If there was one surprise in the 2019 NFL Scouting combine, it was the performance of the off-ball linebackers. In the lead-up to the Combine it was believed that there was little in the way of depth after a couple top-tier players at the position.
Many of the linebackers put intriguing play on tape, but there were persistent concerns regarding their size and athleticism. Many of those fears were put to rest with some surprisingly great performances in Indy, and at the same time many scouts were forced back to the film room to reassess their evaluations.
One of those linebackers who was tagged as instinctive but undersized and with average at best athleticism was Ben Burr-Kirven out of Washington. The Giants might not be able to select one of the top-ranked linebackers in the class, but a player like Burr-Kirven could be a good value on the third day of the draft.
- Athletic linebacker with great range.
- Has three-down potential at the next level.
- Shows solid instincts.
- Shoots gaps very quickly.
- High-revving motor that never slows down.
- Quick to get depth on zone coverage.
- High football IQ for offensive concepts.
- Explosive once in motion, but can be slow to commit to an action.
- Lack of length shows when taking on offensive linemen. Size might be a concern for some teams.
- Might not be able to play tight man coverage.
- Pass rush is a question.
What They’re Saying
Small, hyper-instinctive linebacker who plays with “clear eyes, full heart” and consistently punches above his weight class for production totals that contradict his size. Unfortunately, size does matter -- especially in the middle of a defense -- and he might be too maxed out to add necessary mass. However, instincts and willful demeanor are traits required for outliers and Burr-Kirven has a chance to be just that kind of outlier as a backup linebacker and special teams demon.
- Lance Zierlein (NFL.com - Scouting Report)
Does He Fit The Giants?
If the Giants are looking for a back-up linebacker who can be a special teams ace, compete with (or replace) Tae Davis as a nickel linebacker, and potentially grow into a starting role, Ben Burr-Kirven could be a great value.
Burr-Kirven’s most natural spot on a defense would be as a weakside (or weak-inside) linebacker who primarily plays in space. He showed at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine that he does have next-level athleticism, confirming that what he put on tape wasn’t a mirage. For the Giants, Burr-Kirven’s most natural position in the base defense, the WILB or “moneybacker”, is occupied by Alec Ogletree. And whil Burr-Kirven is more athletic and has a better feel for coverage, the team would be unlikely to move on Ogletree for a rookie. And while B.J. Goodson is a solid linebacker who is a force coming downhill, his range is limited in coverage. The team could look for a more athletic linebacker to for the “moneybacker” position and move Ogletree to the SILB position in base defense.
Burr-Kirven can’t do anything about his arm length, which could limit him taking on blockers at the NFL level, but he should continue to work on trusting his eyes and instincts.
He shows a good feel for offensive concepts and routinely positions himself well to make a play or help make the stop. However, he can be a beat slow to commit and go make the play, and despite his athleticism, instincts, and IQ, he can still arrive late. Once he learns to fully trust what his eyes and instincts are telling him, Burr-Kirven could be a whirlwind on the field.