Early mock drafts had Vontaze Burfict projected as a low first-round selection, seen as a perfect fit as an heir-apparent to Ray Lewis in Baltimore. Burfict has a well-publicized nasty streak, and teams were willing to look past his penchant for personal fouls, that is until he posted 40-yard dash times of 4.93 and 5.10 at the combine.
However, he now finds himself as an undrafted free agent, lucky that the Bengals are giving him a chance.
That being said, there was a reason that Burfict was initially thought of as a first-round pick, and if he is ever able to put everything together, he could be a real impact player.
WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING
SI.com's Tony Pauline echoed the sentiments of many with the following tweet during Burfict's pro day:
Word on Vontaze Burfict; not good in position drills (i'm watering that down)...as one scout told me "i actually felt bad for him"
ESPN's Mike Mayock was another expert unimpressed by Burfict, even when disregarding his character issues.
I came away unimpressed...his instincts aren’t good, he gets enveloped by big bodies, he runs around blocks. For a big, strong guy he’s nowhere near as good at the point of attack as I thought he would be.
Mayock did find time for a little bit of praise though:
From my perspective, if he gets a chance at a blowup hit where he can just knock somebody into the next century, he’s going to take it and it’s going to look really good. That’s where he’s impressive.
There are obviously some positives about Burfict's game that caused him to be considered a first-round prospect in the first place.
Chad Reuter of CBSsports.com highlighted some of those positives in an in-depth scouting report.
On the field he flashes excellent instinct and ferocity. He diagnoses and blows up plays with brutish hits, against the run and even as a pass rusher.
Explosive tackler who gets low to stop backs in their tracks. Plays like a downhill missile on most snaps, making huge hits that result in turnovers. Also brings down backs by their leg if slipping down during the tackle. Anchors quickly after inserting himself into a pile to prevent forward pushes. Capable of reaching either sideline on a given play, taking deep angles when needed to prevent the touchdown.
EXPECTED IMPACT AS A ROOKIE
Burfict is obviously a polarizing figure and though some teams likely left him completely off their draft boards, he maintains the potential to have an immediate impact on a defense.
The Bengals have done a great job of ridding their roster of criminals and malcontents over the past few seasons, so if Burfict isn't on his best behavior, expect him to be gone quickly.
However, the Bengals are in need of depth at the linebacker position, so it does make sense for them to take a chance on him.
At 6'3", 250 pounds, Burfict has the ideal size of a linebacker, and if he can harness his intensity, he could one day realize the potential that once made him a first-round prospect.
Burfict surely isn't the first player to have character issues, and it isn't the worst thing in the world to have a middle linebacker with a mean streak. The talent and toughness are there, now it is just up to the Bengals coaching staff and organization to mold it.