The Carolina Panthers made a wise choice last night with the 16th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft in choosing to address the most glaring area of concern from last season; the pass rush. To that end, they selected Brian Burns, a super athletic and accomplished edge rusher out of Florida State. Those of you who have been on our site for the entire pre-draft process know that I don’t do much of any analysis leading up to the draft. I prefer to do my research once I know a player is going to be a member of our team, and now that Brian Burns wears the black and blue, here is what I think from reviewing some of his game film from last season.
Athleticism and intangibles: Elite
Our own Billy Marshall is spot on in praising Burns for his athletic measurables. He is that special kind of athlete that makes the difficult look routine, and the impossible possible. Watching him play, it is a lot like watching a defensive Cam Newton. I say that because not only are their builds similar, but their motions are fluid and instinctive. Burns never looks like he is getting winded doing anything. Several people have compared him athletically to Von Miller, and they aren’t wrong to do so, but the difference there is going to be technique. Can the Panthers instill more violence in Burns movements, and expand his move set? If they can, watch out.
Block shedding/disengage: Average
This is an area that can be improved by coaching and conditioning for Burns. When linemen successfully get their hands on him and he doesn't have a speed avenue to escape, he is somewhat defenseless. This is partly due to his relative strength and weight, and partly due to his need to learn better priorities in how he addresses potential blockers. This area is what sets a guy like Von Miller apart from other guys in his mold, he is the best in football in setting up a blocker for failure. If you can initiate impact and use it to stagger the guy blocking you, you can make the first move to beat him. Neutralize the blocker then pursue the ball.
Pocket disruption: Elite
As Ron Rivera alluded to in their post pick press conference by calling Burns a “1.5 guy” is that he makes splash plays through causing constant discomfort to quarterbacks. Even if he doesn’t directly notch a sack, he forces quarterbacks out of a feeling of safety routinely, often leading to opportunities for others. Burns does a great job in using his speed, length, and hands to apply pressure directly or simulate it through chaos. He gets offensive tackles off their spots, forcing them into uncomfortable areas in space where he excels at winning to the inside with a formidable rip counter. Even if they do manage to get their body between him and the quarterback, the pocket collapses and it often leads to a negative play or turnover.
Run support and tackling: Below average
This has almost everything to do with his size. He simply needs to add more weight to be effective against simple running plays like power or zone runs, but he does have a huge advantage defending plays that require some sort of setup, like a counter or any kind of misdirection. There are several examples of him in college where he explodes through the weak side of the line and meets the ball carrier just as he completes the handoff, something that only the best athletes can hope to do. To that end, he seems to understand his gap assignment, which is all Luke Kuechly is going to care about, but he did on more than one occasion pursue the wrong guy on option plays leading to big gains. What I’m saying is, he is hit and miss against the run, but could develop to hit more often.
Positional flexibility: Very good
If the Panthers are looking to run more multiple fronts and create more opportunities through subterfuge, they made an excellent selection in Burns. While not at his best in a traditional 4-3 set shaded on a tackles shoulder, he is still capable there. In any other configuration that allows him to use his speed as a first option, from a five tech out to a wide nine, i expect him to stand out immediately. Even better, his coverage skills are advanced for a defensive lineman, and would be considered formidable by even traditional linebacker standards, again, thanks to his athleticism and agility.
Where he wins in the NFL right now
- Obvious passing situations
- One on one with no help
- Odd fronts
- Stunts that take advantage of his speed
- Zone Blitz as a rusher or coverage man
Where he’s unlikely to win right now
- Traditional 4-3 alignment
- Versus zone or power run heavy teams
- Versus read option as the point defender
Current NFL comp: Dee Ford
Potential NFL comp: Von Miller