We're nearing the end of the 2012 NFL Draft, and Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict—who was viewed as a potential first-round pick just a few months ago—has yet to hear his name called. It's all but certain that he won't.
For all the talent that Burfict displayed at times while on the field in Tempe, his draft stock has plummeted at a rate that it would take an astrophysicist to compute.
That's due in no small part to what can only be called the most disastrous offseason by any college football player in recent memory.
In fact, if Burfict's NFL dreams don't come to fruition, he may want to consider a career in reverse consulting. No player that I can remember has ever done a more thorough job of completely annihilating his own NFL draft stock as Burfict did this spring.
Don't tell any of that to Vontaze Burfict though, because he says none of this is his fault.
When Burfict was asked by scouts and coaches at the NFL combine in February why he seemed to disappear on the field at times in 2011, he had an explanation—and it had nothing to do with his occasionally taking plays off, according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports.
"I just know I'm the best linebacker in this draft," said Burfict, who added that he patterns his game after the Ravens' Ray Lewis and the Bills' Nick Barnett.
Burfict said he is down to 248 pounds after playing last season at 260, but he wasn't about to absolve the coaching staff for its role in his disappointing 2011 season.
"The coaches kind of messed me up. I didn’t know if I would start a game or be benched," he said. "It hurt me, but I tried to fight through it."
Yep, the same Arizona State coaching staff that spent three years coddling Burfict and shielding him from the media were also secretly conspiring to mess with his head, because at heart all college football coaches have a little Lex Luthor in them.
Then Burfict proceeded to turn in workouts at the combine and Arizona State that were so pitiful they actually inspired sympathy from at least one scout in attendance. That was according to a tweet at the time by Tony Pauline of Sports Illustrated.
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"— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 16, 2012
Burfict's horrid workouts and moribund 2011 season led to criticisms from NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who called Burfict "undraftable" after watching tape of the 248-pound linebacker.
Burfict, of course, had a response for this as well, and it had nothing to do with anything he did between the lines and everything to do with Mayock's dislike for him (in Burfict's head, that is).
"If I could talk to him, I would ask him why is he being so hurtful to a young man and trying to trash me,” Burfict told Aaron Wilson of Scout.com. “I think about what he said with every rep that I do in the weight room. I use the criticism as motivation, but I like Mayock. I have a lot of respect for him. I would just ask him to be fair.”
Of course, the only logical conclusion that can be reached here is that Arizona State's coaching staff contacted Mayock and enlisted his help in their secret conspiracy to destroy Burfict by making him run slow and be lazy.
Insidious, I tell ya!
Just in case there was any shred of value left in Burfict's stock, he took care of it (perfectionist that he is) by failing a drug test at the combine.
This, of course, was not Burfict's fault either. In his estimation, he's far from the only person that smokes marijuana just before taking a drug test (a test players knew was coming months in advance).
“I talked to some teams, and I told them I had smoked marijuana before,” Burfict said. “It’s not like I’m the only person that has ever done that.”
Burfict's petulance and finger-pointing is as pathetic as it is maddening. There are literally hundreds of college football players who work their tails off on a daily basis in the hopes of one day making the NFL.
Those players would give anything to have a fraction of Burfict's God-given ability.
Unfortunately, it appears that those million-dollar talents happen to have a ten-cent head riding atop them.
Not that it's Vontaze Burfict's fault, of course.