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Taking A Chance on Vontaze Burfict

Long before the NFL Combine rolled around in February, Arizona State inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict was not only thought to be a first round draft pick, but a possible target by the Baltimore Ravens. His film on his game play reminded many of a young Ray Lewis and many had him pegged as Ray's ultimate successor. His closing speed and hard-hitting tackles excited many through the many YouTube videos posted about him. Then the bottom fell out.

Burfict appeared at the NFL Scouting Combine out of shape and with a "I don't give a sh*t" attitude. To say he bombed would be a gross understatement. Coaches, scouts and front office personnel shook their collective heads and crossed him off their draft boards around the league, as his Combine testing was among, if not the worst of his group. His 40-yard dash time was slower (5.09 seconds) than many of the interior linemen, his vertical jump (30") the second worst of his linebacker group, and his broad jump (104") easily the worst of any linebacker in Indianapolis that week.

At the same time, the game-tape doesn't lie and he played like a beast unleashed. While he may be viewed as a hot head and even a head-hunter judging by the ferocity of his hits, one cannot deny the talent is there and his potential remains enticing, if now obviously, a hue risk.

Burfict was originally mentioned in the same conversations on the best in the nation along with Alabama's Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower. Both are expected to be first round picks on draft day, while there is now rumors that Burfict could end up not being draft in any of the seven rounds. Somehow, with all that talent and potential, some NFL team is going to take a leap of faith that he can be "rehabilitated" and contribute in the same way he played at the collegiate level.

Could the Ravens be that team? If Vontaze is still available when they get to the Compensatory picks or later rounds, what would be the risk vs. reward of taking a flyer that once in Training Camp, the veterans on this defense would take him under their collective wings and make him see the light. Taking another look at his YouTube video above as well as his player profile at the National Football Post, which says this about him, making one think that perhaps the Ravens would be the perfect spot for him to turn around his ways and make every other team that passed on him regret it:

"Impression: A talent with natural pop on contact, can hold the point of attack and for his size exhibits "plus" range and fluidity. Isn't a guy who I could trust as a starting 43 mike as he needs to stay in control of his emotions and make the defensive calls. Needs to be put in a good locker room with a vet next to him to help him learn to be a professional."

NFL Draft Scout has Burfict rated as the 7th best inside linebacker, but doesn't see his name being called in the NFL Draft until the 5th or 6th round. Their player profile on him includes a question by Stan Charles and answer by the Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz on Burfict's fall from grace.

Taking a look at Vontaze Burfict's player bio on the Arizona State official athletics site, you see that the two prior Sporting News First-Team All-American selections were former Sun Devils Terrell Suggs (Ravens) and Pat Tillman (Arizona Cardinals), two pretty impressive and respectful names. Perhaps the Ravens have enough faith in the defensive leaders to roll the dice with a draft pick and then turn him into a model citizen and the next great Ravens linebacker.