For most of the 2011 college football season, Vontaze Burfict was penciled in as a sure-fire first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. But the Arizona State linebacker ended up going undrafted during this year's event, and his monumental collapse will serve as a cautionary tale for future draft prospects.
Burfict was one of the most feared players in college football over the past few seasons. But problems on and off the field and a complete lack of accountability for his mistakes made him a completely unappealing prospect.
According to Scouts Inc., Burfict was flagged for 17 personal foul penalties in his 37 career games. In 2010 he head-butted Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz, leading to a personal foul, then in 2011 he was benched during the Cal game for racking up two personal fouls. He was also withheld from starting the MAACO Bowl this year for undisclosed reasons.
Burfict's playing style also raised questions among evaluators. While he is a violent hitter, he often sacrifices good technique to try to make a big hit. He leads with his head when going for a hit and often leaves his feet when attempting to make a tackle. That kind of horrendous technique just won't fly at the next level.
As if that weren't enough, Burfict showed up at the NFL scouting combine and looked out of shape. He then turned in a horrible workout, clocking the worst 40-yard dash time for an inside linebacker at the event at 5.09 seconds. While at the event, Burfict's interviews reportedly turned off both the media and teams in attendance.
Burfict had a chance to be accountable for his mistakes during those interviews, but instead he blamed others for his problems and claimed he was just "misunderstood." Then the day before the draft, it became public that the Arizona State product had failed a drug test while at the combine.
His fall from a guy who was locked in as a first rounder to an undrafted free agent is one of the more spectacular draft collapses I have ever seen.
The lesson future prospects can learn from Burfict is that it is fine to make mistakes, but NFL teams want you to be accountable for them. Not only that, but if there are red flags about your character, it's best to show up for workouts prepared and not just rely on your natural talent to get you by.
Burfict never learned that. As a result, 31 linebackers were taken in the 2012 NFL draft, and he was not one of them.