It’s never too early to start looking at players for the NFL draft.
Identifying the top players early gives fans players to watch during games and reasons to watch games that they normally would pass over.
When watching for the most exciting players, one need not look further than Arizona State MLB Vontaze Burfict.
The guy has it all physically. Burfict is 6’3” and 252 pounds. His size is similar to Cincinnati Bengals’ 2009 second rounder Rey Maualuga. Like Maualuga, he is a powerful hitter.
The guy truly is a hammer. His size allows for him to overpower blockers that try to seal him off or take him on. He uses his size and strength to blow up blockers. Many linebackers are deficient with taking on blockers coming out of college.
They usually prefer to go around blockers than to take the shortest path to the ball, through the blockers. Burfict takes on and overcomes blocks unlike any player I have seen in recent memory. His bulk and speed, coupled with his instincts, will allow for him to fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defenses.
The way he flies to the ball reminds me of Von Miller. Burfict sees the ball and in on top of the play in a flash. He times his rushes well and he identifies weak spots in the line to penetrate. The way he tackles through the ball carrier reminds me of John Lynch.
His instincts need to be sharpened a bit, but he has the potential to make a Ray Lewis-type impact from the middle of a defense. He makes splash plays. He gathers sacks, forces fumbles, he has hands for picks and plants players behind the line in droves.
Before he has any chance of making that type of impact on a game, he is going to have to sharpen his focus. He allows other players to fire him up and he gets overaggressive.
He has planted helmet to helmet hits on defenseless players, thrown punches, kicked players and taken an opposing player’s shoe and tossed it. He gets flagged for unnecessary penalties and Arizona State Head Coach Dennis Erickson has stated that Burfict allows himself to easily get baited by opposing teams and that he is being targeted by other teams.
He needs to avoid falling victim to his fiery temperament to avoid making Albert Haynesworth-like mistakes or being forced to pay fines like many of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It will be worth watching to see if he can control himself better on the field. He also needs to make sure and avoid troubles off the field as he has done so far.
He said recently in an interview on ESPN that, “I've got to lead by example, going to everything on time, being 10 minutes early.”
It sounds like Burfict has a great attitude and a narrowed focus. He’ll have a number of times to show that he can pull off his new gameplan. Arizona State plays some big games against Missouri, USC, Oregon and California. Those will be national spotlight games for the Sun Devils and for Burfict. He will be the leader of the defense and will be a joy to watch.
Guys like him, who lay huge hits, are players that all fans can root for. Look for Burfict to be a first round pick in 2012, who will challenge Notre Dame MLB Manti Te’o to be the first linebacker off the board.
Birth Date: September 24, 1990
Weight: 252 lbs.
School: Arizona State
Position: Middle Linebacker
Best Case Comparison: Ray Lewis
Worst Case Comparison: Rey Maualuga