For all the time, money, and effort that goes into scouting a college prospect, scouting is still not an exact science. So is trying to project which player from a team’s draft class will be a contributor in his rookie campaign. To do this, you must look at the prospect’s intangibles, like his size, speed, football I.Q., and so on. But you also need to look at the position he plays and the current status of that position for that NFL team. When taking a look at the Green Bay Packers draft class, there are several prospects who have a chance to be standout rookies from this year’s draft class. But there is one prospect that has caught our eye. Oren Burks could be a standout rookie for the Green Bay Packers.
Oren Burks Could be a Standout Rookie for the Green Bay Packers
Over the years, the NFL has become a passing league. Spreading opposing defenses with multiple wide receivers has become the norm in the NFL. There was a time when NFL base defenses consisted of 4-3 or 3-4 alignments. But now, with so many teams running principles from the spread offense, the nickel defense package has become the base defense for most teams. As defenses have changed, so has NFL linebackers.
At one time, the main task for NFL linebackers was to stop the run. They were asked to do very little in pass coverage, but that has all changed. Now, NFL linebackers are built like larger sized safeties and must have the ability to not only stop the run but also be able to contribute in pass coverage. The past couple of seasons, the Packers have utilized safeties as linebackers in certain coverages. Former Packer Morgan Burnett and current Packer safety Josh Jones were both utilized as linebackers in their “nitro” package. But with Burnett now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with last season’s nickel linebacker Joe Thomas with the Dallas Cowboys, and Jones focusing on replacing Burnett as the starting safety opposite Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, that linebacker position is wide open. This should give Burks the chance to contribute right away.
Body Type to be a New Age Linebacker
When looking at Burks’ size and speed, it isn’t hard to see what drew top personnel executive Brian Gutekunst to him. Even with being 6’3” and 233 lbs, Burks ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at this year’s combine. To go along with that, he had an impressive 4.15 seconds 20 yard shuttle time. But he just isn’t a workout warrior, he brings with him an impressive resume.
This past season, as a senior, he posted 80 total tackles, seven of them for loss, along with one sack, and one interception. The season prior, his first as a linebacker, he posted 59 tackles, six and a half for a loss, with three and a half sacks and an interception. Not only does he have experience as a linebacker, but during his first two years at Vanderbilt, he was also a safety. In his sophomore campaign, as a safety, he registered three interceptions.
With having a background as a linebacker and a safety, he brings with him some versatility. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has said that he is looking for players who can play multiple positions. Burks should see most of his playing time come at inside linebacker but has shown while he was at Vanderbilt, that he can drop back as a safety but also be a pass rusher from the edge. Burks also possesses the skill to be a contributor on special teams as well.
Packers in Need of a Playmaker at Linebacker
Current Packers linebacker Blake Martinez is coming off a very impressive season. He proved that he is a leader and holds up well against the run. He illustrated that he has some ability against the pass, but still, it isn’t his strong suit. Fellow linebacker Jake Ryan also plays well against the run, but he has battled injuries and has struggled in pass coverage. The Packers are in need of a playmaker at the inside linebacker position, especially against the pass.
The Packers haven’t had an inside linebacker who is capable of making plays, both against the run and in pass coverage, in a very long time. Former linebackers such as Nick Barnett, Desmond Bishop, and A.J. Hawk were steady in some categories but never were the playmakers the Packers had hoped. Burks has all the skills to thrive at both, as well as occasionally rushing the passer.
The Packers have a need at inside linebacker and with his resume and intangibles, Burks has a chance to be a standout rookie for the Packers. Packers fans won’t know until the season starts if he can truly be that player. But it appears that Burks has all the skill to be the inside linebacker they have longed hope for.