There was a time when stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict was a no-brainer, first-round NFL Draft pick. That was before the 2011 ASU football season that saw Burfict start the season among rumors about a fight with a teammate and end the season on the bench for most of a bowl game after reportedly refusing to re-enter the game against Cal.
There's no denying Burfict has the physical gifts to be an outstanding football player at any level. He's strong, fast and aggressive; but can he lead an NFL defense from the crucial inside linebacker position?
The NFL Draft experts outside of Arizona certainly think so.
Mel Kiper has Burfict 23rd on his Big Board ($) while ESPN's Todd McShay puts him in the 19th slot with this caveat that seems to be the accepted wisdom:
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Burfict has to quiet concerns about his maturity and mental makeup, but he's a physical freak who is a violent striker against the run and has impressive range both as a run and pass defender.
This is a classic case of talent versus character and there is no right answer. Some kids grow up and realize their potential. Others can never get past their demons.
NFL teams are going to have to do a lot of homework on Burfict and make sure they know what they are in for. SB Nation thinks the answer is for the Baltimore Ravens to take him and provide him Ray Lewis as a mentor.
It's not unusual for opinions of outsiders to differ on a football player from those who watched him his entire career. Most in Arizona who watched Burfict during his Sun Devil career consider him a reach at anything above the third round.