At 6’3 and 250 lbs, Arizona State’s inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict is an explosive football player. He has the ability to stop rushers in their tracks, and possesses the speed and strength to get to the quarterback. He can step back into coverage and break up plays, and is a hard-hitting tackler with a game that should translate well to the NFL.
So, with all this in mind, why did Burfict go undrafted at this year’s NFL draft?
Just to clarify, the Cincinnati Bengals eventually picked up Burfict as an undrafted free agent, but it is worth noting that he was originally seen as being selected in either the first or second round.
So why did no one pick him out of the 253 players available in this year’s class?
Well the simple answer is that Vontaze Burfict just had too many ‘red flags’.
He had several on field, and more importantly, off field issues that took away from his obvious ability as a football player.
His college career with the Arizona State Sun Devils was inconsisitent at best, and his chances weren’t helped by a relatively poor combine workout. His final season in Tempe was marred by weight problems, discipline issues and noted differences with his coaches.
In October 2010, Sun Devil’s head coach Dennis Erickson benched Burfict, stating it was because the linebacker had committed too many personal fouls.
After a strong start to last season, the Sun Devils began losing games, and Burfict again found himself in trouble. He was pulled out of the game against Cal after more personal fouls. In his final game at ASU, he stood on the sidelines as his Sun Devils team mates took on Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Other ‘red flags’ might well have included his admittance to smoking marijuana, even though he correctly stated “It’s not like I’m the only person that has ever done that.”
Players came out in support of Burfict, with his former team-mate Omar Bolden adding: “There’s no doubt in my mind (he can play in the NFL). It’s unfortunate what’s happening to him, but I’ve played with that dude for three years, and no matter how this works out, I know he can play.”
Burfict himself said: “The team that picks me is going to get a leader on and off the field. I’m going to be a role model for the kids in the community. If teams pass on me, they’re going to have to face me for the next 10 years. If they don’t want me, they’re going to miss out. I definitely feel like my best football is ahead of me.”
But the fact remains that no one was willing to take a chance on him. After being picked up by the Bengals once the draft was over, Burfict told the Arizona State Press: “I know that I’m a first, second round pick and the Bengals got a steal in the draft because nobody drafted me”
So can Burfict make a positive name for himself in the NFL?
The Bengals obviously saw enough to think so. He could conceivably compete for the backup job to Cincinnati’s Rey Maualuga, and might be able to do enough to see some playing time this coming season.
It just goes to show how much a prospect’s stock can fall. Burfict was down as one of the nation’s best linebackers, but his numerous ‘red flags’ were enough to see him ending up as an undrafted free agent. Whether or not he can bounce back from this remains to be seen. It would certainly be a positive end to a story that has seen Burfict tumble hard in a very public fall from grace.