NAME: Brian Burns
SCHOOL: Florida State
JERSEY: No. 99
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
WT: 231 lbs
A five-star recruit, Burns has racked up 23 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and four forced fumbles across his first two seasons at Florida State. Given his physical upside and billing, Burns is expected to have a standout junior season.
Already showing a variety of pass rush moves, footwork, burst and length, Burns has a considerably high ceiling as a pass rusher. He does well to minimize his surface area and use his hands to clear his pads. He knows how to use his feet to set up his pass rush moves and draw opponents out of their sets to soften his rush angles. He has the flexibility to corner the edge track and length to finish. His pass rushing skill set translates nicely to the NFL level.
As a run defender, Burns competes hard to stay in his run fits while also effective attacking gaps. With that said, his lack of bulk and need for increased play strength yields notably different results when tasked with combating tight ends as opposed to offensive tackles.
Given his long and lean frame, Burns doesn’t quite have the elite athleticism expected of an edge rusher for his size. While he does showcase impressive moments of explosive burst, playing faster is needed. The need for more play speed often shows up with how Burns reads an offensive tackles set and is calculated in how he responds. He is a fluid mover that needs to execute quicker.
Burns is already an appealing prospect but there is room for growth and it’s exciting to consider how good he can get. If Burns can add mass without losing his explosive athletic ability then it would serve his draft stock well.
Burst – Good first step from a variety of stances, clearly has the ability to threaten with speed enough to force tackles into oversets. Would not call his first step elite, but has the stride length to win up the arc despite not being ultra-explosive. Works from a 2, 3, and 4-point stance depending on the game, and can get-off the ball well from all three positions. Might be at his most explosive in a 4-point stance, and his first step would benefit from playing with his hand down in the NFL. Possible that he may become more explosive when he can consistently practice/play in just one stance.
Bend – Unique bender. Clearly has exceptional flexibility throughout his body, yet isn’t the best hip-bender through contact. Takes some wider angles around the pocket as a result and will occasionally be shoved up the arc. Issue is alleviated due to his outstanding ability to dip or run under contact when the angle is more favorable. Vast majority of edge pressure came from a wide-9 alignment when his hips and feet were already pointed to the pocket a little better. Has the ability to tilt the edge with ankle flexibility and drop his inside shoulder to finish.
Rush Moves – Well-developed pass rusher with a deep stable of moves. Has flashed club-rip, push-pull, icepicks, two-hand swats, swims and more. Hand work is well-thought out, but lacks the power and ferocity to be devastating. Still able to trim the edge and is sudden enough with his mitts to catch offensive lineman off-guard and get in clean. Hand work and rush variety allows him to challenge tackles in ways that other pass rushers of his build in past drafts have not. One negative? He doesn’t convert speed-to-power at all.
Counters – One of the more impressive areas of Burns’ game. Consistently able to recognize set deficiencies and alter his plan on the fly. Will often set up his opponent with stutter-steps and choose a path based on his opponents’ reaction. Consistently breaks off speed rushes to work back inside oversets, often with a spin move. Wish he was a little quicker altering directions to not allow tackles to recover.
Run Defense – Not going to toss guys around in the trenches, but is rarely pushed around and sets the edge with length and leverage. Great range to the boundary. Don’t think you can move him around the defensive line or slant him inside and expect an impact. Needs to maintain a better feel for his depth to the line of scrimmage, climbs too high at times and opens up rush lanes. Got a few off-ball reps on the goal-line and showed the ability to process and make plays to the boundary.
Lateral Mobility – Not overly segmented in his movements like some long-legged rushers, but not as explosive laterally as you’d like. Still, alters directions smoothly and can adjust his pursuit angle to make plays. Can’t see mobility being an issue in the NFL.
Mental Processing/Vision – Still improving at what to do in unblocked situations, can get a little high and needs to step down flatter. Recognition against the run can improve, but as a pass rusher his vision is among the best in the class. Well-trained edge rusher who knows what to look for in his opponents’ sets and is consistently able to attack weaknesses as a result.
Tackling/Finishing – Long arms to bring runners down outside his frame. Range of impact is extended simply due to his length, able to make stops away from him by dragging runners down. Not a big hitter, but targets the ball beautifully, with seven forced fumbles in college, including three each of the past two years.
Competitive Toughness – Not a power player, but doesn’t back down from anyone and shows desired toughness and physicality on a per-game basis. Plays hard and didn’t slow up even when Florida State was getting throttled in games. Consistently doubled or chipped and kept the same energy regardless.
Athleticism/Size – Outstanding height, weight and length, but may need to add bulk at the next level. Weigh-ins will be huge for him. Can he hit 250 and still test well? I think he’s a good athlete for sure, but his weight-adjusted numbers will need to hold up against heavier edges who test similarly. Smooth mover, but how does he test in the explosive exercises?
BEST TRAIT – Rush Moves/Counters
WORST TRAIT – Speed-to-Power
RED FLAGS – None
Billed as a speed/bend pass rusher, Burns is certainly capable of winning that way, but that title seems to minimize how well-rounded his whole pass rush skill set is. Sharp with his hands and diverse with his rush plan, Burns can beat tackles inside or outside and has terrific mental processing to take advantage of what opponents gives him. His weigh-ins and size-adjusted athletic testing will be important, but his tape, traits and production say first round prospect despite his lack of an elite first step.
First Step Quickness – Potent explosiveness and is consistently pressuring the edge with his first step and ability to explode off the ball. Has beaten heavy footed tackles with pure speed and provides acceleration through the corner to rack up pressures. Blue chip trait.
Hand Technique/Length – Highly developed hands and shows a great understanding of importance of placement. Utilizes long arm to establish separation vs. blockers and has no shortage of shedding techniques to uncover and continue in his pursuit to the football.
Pass Rush Counters – Hits all of his landmarks on an endless array of counters, including speed rush, inside spin move, swim move, rip/club and even utilized a fake spin on one occasion. Understands the finer points of limb placement and how to limit OL recovery after counters.
Flexibility – Surreal mobility and bend for a player of his stature. Has unbelievable lower body tilt and ankle flexion to get the outside foot to catch at the apex of his turn. Shows great coil and explosion through the hips to generate hitting power.
Run Defending – Gap slasher who has defeated blocks and gotten to the mesh point with suddenness to disrupt the hand-off. Has enough length and bend to drop hips and hold his ground, although once into that phases he’s typically content to hold his ground and is eliminated from the play.
Competitive Toughness –Motor runs hot and can be found 10+ yards down the field in pursuit of the ball on many occasions. Functional strength meets baseline levels but will be an area of emphasis to help further flesh out his game and provided better anchor at the LOS.
Tackling – Long wingspan comes in handy when rushing the edge track to get a hand on the passer. Great mobility and lean to maximize his reach and disrupt plays. Has been a bit of a ball hunter, has 6 forced fumbles over the last two seasons. Explosive pads.
Lateral Mobility – High level of mobility allows for carrying pursuit outside the numbers. Has done well when isolated on the edge vs. zone read to keep leverage and play outside in. Suddenness allows for a quick inside counter and carrying across the face of his blocker.
Stand Up Ability –Has been featured as a 2-point rusher and been moved all around the defensive front. Has some success playing flat zone after being flexed to jam a release. Has movement skills to milk more out of him in this area as well, although he will be raw if tasked with assignments here.
Football IQ –Has had impressive understanding as a pass rusher going back to first game viewed, but development and proficiency with his hands stands out as differentiator between him and many of his colleagues. Natural sense of navigating the pocket. Elite body control.
BEST TRAIT – Flexibility
WORST TRAIT – Run Defending
BEST FILM – Miami (2018) and Virginia Tech (2018)
WORST FILM – Alabama (2017)
RED FLAGS – None
Brian Burns is a special prospect with dynamic range, explosive qualities and terrific length/polish as a pass rusher. Burns brings one of the finest pass rushing skill sets to the table in recent years and his explosiveness and developed hand usage should help him provide his team with impact pass rush from day one. Burns would be well served to fill out his frame to be a more well-rounded player but he’s got game-changing qualities.