coaches. And at Arizona State's pro day, he didn't do much to change the minds of his doubters. He ran a 4.65, which would be great in the 40-yard dash, but unfortunately it was his short shuttle number. At the Combine, Burfict's 40-yard dash numbers were north of 5.00 and as NFLDraftScout's Rob Rang pointed out "that's not only the slowest among all Combine linebackers, it was also slower than 36 of the 48 defensive linemen tested in Indianapolis this year." Burfict did work out on the bench press, something he didn't do at the Combine, but produced only 16 reps. With Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler not working out until March 30, Burfict is expected to get one more try to salvage his draft stock.
Edited by Faust, 22 March 2012 - 08:31 PM.