One of the most important things you can do in player evaluation is to not be over-reactionary to athletic testing at the NFL Combine or through the Pro Day circuit. But at the same time, in my personal player evaluation model, the NFL Combine is the final piece of the puzzle.
My scoring model is dedicated to breaking players down on film trait by trait and then supplementing those scores with some metric measurements.
This is the first year I've adopted a new approach: the film score locks you into a tier as a player. If I score you with top-10 overall film, you're locked into that range, no matter what. In years past, there was wiggle room to raise up or drop below that tier based on metrics, but no longer. Now, the metrics help sort out the group within that individual tier, but players can't leave their designated range based on the film.
I tell you all of that to tell you this: Florida State's Brian Burns is officially my EDGE1.
My hope by explaining the thought process behind the scoring is to avoid being branded as over-reacting to Burns' athletic testing. But at the same time I'm sure it won't matter.
Your friendly neighborhood Brian Burns swung into Indianapolis and to put it mildly, destroyed the narratives surrounding his game. Burns, who admittedly played under-weight at Florida State this past year, showed up at 249 pounds. That number is up from the reported 227 pounds that has been floated around as a potential playing weight for Burns this past season.
Adding any substantial amount of weight can have concerning side effects, such as poor conditioning or negatively impacted test results. Not for Brian Burns.
Burns' full test results at a listed 6-foot-5, 249 pounds (33.88" arm length):
- 4.53 40-yard dash (97th percentile)
- 1.61 10-yard split (74th percentile)
- 36.0" vertical (81st percentile)
- 10'09" broad jump (97th percentile)
- 7.01 3-cone (82nd percentile)
The athletic testing is just one of several components I use to measure a player's supplementary resume. Burns, a 2-year starter and team captain, notched 23.0 sacks in 25 career starts and averaged over a full tackle for loss in every game he played at the college level. Against top competition (2017 - Alabama, Miami, Clemson and 2018 - Syracuse, Clemson, Notre Dame), Burns logged 4 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.
The dude checks boxes.
This isn't meant to detract anything away from Ohio State's Nick Bosa, who is still an elite prospect and scored incredibly well, both on film and in today's NFL Combine testing. Bosa is undoubtedly a more effective run defender at this juncture, his stout anchor and usage in the B-gap at Ohio State really amplify his strength as a player and his ability to stack up the point of attack.
Bosa and Burns were two of five players entering the 2019 NFL Combine to score a coveted "Top Ten Overall" film grade and they both project as viable franchise cornerstones in the pass rush department.
Burns may be a little more scheme dependent, given his frame. But with that said, I didn't perceive run defending to be a liability at Florida State and his length, extension skills and hand usage came in quite handy in his ability to discard blocks and defend the run.
My stance that Burns belonged in the conversation with Bosa is one I've held for a few months now, so getting some elite athletic testing to reaffirm my position offers a nice sense of validation.
In early January, I referenced the pathway to success for Burns at the NFL level:
It's quite a lofty comparison when you put an NFL Draft prospect in the same light as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, I realize this. Yet I genuinely believe Burns has the pass rushing skills and elite athletic ability to follow through and provide a tremendous amount of impact on an NFL field.
My standing on Burns really comes down to the film. He is an ELITE pass rush prospect. Offering cerebral intent with his rushes, Burns is further along than nearly any pass rusher I've seen in recent years when it comes to the technique and planning he brings as a pass rusher. Burns' mental approach to the game of football and the art of the pass rush are things I spoke with Burns about earlier this year on the Draft Dudes podcast.
Two guys I would definitely consider in his same stratosphere in this area? Both Bosa brothers.
But when I have two players scored at nearly an identical level and within the same tier and one (Burns) logs better scores in experience, production and size adjusted athleticism? All you can do is tip your cap and move forward. Burns' explosive play and positional value should result in him being highly coveted in April.
For this draft analyst, he'll be the top EDGE on the board. He confirmed that status this afternoon as we filled in the final missing pieces of information for the 2019 EDGE class.
Not a bad day at the office for your friendly, neighborhood Brian Burns.