Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.
Previous entries: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30. Drew Lock | 29. Deandre Baker | 28. Taylor Rapp | 27. Garrett Bradbury | 26. Dexter Lawrence | 25. Jerry Tillery | 24. Josh Jacobs | 23. Christian Wilkins | 22. Cody Ford | 21. Noah Fant | 20. Andre Dillard | 19. Greedy Williams | 18. Dwayne Haskins | 17. Rashan Gary | 16. D.K. Metcalf | 15. Clelin Ferrell | 14. Florida OT Jawaan Taylor | 13. Byron Murphy | 12. Jonah Williams | 11. Devin White | 10. Kyler Murray | 9. Devin Bush Jr. | 8. Montez Sweat | 7. T.J. Hockenson | 6. Ed Oliver | 5. Josh Allen
4. Florida State EDGE Brian Burns
6-foot-5, 249 pounds
Key stat: Burns’ 24 college sacks rank fifth in FSU history behind Reinard Wilson, Peter Boulware, DeMarcus Walker and Ron Simmons. Burns and Boulware are the only two on the list who played three college seasons; the other three played four years.
The skinny: The 217-pound Burns was a top-75 recruit coming out of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage High School, having helped lead his team to two state titles in his sophomore and junior seasons. He chose the Seminoles over a slew of blue-blood programs that offered him scholarships, and Burns didn’t take long to make his impact felt in college, as he was named consensus Freshman All-American. In 2016, Burns led all FBS freshmen with 9.5 sacks – the highest total for an FSU player since 1977 – despite not starting any of his 13 games played as a reserve defensive end and rush linebacker. He also blocked a punt and forced one fumble.
Burns’ sack number (4.5) fell as a sophomore amid major expectations, but he remained highly active in 2017 with 48 tackles (13.5 tackles for loss), four passes defended, three forced fumbles and two blocked punts in 13 starts at defensive end. He was named a team captain as a junior, and Burns delivered his best season to date in what would be his final year in school: In 12 starts, he made 52 tackles (15.5 for loss), 10 sacks, three passes defended and three forced fumbles. Burns was named first-team All-ACC, was voted team MVP and led the ACC in sacks per game for the disappointing Noles.
Burns, who turned 21 years old on April 23, declared early for the 2019 NFL draft.
Upside: Highly productive – not just 24 sacks but also 39.5 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, three blocked kicks and two fumble recoveries in 33 career games. Also led FBS in pressures last season. Incredible, condor-like wingspan (84 1/8 inches) to long-arm blockers and close down passing lanes. Excellent athletic burst and agility on display in banner workout at NFL scouting combine – ran a 4.53 40 and a 7.01 3-cone drill and had excellent numbers in the vertical (36 inches) and broad jumps (129). Still growing into his frame and carried his added weight extremely well at the combine.
Runs the arc like a gazelle. Probably the best get-off of anyone in this year’s draft class and possesses the burst and bendy athleticism to run around tackles without them getting a hand on Burns. Long strider who can maintain his width before exploding and flattening fast to the quarterback. Junk-ball pitcher, too – can change up speeds on his rush, use a devastating hesitation rush and countering inside. Sets up tackles well and never gives them a pattern to follow. Uses club, rip and swim moves effectively and probably has the best spin move (his trademark pass-rush technique) in this or any draft class.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 2, 2019
Terrorized some talented tackles, such as Florida’s Jawaan Taylor (a possible top-10 pick) and Clemson’s Mitch Hyatt (who started 57 career games for the two-time national champions). Uses blockers’ leverage against them. Dips under punch attempts, getting so low he can almost taste the grass. Smooth and efficient as a rusher – very little dilly-dallying or wasted movement. Goes out there with a pass-rush plan and can vary on the fly. Understands how to maximize his rare athletic traits.
Able to channel his core strength and convert speed to power. Still learning how to hold the point of attack but has some very respectable reps against larger blockers in this capacity. Makes a ton of backside tackles from rare length and closing speed. Has rushed from both sides effectively. Adept punt blocker – three in his career – giving him a specific value on special-teams units. Not just a pass-rush specialist. Athletic template suggests he could be an excellent coverage player, and his positional workouts at the NFL scouting combine were incredibly fluid – see the “They said it” section below for more on this.
Brian Burns is so natural. Special player. pic.twitter.com/JZcmhm2nbQ
— Jake (@SeedsofJake) March 3, 2019
Extremely young (just turned 21) and is only starting to harness his enormous skill set. Has knack for big plays against good competition. Never lost his focus or his edge during awful 5-7 season – kept his motor revved, left his hardhat on and took his captaincy seriously. Turn on the late stages of a 59-10 blowout loss at the hands of eventual champion Clemson, and you’ll see Burns grinding away like it was a 0-0 game. Coaches praised his effort in practice as well as in games. Quiet, humble personality. Good durability, too – never missed a game despite grinding through daily rigors and minor, nagging injuries.
Downside: Burns didn’t play last season at his combine weight of 249, nor at his pro day number of 242 for most of the season. Added more than 20 pounds to his frame from the end of season to the combine and could struggle to maintain proper bulk and strength through a long NFL season. Not yet a power player. Still needs to add mass and strength. Lacks snap at the point of attack. Skinny, high-cut frame could wear down over time – body-beautiful, but lower-body strength is lacking. Setting the edge not at all his forte yet and must thrive with quickness and improved technique to hold up.
Primarily rushed from three-point stance and wasn’t asked top drop a lot or play a varied, diverse role. Change-of-direction skills are good compared to defensive ends but average to above average compared to most 240-pound linebackers. Relies too much as a rusher on his rare athletic gifts. Will lose his balance and lunge. Chose not to bench press at the combine or his pro day with what was said to be a strained right pectoral muscle. Was handled and held in check by Northern Illinois’ Max Scharping, a mid-round prospect.
Best-suited destination: There absolutely is a home in the NFL for Burns’ electric rush potential, and like his time at FSU he could grow from a Year 1 pass-rush specialist role to more of a full-time assignment in Year 2 in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 front. He’ll need time to develop in an NFL weight program and add good bulk, but the promising thing is how well he moved with the larger frame at the combine.
Among the teams that could have strong interest in his services includes the Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs.
They said it: “Watching him in those drills, I thought … am I watching Von Miller here? That’s a bit rich for me, but I am telling you [that] you just don’t see those guys move like that, that gracefully, very often. It was beautiful.”
— AFC college scouting director
Player comp: I have seen a few Leonard Floyd comps, and that’s pretty good. But I see him as more of a Danielle Hunter clone – and he’s ahead of where Hunter was coming out – from a youth/playing style perspective. Hunter, by the way, has 40 sacks in four seasons and is one of the best speed rushers in the game.
Expected draft range: Top-20 pick
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