NFL Combine: FSU EDGE Brian Burns is a Top-12 Lock

The NFL Combine helped to confirm what many saw during his time at Florida State: Brian Burns is an athletic specimen with elite traits and good production that will make him an impact defender at the next level.

Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 249 pounds
College: Florida State

Going into the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, Brian Burns was a consensus Top 5-to-10 EDGE defender in this draft class. I was particularly high on him from seeing him terrorize my alma mater, the Miami Hurricanes, on a consistent basis as the leader of the Noles’ defense. Against the ‘Canes, he would consistently put pressure on the quarterback and nuke drives. Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Kentucky’s Josh Allen were the only other EDGEs that made an impact like Burns did.

At the combine, Burns surprised just about everyone with his measurements. He weighed in at 14 pounds above his playing weight and measured in at a legit 6-foot-5. In addition, his hand size came in at a whopping 10 inches and his arms at a freakish 33 7/8 inches.

Not content with blowing away everyone with his measurements, Burns ran a 4.53 40-yard dash, jumped 36 inches in the vertical, 129 inches in the broad jump and posted an above-average three-cone time of 7.01. All of that together backed up what many saw on tape beforehand: Burns is a first-round prospect who uses his elite athleticism to win on the football field.


Burns has an effective swim move in his repertoire, which he shows off consistently. Paired with his acceleration, it allows him to get inside on offensive tackles and explode upfield towards quarterbacks or running backs. He frequently lowers his pad level very efficiently when cutting inside, allowing him to carve out space to make something happen.

Speaking of acceleration, Burns has an incredibly quick get-off once the ball is snapped. And like many successful pass-rushers in the NFL, Burns is a fantastic “bender”. His ability to get low and maneuver around slower offensive tackles is critical for a pass-rusher who doesn’t quite have the strength to bull-rush blockers.

On this rep against Miami, Burns also shows his knack for knocking the ball out of quarterbacks’ hands, which he did six times over his final two seasons:

Here he is against Clemson in 2017. He uses his lengthy wingspan to keep a distance from the tackle’s arms, then bends around him to get a free run at the quarterback. He wraps up 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kelly Bryant with ease and forces a punt:

He also possesses top-tier speed for an EDGE, which was evidenced by his 4.53 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine. Here he’s left unblocked on the backside on a read option play. His acceleration and speed are put on full display as he collapses towards the middle and blows up the ballcarrier before he can even get back to the line of scrimmage:

Combine drills aren’t exactly a good measurement of football ability, but Burns looked so smooth during them that it’s important to note it. Especially when you consider that he was asked to cover the flats or spy on quarterbacks every now and then at FSU, the drills translate to game situations. Even with the added weight, look at how he glides through the drill.


Burns isn’t without his flaws, which shouldn’t be surprising. EDGE defenders can’t dominate on an every-snap basis. They continually expel a ton of energy and usually play an uncomfortable amount of snaps per game, especially if their own offense isn’t efficient. It’s tough to take too much stock into plays where it may look like Burns “takes off.”

But one thing that’s a bit concerning about Burns is his lack of counter-moves. When his initial move fails, he doesn’t necessarily have a backup plan most of the time. Here, against Wake Forest, he tries to beat the tackle inside, but gets stonewalled and then essentially is a non-factor in the outcome of the play. The ball did come out quick, but you’d like to see him work a counter spin move to the right on a play like this:

He also doesn’t have the strength to fight through double-teams. That isn’t a huge issue because most EDGEs don’t, and he won’t see as many double-teams in the NFL. But, given his added weight at the combine, you’d expect him to be able to use that sort of strength on the field. Granted, he was likely playing in the 230-240 range. If he can fill out his frame, maybe he can take on double teams more effectively in the NFL.

Final Thoughts

Burns’ performance at the combine served to justify a lot of people’s opinions on him. He is a fantastic athlete with ideal size, and he uses those gifts to put out an extraordinary product on the field. Burns possesses the essential traits needed to be a top-end pass-rusher at the next level. He shouldn’t make it beyond the Top 12 picks in the NFL Draft.

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