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Scouting Report: Oren Burks, OLB, Vanderbilt

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Among the forty-three linebackers in attendance at the Combine, Oren Burks led the group in the vertical jump, placing second in the broad jump and 20-yard shuttle, third in the three-cone drill and tied for seventh in the 40-yard dash.

Career Notes...Burks has an interesting resume, as he started 40-of-45 games at Vanderbilt - seven times as a 215-pound free safety in 2014; twelve more at that position as a 215-pound sophomore; ten at weak-side outside linebacker in 2016 before closing out his career with eleven starting assignments at weak-side inside linebacker in 2017. He delivered 237 tackles (135 solos) with 4.5 sacks for minus 21 yards, 15.5 stops for losses of 46 yards and six quarterback pressures. He gained 99 yards on five interception returns, deflecting 22 more passes while recovering three fumbles and causing two others.

Expected Draft Slot: Day 3

Burks Scouting Analysis

Most scouting departments seem pleased with the advancement that Burks made as a weak-side inside linebacker in 2017 and envision him in that role moving forward in the pro ranks, but the former safety has the speed and pass coverage skills that might be more beneficial if he played on the outside.

Burks is a versatile performer who was not only the defensive unit’s sparkplug, but his ability to play both strong- and weak-side linebacker, along with safety, could make him a viable addition for a team that emphasizes a heavy Cover-2 or sub package scheme. Still, other teams have had thoughts for moving Burks to the defensive backfield in the NFL, perhaps due to his foot speed and ability to keep plays in front of him.

The thing you notice on film is that Burks does not always utilize his weight room strength to hold ground at the point of attack. Still, despite giving up considerable bulk, he will not hesitate to combat vs. the larger offensive linemen. He fits and folds well and can be firm playing a nine-tech. He is not the type that will maul a ball carrier, but does generate a good thud on contact. He is a good leverage player who uses his hands with force to play off blocks. He shows good leverage on the move and when given a clear lane, can run down hill to fill the lane.

His range is evident on outside running plays and he has the sudden burst to head off the ball carriers near the sidelines. As a defensive back, Burks had the ability to lay back and play centerfield with good timing to make the play on the ball. He has good timing ability on his leaps going for the ball, showing proper arm extension to get to the pigskin at its high point. He also has the range to cover ground in a hurry, making him a better option on the move rather than trying to get through trash in tight quarters.

The Commodore is quick to support vs. the run, showing good explosion when closing and in pass coverage. He has the height and speed to match up against any tight end, running back or receiver. He is a big hitter who can blow opponents up if he’s on track, doing a good job of breaking down, facing up and wrapping. He keeps things in front of him in zone coverage, taking proper angles in pursuit.

Burks has the balance and range to make plays sideline to sideline, as he does a good job of staying on his feet. He can clear trash and run with good athletic agility, as his change of direction skills lets him cover large portions of the field. He runs to the ball well and has the hand usage to slip off passive blocks. When he closes on the ball, he will usually take good angles.

The senior has that valid speed and acceleration (for a linebacker) to close in a hurry and the range to run sideline-to-sideline. You see on film that Burks plays with good leverage to contain when the play is directed right at him, along with the pursuit skills to give chase when the play is away. He uses his strength well to flatten and close with an explosive burst and does a nice job to squeeze and bounce.

Burks has the ability to drop off deep in the zone due to his hip swerve. He has the quickness to run with backs, tight ends and slot receivers in the short area and shows good vision, quickness and ball anticipation to be right in the receiver’s face in attempts to reroute. He uses his hands with force in press situations and shows the hip swerve to operate in trail coverage. He takes no wasted steps in transition and is quick to turn coming out of his backpedal. He flips his hips properly and plays at a good pad level.

Burks’s possible switch to the outside or as a Cover-2 linebacker might be a better fit for him. He has the hip snap and fluid moves to stop, start and change direction in an instant. He shows a good feel for handling switch-offs and is an alert player who does a nice job of reading threats from the quarterback and timing his moves to get to the ball before the receiver.

Burks has enough burst and athletic ability to discourage the passer from throwing into his area, as his anticipation and burst lets him get a quick jump on the ball. His ball awareness skills let him locate the ball quickly. He does a good job of picking up and switching off on receivers, keeping the play in front of him. He has an explosive break on the ball and keeps his hands properly extended to wrap and secure.

One area of that is deficient in his game is as a pass rusher and blitzer, as he was often utilized in a system that called for him to stay back more and wait for the play to come to him, making it difficult to truly evaluate him in this category. He gives good effort in his limited chances as a blitzer, but is more effective flowing to the ball than attacking from the back side (best as a weak-side linebacker, as he lacks size to play on the strong side or generate good backside pressure).

Some scouts have a bit of concern that he will get caught up vs. inside trash due to a lack of ideal size, but at the collegiate level, that was not been an issue when he took on blocks with the proper shoulder. Burks has shown that he could be a valuable roster addition due to his versatility.