NFL Draft: In a Burfict World



As a typical morning goes for DCRamFan, it’s a quick jog with the pups, then a cup of coffee with the NFL Network in the background as I thumb page by page through my Merriam-Webster dictionary. Juevos verde con jamon is my favorite book, though the storyline is somewhat difficult to follow. As I got to the midpoint of my favorite chapter of the book (V), I couldn’t help but notice a word that I’d overlooked the first four times I read it. Smack-dab in between ‘vomiturition’ and ‘voodoo’ was a verb, which had previously avoided my keen eye. I thought I’d share it with you, as it (oddly enough) affects the upcoming NFL draft, and possibly the St. Louis Rams. That verb.....’Vontaze.’

Vontaze /von-taze/
(v) 1. To fall or drop downward at high speed. ex: After a 7-9 season in 2010, the St. Louis Rams vontazed to the bottom of the NFC West in 2011, winning only two games.

For the language of origin, and more importantly, a few thoughts on Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict and his draft stock, take the jump...feel free, however, to test your vomiturition skills at any time.

Even with the addition of Jo Lonn Dunbar, it’s fair to say that adding quality depth at the linebacker position is an idea that needs to be entertained by the Rams in next Thursday's draft. Clearly, we’ve got our guy in the middle, but the strong and weak side linebackers that we haphazardly threw out on the field on 2011, both proved to be more weak than anything else, and were contributors in our teams 31st ranking against stopping the run.

It goes without saying that guys like Lavonte David (NEB), Ronnell Lewis (OK), Zach Brown (UNC), and Mychal Kendricks (CAL) could be available for the Rams early on (late 2nd/early 3rd) in the draft, and would make an immediate impact at the position. With the needs the Rams still have, and the many mocks we’ve seen/read/created over the past couple of months, it’s a matter of differing opinions about who, and more importantly when, we’ll address the position. For many, a linebacker in the 2nd or 3rd may be too early. As with every draft, though, as some peoples stock rises, others must fall , I mean - Vontaze.

Just a few months ago (January), ESPN draft/college ‘experts’ like Todd McShay were predicting Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona St. was a first round talent. It wouldn’t be fair, to single out McShay, as clearly he wasn’t the only one at ESPN who (knowing what we know now) could’ve made such a bold prediction....was he? Nope! Better known as ‘The Hair’ on TST, the one, the only Mel Kiper had his very first 2012 Mock draft on January 18th. In that mock, you’ll notice that Kiper has Burflict going to the Ravens at #30. Let’s see what he has to say...

"He's been drawing comparisons to Ray Lewis since he got to Tempe, and hopefully Lewis will be around for another year to mentor Burfict. But either way, the Ravens have to consider what they'll do, as retirement talk now is a reality for their legendary linebacker, and Burfict is the kind of player who could develop into a star in his own right in that defense. He is instinctive and rangy, and plays with an edge. He developed a bit of a reputation as a guy who was prone to the personal foul, but if he channels that energy, Burfict could be a very good one. He has a ton of experience as an immediate freshman starter and reads the game pretty well."

Silly, silly perfect-haired man. Thank goodness he’s the only one that made comparisons to arguably one of the greatest LB’s of all time. Oh....whats that? He wasn’t? You’ve gotta be kidding me! No, Walter, please don’t do it!

Player Comparison: Ray Lewis. When Burfict is playing well, his style of play is reminiscent of Ray Lewis. Both are big, fast intimidators who provide an impact against the run and pass. Lewis was the 26th-overall pick out of Miami in the 1996 NFL Draft. If that draft was redone, Lewis would definitely be in the running for the first pick with former teammate Jonathan Ogden and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison. Burfict is likely to go in the same general area as Lewis in the 2012 NFL Draft."

So, what has happened in the past three months that we’re not mocking Burflict in the 1st? Oh, how the mighty have vontazed! Heading into the combine, Burfict was considered one of the top linebackers and a sure-fire top-25 pick. With great size (6’3’’, 250 pounds) and incredible aggressiveness, the projections made sense. Some considered Burfict to be the hardest hitter in the entire class. Now, the former Sun Devil might not even be a second-round selection. He ran a 4.93 and 5.10 on the 40-yard dash, registering one of the worst times of any linebacker. Here’s a gander at a few of the aforementioned fellas, again courtesy of Walt.

Player School Height Weight 40 Time 10-Yd Split Bench Vertical Broad Arm
Zach Brown North Carolina 6-1 244 4.44 1.52 DNP 33.5 9-8 33 1/4
Vontaze Burfict Arizona State 6-1 248 4.93 1.70 DNP 30 8-8 31 1/4
Lavonte David Nebraska 6-1 233 4.56 -- 19 36.5 9-11 31 3/4
Dont'a Hightower Alabama 6-2 265 4.62 1.65 DNP 32 DNP 32 5/8
Mychal Kendricks California 5-11 239 4.41 -- 24 39.5 10-7 31 5/8
Luke Kuechly Boston College 6-3 242 4.50 -- 27 38 10-3 31
Travis Lewis Oklahoma 6-1 246 4.81 -- 22 36 10-2 32 3/4

It’s clear to see, based upon the combine results, why his draft stock has taken such a hit. It’s not only his combine results that have made teams wary. Burfict’s interviews with coaches and the media were described as ‘disastrous.’ He was dubbed ‘out of control,’ ‘not to be trusted.’ For a guy who was expected to be an All-American, he didn’t even earn an honorable mention in his own conference in 2011. The reason? His coaches of course! When asked about his lack of production, Burfict said – "I played average. I could've played better. That's what hurt me at times. The coaches kind of messed me up. I didn't know if I would start a game or be benched. It hurt me, but I tried to fight through it."

At this point, we find ourselves a mere few days away from what should be a very exciting draft, and another step towards filling the roster for our new-look Rams team. ‘The Hair’ pointed out that Burfict was a first round talent, but if we’re relying on his prognostications as a gauge of ‘what could be,’ then we’re all in trouble. As noted in a recent front page article by Douglas M, Kiper successfully mocked only one player to their future/current team in 2011. In a teleconference with reporters on April 18th, Kiper said this "...and here's Vontaze Burfict, who's now a late rounder (or an) undrafted free agent. It's pretty amazing." Taking all of this into account, for me, it’s not only Burfict’s stock that is vontazing.

So what are your thoughts Ram’s fans. After writing this piece, essentially blasting Burfict in every way imaginable (both on and off the field), it wouldn’t be right not to ask if he’s worth giving a chance. Fisher has been known to take on "project players," and I think it’s fair to say Burfict fits the description. To be compared to Ray Lewis might be a stretch, but do his size, talent, and aggressiveness deserve a shot? If Fisher can turn him into 75% the player that Ray Lewis was, I'd have to say yes. He could be a steal late (very late) in the draft, or could go undrafted all together. Are his combine results, 'disastrous' interviews, and fights with teammates too much of a risk? He's not 'Four Pillars' material by any means, but if we take a punter before we take Burfict, I'm going to vomiturition!

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