Player Spotlight – Vontaze Burfict

Vontaze Burfict
ILB
Arizona State
6’3, 250 (est.)

Junior. 3-year starter (32 of 37 career games). Finished his career with 134 solo tackles, 7 sacks, 22.5 TFLs, and 4 Forced Fumbles. Had 1 INT, which came in his Junior season.

Watch this highlight video and you see an impact LB that has dominant potential.

Burfict was a preseason All American in 2011. Expectations were sky high. This was to be the season he finally put it all together. Unfortunately, you know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men. Burfict sucker-punched a teammate (WR) in the locker room after having an on-field altercation in training camp. That got him into hot water.

Teammate Brandon Magee (LB) tore his Achilles and missed the season. This hurt because, per Tony Pauline, Magee was the one who got Burfict lined up correctly on a lot of plays.

Burfict had pledged to cut down on reckless penalties in 2011. He tried to play more under control initially, but it seemed to affect his overall game and he stopped it by midseason. He had 2 dumb penalties in the Oregon game. Things went downhill as ASU’s season fell apart. They lost the final 4 regular season games and their bowl game. Things didn’t end well. Burfict had a pair of penalties in the season finale vs Cal. He was benched. The coaches asked him to go back in the game at a certain point and he refused. Burfict then only played in parts of the bowl game, failing to even record a solo tackle.

Coach Dennis Erickson stood up for Burfict as much as he could this year (part of the problem). Defensive coordinator Craig Bray was critical of Burfict. He hated the undisciplined play and Burfict’s approach to the game. His work habits never matched his talent. Danny White played for ASU back in the 1970s and was later an NFL QB. He remains close to the program and had this to say about Burfict:

When your best football player is a guy like that, he’s what I call a coach killer. He’s such a great athlete, you have to have him on the field. But by the same token, the negatives outweigh the positives with him. As great a player as he is, you can’t have that. And then what happens, when if you don’t take extreme measures with it, then it becomes a cancer on the team. And I started seeing other guys on the defense starting to act like that and I think it became infectious.

Burfict is a talented football player. He is a good athlete. He generally is a good tackler. He’s got the strength to physically overwhelm just about anyone. He covers a lot of ground for a guy his size. Burfict can be an impact hitter. He looks the part of an pro MLB. It took Ray Lewis years to develop a body type that Burfict has in college.

There is a downside as well. Burfict doesn’t diagnose plays well. Lacks the instincts you want in a MLB.  He doesn’t use his hands to keep blockers off him. He struggles to disengage when blockers do get on him. Doesn’t show particularly good cover skills. Primarily a run stuffer. Not exactly a tackling machine. Never had more than 7 solo tackles in a game at ASU. More of a N-S player than sideline to sideline. Will fit a scheme that lets him attack the LOS, but isn’t as effective when moving laterally to flow to the ball. Undisciplined player who will get penalties and lets his emotions affect his play too much. MLB is supposed to be the leader of the defense and that’s not Burfict at all.

Watch these two games. You will see a handful of nice plays, but Burfict hardly looks like a special player.

vs Oregon – 2011
vs USC – 2011

Burfict has explosive potential and will make athletic plays that blow you (and the QB/RB) away. The problem is that he can’t do the routine. How valuable is a bone jarring hit if it is coupled with 20 plays where Burfict is either stuck on blocks or out of position?

Add in the fact that he’s got significant character and coachability issues. What is Burfict’s value? There is no way he’s worth a 1st round pick. I wouldn’t spend a 2nd round pick on him. After that, I would only take Burfict if I had a veteran LB who Burfict would listen to as well as a high quality defensive coordinator who had the experience and presence to deal with a fiery young player like him.

Tremendous potential, but a player that is a definite risk.  Must be in the right situation to succeed and even then, there are no guarantees.  Underachieved in college when he was more talented than most of the guys he faced.  Is he going to be better in the NFL when facing elite competition?  Is he going to suddenly develop strong work habits as a millionaire?  Doesn’t seem likely.

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One Response to Player Spotlight – Vontaze Burfict

  1. mark says:

    He’s off my board because (as they say) “once a turd, always a turd”.

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