TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24: Vontaze Burfict #7 of the Arizona State Sun Devils points and yells at quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the University of Southern California Trojans just prior to a play at Sun Devil Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Our draft profile series now moves on to the most discussed players--not just Sun Devils--in the 2012 NFL Draft, Vontaze Burfict. The enigmatic and disappointing linebacker was hoping his path to redemption began with hearing his name this weekend, but major news surfacing Wednesday may have put an end to that.
Weight: 248 pounds
College Career: Appeared in 37 games with 32 starts. Burfict came to ASU as the highest rated recruit in school history, and he appeared on his way to meeting those expectations during a freshman season that saw him earn the Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year award. An even better sophomore year in which he made 90 tackles earned him spots on the Pac-10's Second Team, and brought about tremendous national hype heading to 2011. However, after a three-sack opening game showing, Burfict battled ineffectiveness, poor conditioning, his coaches and discipline en route to a very disappointing finish before he declared a year early for the draft. He finished his Sun Devil career with 228 tackles, 22.5 for loss, seven sacks and one interception.
Strengths: When in top shape (the key qualifier for all of these), Burfict brings outstanding quickness for a player of his impressive size. He is able to patrol from sideline-to-sideline and close on the ball in the blink of an eye. He is a punishing hitter, delivering devastating blows on ballcarriers of all sizes. Burfict seems to have excellent instincts while on the field. When motivated, he brings an intimidating presence that has visibly effected opposing offenses. He showed glimpses of good pass rushing ability in 2011. Talent-wise, Burfict is a Top 15 pick, however...
Weaknesses: For all of his physical gifts, Burfict has proven to be a mental mess. He racked up 17 personal foul penalties during his Sun Devil career, many that were staggeringly dumb. Burfict has shown no ability to play with any kind of self-control, and is a magnet for penalty flags. He has not shown the drive or dedication to capitalize on his elite talent, a trait that manifested itself in Burfict playing noticeably overweight and out of shape last season. He deflected responsibility from himself onto his coaches. Burfict has a sense of entitlement and complacency that will be disaster in an NFL situation.
Aside from the mental negatives, Burfict has lost a lot of the quickness and strength he showed during his sophomore season. He ran a terrible 5.09 40 at the Combine (since improved to a better-but-still-slow 4.8) and did only 16 bench press reps at ASU's Pro Day. He also is not great in coverage, and figures to struggle when matched up with the dynamic tight ends at the NFL level. He will need a strict coach and a bevy of capable veteran teammates in the locker room to have any chance of NFL success.
However, the biggest blow may have happened on Wednesday, just a day before the draft. Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported that Burfict failed a drug test at the Combine. That, combined with all his other baggage, should keep him out of the draft.
Round Projection: 5th to undrafted
Prediction: Undrafted (Pre-drug test news: San Francisco 49ers, 6th round, 199th overall)
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