New York Jets 2012 NFL Draft Profile: Arizona St. LB Vontaze Burfict

By Christopher Gamble

The look at the New York Jets 2012 NFL draft continues with Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

Burfict was once considered a first or second round pick before the NFL Combine.  However, he completely flopped at the Combine, running a position-worst 5.09 40-yard dash and 104 inch broad jump.  He barely scraped above the worst vertical jump at 30 inches, beating the position worst 29.5 by a half-inch.  Combined with his reputation of playing like a wild animal, his draft stock dropped faster than Congressional approval ratings.

Uncontrollable, wild, undisciplined, these are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of Burfict.  He committed 17 personal foul penalties in his 35-game collegiate career.  However, he has a ton of production to go along with those personal fouls.  He recorded 69 tackles in 2009, 90 in 2010, and 69 last season, including 5 sacks.

Burfict has first round talent but a twelfth round head.  He has the ideal size, 6-2, 250 pounds, to be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL.  On tape, he possesses the speed to make plays from sideline to sideline and would have been the best middle linebacker prospect in the draft had he had a good combine and played under control.

Unfortunately, he plays out of control too often and will sometimes allow his aggressiveness to cause him to overrun the play or sell out against the run.  He will also let his emotions show and will allow them to get the best of him.  He will need to control himself on the field if he wants to be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL, which he has the talent to become.

He is very good on third down and can drop back into coverage or rush the passer through the gap.  He has big-play ability and can let loose with some punishing hits on running backs, quarterbacks, and tight ends.

Most of the negative surrounding Burfict is in regards to his maturity and his Combine results.  On the field, when he is controlled, he is a monster, the kind any defensive coordinator would want, especially in a 3-4 defense where he won’t be asked to quarterback the defense.

With Burfict’s stock having taken a nosedive, possibly to the third day of the draft, I can see the Jets taking a flyer on Burfict if he is available in the later rounds.  Coach Rex Ryan has taken a chance on players with Burfict’s reputation before and has hit and missed.  With a solid but aging linebacking corps, Burfict could be worth the risk of a late round pick.

Personally, I think drafting Burfict is like trying to sleep in a pit of vipers, it could only be a matter of time before you get bitten.  However, the talent level of Burfict, and Rex Ryan’s belief he can coach anyone, might be too much for the Jets to pass up.  With Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Aaron Maybin, and Bryan Thomas all expected to get playing time, Burfict will have the time to learn to control himself on the field.  He will also have plenty of veteran mentors around to teach him the game.  Like dynamite, Burfict could either be used to help perform the job or it could blow up in your face.  Still, with Burfict’s talent level I would take a late round flyer on him, though nothing higher than a fifth round pick and by then another team might have taken the risk.


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