Brian Burns FSU 6’ 5” 231 lbs #99
Burns is another college DE who has a linear, agile frame that is best suited as an OLB in the NFL unless he gains about 30 lbs from his sophomore season. In his 33 game career at FSU (He was only a situational pass rusher as a freshman.) he had 123 tackles 40 TFL and 24 sacks. These are excellent numbers for a college DE. Added to that he also defended 7 passes forced 7 fumbles and was a menace on special teams with 2 kick blocks as well as 2 punt blocks. He is still very raw as a player, but he has speed and great length to become a force on any defense.
Here he uses a good get off, combined with excellent hand usage to keep the blocker away from his chest, knock down his arms, and zoom by the 6’5” 315 lbs Clemson tackle. He shows a decent lean, and explodes by the block so quickly the tackle isn’t even close enough to grab and hold him before he devours the QB.
Burns has an excellent first step burst, but it’s not truly elite which is reasonable considering his height. He gets off the ball well no matter whether he lines up in a 2, 3 or even 4 point stance. Burns doesn’t need it here, but he also has exceptional lean for a tall man with great body control.
I mentioned long arms and special teams play. Here is what speed, quickness and long arms can do for you. This is one of four blocked kicks in his first 21 games. All it takes is an extra split second to give him enough time to make a game changing play. Special teams is the quickest way a rookie can make an impact on a team while he learns the nuances of a new defense.
Burns has a high football IQ and surprisingly good technique in hand usage, counter moves and rush moves. He is a competitive player who fought hard and hustled to make plays downfield when FSU was getting their butts handed to them. He is a fighter who will give what he has on every play no matter the situation.
This time Burns is playing in space like an OLB using zone coverage. He smartly picks up the drag route, then when the QB gets flushed from the pocket he (knowing he has flat coverage behind him) puts his foot in the ground and attacks the nimble QB, taking him down with a forceful secure tackle.
Burns is developing better recognition of plays, and in this situation he decides to go after the QB (forcing him to make a decision) then makes a sure tackle. Burns in the past has had some hesitation on plays like these. He seems to be processing situations faster which is a good thing whether you are a DE or an OLB.
This next play is against their most hated rival, the University of Florida. Burns gives the LT a hesitation move which momentarily freezes him. He then uses his great burst and excellent lean to get by virtually untouched and makes a beeline for the QB. He makes the smart play and goes for the strip instead of the huge sack which creates a game changing play.
Here is another look at the same play. You see him hesitate then beat the 6’5” 335 lb tackle easily. Then he goes with the swipe as the QB brings the ball up to pass.
This is the smart play and one that is well suited for the NFL. Instead of going for the big QB hit which could draw a roughing penalty, he goes for the strip sack which can result in a game changing play. In this instance it does. It gives FSU a gift TD and the lead. Burns has worked on this technique in particular. This was a game in 2017.
Here against Miami in 2018 Burns pretty much does the same thing as he is pushed by the QB. This is against Tyree St. Louis who was making his 27th consecutive start at tackle and is one of the best tackle prospects in the 2019 Draft. St. Louis is 6’5 315 lbs with excellent length and is a powerful blocker.
You can see here that Burns uses a nice move on St Louis to get around him. First St. Louis is very quick off the snap and gets back into his pass set very rapidly. Burns also comes off the ball quickly also but slows down every so slightly making St Louis think he is going to cut inside him (between the guard and tackle gap). This makes St Louis stop his feet for just an instant while at the same time Burns kicks in the turbo and goes around him.
St. Louis’ length helps him push Burns around the QB, but Burns also has length and reaches back to knock the ball away. This is a very nice move that was conceived in an instant when Burns saw St. Louis set so quickly deep. Quick recognition is vital for a edge player and usually comes with experience of which Burns has little.
Later in the same game Burns is unblocked on a read option play run to the right. The play is well covered as the H-back is picked up in the flat by #20. Burns does a nice job all around as he holds his edge and doesn’t chase the back into the line. He sees the play and maintains the edge, outflanking the QB. With nowhere to go with the ball Burns closes in and makes the tackle.
Burns does a nice job here although he gets a little excited and almost runs by the QB. His excellent length saved him here. You can see Burns initially breaks down beautifully and reads the play. After that he hastily crosses his legs in the effort to maintain outside leverage on the QB. He needs to break down and slide step (Don’t cross your feet. You can see him get a little off balance.) then square up the QB and make the tackle. This just shows that Burns is a little green playing in space and can use some coaching.
Burns is still a young raw defender who has a lot of learning yet to do. He has the athletic traits and body type that can be effective in the NFL. His Draft stock will be determined by his Combine and pro day workouts. Also his measurements will go a long way to determining where he can play as a prospect, especially his weight and length. He played last year at 231 lbs which is way too light for a DE. He will need to weigh around 255 lbs to even be in the conversation as a DE, and that weigh gain might hurt his speed and quickness.
As such I don’t currently have a Draft grade on Burns, but he does test well and shows power along with the burst. He will definitely be in the lower 1st round consideration. No matter where he is slotted I surmise that Burns will be a situational pass rusher and a maven on special teams as a rookie. He should also be a project for the strength coach for the first few years.
Let me know what you think...