Brian Burns Draft Profile

Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Burns is quietly one of the more divisive prospects in this year's class. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has him as his 15th ranked prospect; The Draft Network has him as their 4th ranked prospect, with one writer even having Burns ahead of Nick Bosa. After going through his film again, I'm once more inclined to lean towards the latter ranking.

The primary question with Burns has always been how well he could transition to the NFL from his college playing weight of 230 lbs. Burns responded by showing up at the combine at a sleek 250 lbs and proceeding to demonstrate the same ridiculous athleticism he showed on tape.

He tied for the 11th fastest 10 yard split among all combine participants this year, which is more important for edge rushers than the overall 40 yard dash number, and also matches combine record-setters Montez Sweat, Miles Boykin, and Emanuel Hall. Burns also looked fluid in the on-field drill portion of the event:


Class: Junior
Age: 20
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 249 lbs.
Arm Length: 33 7/8"
Hand: 10"
40 yard dash: 4.53 seconds
10 yard split: 1.54
3-Cone drill: 7.01
Broad jump: 129.0"
Vertical Jump: 36.0"


Burns' calling card is his incredible speed of the edge and long arms, but he also has a wide variety of counter moves to use with great effectiveness. The clip below shows him combining all these traits to sack the QB:


He starts by threatening the outside but transitions into an inside spin move when the tackle sets too far. The most impressive part comes after: He has enough flexibility to dip and change direction without losing speed. These are the types of plays you're going to need to be able to make if you're going to be chasing Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray around all day 4+ times a season, and these are the types of plays we haven't seen from a 49ers pass rusher since Aldon Smith. The lack of this kind of hip flexibility is one of the primary reasons why Solomon Thomas hasn't been able to transition to edge, and it's a very hard thing to teach.


That's Burns dipping under possible top-10 pick Jawaan Taylor, who's barely able to touch him, while also having the awareness to go for the ball, and looking to throw a block for good measure. At first glance, it looks like just a pure speed rush where Burns is just faster than the tackle. However, he sets it up by measuring up Taylor. If the tackle takes a wider first step, then with that hesitation Burns could have transitioned into an inside rush. Taylor doesn't set far enough outside, and Burns recognizes this before he even takes his second step. He takes a hard step outside and bursts through, keeping his body low and running a narrow arc to the quarterback. Burns is so quick and can get so low that there's really nothing the tackle can do once he fell for the setup. That's not just pass rushing with a plan, that's executing a plan with extreme efficiency and precision.


Burns on the TE is such an obvious mismatch that I'm not sure how Boston College allowed it to happen. This play is a good example of how Burns can mix up his rush though. Instead of going full throttle from the start, he skips to the outside while waiting to see what the left tackle is going to do. Once he sees that he has a 1-on-1 with the TE, Burns is practically drooling with all the things he can do here. He opts for the inside club over once he sees how far the TE has set and that the tackle is not going to be in the way. He doesn't pull this move out often in game, but his seamless execution speaks volumes about his practice habits.


One misconception I see a lot is that Burns is a liability in run defense, which is just flat out not true. While he's not a people-mover, he can hold his own at the point of attack thanks to his long arms and hand technique keeping tackles from getting into his body. Burns uses his hands to easily discard the right tackle before the handoff is even finished. Once again, volumes about his practice habits.


There are some players you can leave unblocked if the play's not going to their side. Brian Burns is not one of those players. Once again, I'm not sure what on earth Boston College was thinking, leaving Burns unblocked on an inside run of all things. He's not Arik Armstead, he's too fast off the snap for that to have any chance of success.


This time Burns gets in the backfield even faster and causes the fumble because the running back was not expecting to get hit that early. This playcall makes a little more sense than the one above because it's a goal line run, and 99.9% of edge rushers in the NFL, let alone CFB, aren't going to be able to change direction fast enough or take a tight enough corner to chase down the back from behind before they hit the pile. Burns doesn't need to be that 0.1% though, because he's explosive enough off the snap to disrupt the play almost before the handoff is completed.



Elite burst and bend off the edge

Refined pass rusher with a wide array of moves, setups, and counters

Rushes with a solid plan much more often than not

Naturally gifted athlete with long arms and a body with room to grow

Experience playing with hands in the dirt, standing up, and from off-ball linebacker spot

Despite being one of the youngest players in this class (turns 21 days before the draft), hand technique is among the most advanced

Motor is always hot; Never showed signs of giving up despite FSU regularly being pummeled

Fluid athlete who shows promising coverage traits

Solid run defender who can hold his ground at the point of attack and disengage

Regularly goes for the ball on sacks

Strong practice habits reflected in play

High football intelligence and character, aware of his own areas for improvement

Never missed a game due to injury


Though he tested well at 250 lbs, we have yet to see how he plays at that weight

Very little power in his game

Doesn't demonstrate pass rush repertoire as often as he could

A bit slow to react in coverage

Can sometimes be too stubborn in sticking with primary move when he needs to transition to a counter


I tried to balance out the strengths/weaknesses more, I really did, but there's not much in his game that's a weakness. Aside from his lack of power, there's not much fault to find with a young, explosive, technically refined player with excellent character, intelligence, and practice habits with no injury concerns. Almost any other year he'd be hands down the top edge rusher in the class. His power isn't on the level of Josh Allen, his technique isn't (quite) on par with Nick Bosa, and he's not (quite) the genetic freak that Montez Sweat is, but he's so well-rounded that I don't have a problem putting him up there with those guys, if not ahead of some of them.

A surefire 1st round pick, Burns is going to be in the discussion for the 49ers at pick #2, or slightly later if they trade back. While Nick Bosa is generally viewed as the "safe" pick, Burns doesn't have the same health and athletic concerns, and he's not too far behind technically. While that doesn't automatically make him the better or safer prospect (Bosa will still probably finish as my EDGE1), it is something to consider. At this point I would be surprised if the 49ers end up going Burns, but not at all disappointed. Don't let the national media not talking about him much fool you, Burns is an elite prospect.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.