Update: The Panthers selected Brian Burns with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Brian Burns is a former five star recruit from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Burns was a productive pass rusher from the moment he stepped on campus. He was named as a Freshman All American in 2016. Burns appeared in 38 games during his three year stint in Tallahassee. He recorded 39.5 tackles-for-loss, 24 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, and 3 blocked kicks.
Burns is an athletic freak. He posted a 1.6 sigma SPARQ score, which was in the 94.3rd percentile. According to Sports Info Solutions, his average pressure share during his tenure as a Nole was 20.9%. His total EPA on sacks/TFL was -75.3.
I was listening to the Locked on Bengals podcast hosted by my friend Joe Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry on twitter) last week. He was salivating over Burns’ Combine performance especially with his movement during the field drills. He went as far as comparing those movement skills to Von Miller.
#FSU EDGE Brian Burns Combine Recap:— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) March 5, 2019
The most impressive part of his weekend was the on-field drills. Looked smoother than the majority of WR/DBs...and better hands. pic.twitter.com/EiJIi9xCN6
While I am always wary of making lofty comparisons, Burns’ movement skills during these drills are superb. He isn’t just a workout warrior though. Burns applies his freakish athleticism on the field to produce plenty of sacks and pressures.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Burns has an effective speed rush. He explodes out of his stance and immediately catches tackles scrambling. On this play, he doesn’t receive much resistance, but his footwork when he’s turning the corner stands out. His rush forces the quarterback to drop his eyes and run into a sack.
The speed rush requires not only athleticism, but proper technique too. On this strip sack, Burns gains leverage by dipping his shoulder around the corner to prevent the offensive tackle from getting hands on him.
When he catches tackles over setting to prevent the speed rush, Burns catches them inside. He shows an effective rip at the top of his rush to gain a pressure.
The question Burns will have to answer for many decision makers is if he’s a one trick pony or a complete pass rusher. He didn’t have an effective counter in his pass rusher arsenal. When he did try a counter like this spin move, it was unsuccessful. He has plenty of length , but he has to learn how to use his hands and length better.
As a run defender, Burns might struggle with physicality, but he does understand his positioning when he is setting an edge. He takes a hard 45 degree angle up field to allow the linebackers to fill the alley of the run, but he also sheds the block to assist with the stop.
He encapsulates what many want to see consistently on this play. He sets a hard edge, holds the point of attack, and the linebackers fill to prevent the 1st down.
While many will lament his physical issues against the run, Burns still possesses the lightning quickness to shoot gaps. He doesn’t make the tackle-for-loss, but his quick disruption allowed his teammates to quickly flow to the ball.
Offenses have to react fast on RPO concepts because Burns’ speed will prevent the play from executing properly.
Burns has sky high potential as an every down edge rusher. He projects better to a stand up rusher, but some of the issues in the run game might be overstated.
Fit with Carolina
Burns should be in heavy consideration for the Panthers in the 1st round. He has the athleticism, production in a major conference, and the high end traits to be a difference maker at the next level. With Ron Rivera calling the defense full time, it’s important to remember that his base package was 3-4 when he was a coordinator in San Diego. I do not expect a full transition into a 3-4, but I do anticipate multiple looks and packages. Burns would be a perfect fit for his defense. Rivera could use him as a traditional edge in a two or three point stance. He could also move Burns around the formation to create unique blitz opportunities. Burns isn’t a perfect prospect, but he has the tools and upside to become a productive edge rusher in the NFL.