Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports


Brian Burns Should be a Target if the 49ers Trade Down

Apr 24, 2019 at 2:00 PM2


This week, the 49ers GM, John Lynch, indicated that he felt good about the options the team would have if it traded back to the tenth pick in the draft. With Edge rusher remaining as a huge priority on the 49ers roster, it makes sense to look at a terrifically talented and skilled edge rusher who is likely to be available when the tenth pick occurs. Brian Burns is a technically sophisticated edge rusher from Florida State University who boasts elite length and bend, but whose low weight has caused significant concerns regarding his ability to play the run on base downs and convert speed to power as a pass rusher. Burns' length and agility have drawn comparisons to Aldon Smith, and while Burns routinely uses his length to create leverage, as Smith did, his thin frame in college did not demonstrate the capacity to generate the type of overwhelming force that Smith would employ to bulldoze right over offensive tackles who overset against him.

HOW HE WINS

Burns doesn't always explode off of the line with his first step, but he still eats up the space between himself and the offensive tackle with his long strides. From the moment prior to contact to the end of the rep, Burns is throwing sophisticated hand technique, incorporating multiple moves and counters in an intuitive and relentless stream of disruption. His motor runs hot, and that effort, along with his length, agility, and hand technique, make him a difficult threat to keep away from the quarterback. Burns is clearly a dedicated practitioner of the art of pass rushing; his hand strikes are synced up with his steps to maximize impact, effectiveness, and leverage, and his hand placement consistently places him at a leverage advantage.

OUTSIDE RUSH

Burns' ability to threaten the edge with his second step puts immediate stress on offensive tackles, and his elite ankle mobility allows him to dip his shoulder and bend the edge at aggressive angles that are generally unheard of for players of his height. His elite balance allows him to accelerate to the quarterback immediately after cornering, without having to re-establish his center of gravity. Burns most frequently uses a compact arm over, a cross chop (which sets up his inside spin counter), a dip/rip, or a chop/rip to keep his frame clear from the offensive tackle's hands as he corners.


INSIDE RUSH

Burns sets up his inside rushes with perfectly timed jab steps to the outside, which are often accompanied with diversionary strikes that further pull the tackle's momentum and focus outside. His primary inside moves are the same tight arm over that he'll occasionally use to the outside and a chop spin that might be the fastest and most effective spin in this draft class (Jachai Polite's spin is also in the running).

On his chop/spin Burns plants his inside foot simultaneously with his cross chop, which allows him to plant off the inside foot and redirect himself through the B gap that he widened with his outside fake, all while the tackle's momentum is still shifting his weight to the outside.


On his arm over, Burns draws the tackle upfield and outside with a long, quick jab step, then redirects his momentum inside while knocking down the tackle's hands to clear the inside path to the quarterback before the tackle can shift his weight back inside.


SPEED TO POWER

Burns doesn't have many reps on tape that show him rushing with power, but he has already developed the move that would allow him to win with power in the NFL, especially with his increased body mass. He employs a good outside jab step to open the tackle's shoulders, then he attacks the inside shoulder with a stab move (also called "long arm"), using his length and the structural power of a locked elbow to compromise the tackle's position and collapse the edge. He does not hold the stab for long here, likely because he had more confidence in his speed than his power, but the strike shifts the tackle far enough to the inside to allow Burns to win easily around the end.


RUN DEFENSE

Burns takes some hits for his run defense, but that is mostly from casual analysts who assume his weight forced him to struggle against the run. In reality, Burns has shown that he can do a good job of using his length to maintain distance from blockers, while playing with his hips behind him to generate better leverage, which allows him to set the edge at a lighter weight. As a 20-year-old, we can expect Burns to continue to add muscle as his metabolism naturally slows down, which would allow him to take his impressive tools and set the edge with greater consistency.

On the front side of runs, he isn't simply content to set the edge, as he will also use his fast hands, tremendous body control and explosive quickness to split blockers and attack the backfield, disrupting the play and often tackling the running back for a loss. His quickness and instincts also make him a menace from the backside of runs.


FINAL WORD

Burns is arguably the most technically sound edge rusher in the draft, after Nick Bosa from Ohio State. His ability to win quickly and fluidly to the inside and outside makes him a dangerous edge rusher who projects to continue to find success harassing in the NFL. Since Burns weighed in at 249 pounds at the combine, he should no longer likely be pigeon-holed into role as a designated sub package edge rusher for at least his first season in the league (the same role Aldon Smith occupied as a rookie, though Smith's role was reduced because of the lockout-shortened off season in 2011, not his body weight), though he could certainly excel in that role. At his listed weight of 235 pounds from the 2018 season, Burns played with sufficient leverage in the run game, and he should only perform that task better as he grows into his body.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


2 Comments

  • Proscout
    Burns is small and strenth is weak, sometimes he seems to give up on plays even whem the play isnt over
    Apr 24, 2019 at 7:53 PM
    1
  • SportPunk
    I completely disagree...Dee Ford is an already light Defensive end. Burns has no strength, played at 235 lbs and doesn't stop the run. We don't need that. Lots of scouts, not media people agree.
    Apr 24, 2019 at 6:42 PM
    2
    Response: Burns would only be a defensive end in sub packages, where the offense is already in lighter personnel and are more likely to pass than run. On base downs, he would be off the field or playing SAM LB.

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