Fox Sports' Pete Schrager previewed the 2012 NFL combine with his major storylines to watch in Indy this week. Among them was the stock of Vontaze Burfict, a name that should be fairly familiar to us at this point. At least in Schrager's eyes, Burfict has fallen fast.
In the few games I watched Arizona State play the past few years, I always came away thinking the linebacker, No. 7, was the best player on either side of the ball. Vontaze Burfict was always good for a punishing hit, a high-impact tackle, and at least one "Whoa, did you see that?!" play. He was also always "good" for one back-breaking penalty.
Then I watched Arizona State's bowl game versus Boise State. Burfict was invisible. He had one tackle. The more research and film work I've done on the linebacker, the more I've cooled on him. His instincts aren't great. He's not as physically imposing as I recall him being, and he's consistently out of position. When it's him - one on one with a running back or quarterback - there may be no one better in this draft. When he has to fight to make a play, he too often fails to succeed. Oh, and from what I'm told by numerous sources, he's a bit of a head case.
There are probably few players with as much to gain or lose this week than Burfict. Physically, he's got almost everything you look for and he should test out well in the drills, but his real moment will be in the individual interviews. Is he able to show a level of maturity? Will he be able to make sophisticated reads and answer questions about defense?
His recent game tape and his reputation are going to hurt this April. There's not much he can do about the game tape at this point, but he can go a long way toward fixing that reputation with a good performance this week.