Scouting Report: Discussing the Potential of Miami Native, Cornerback Artie Burns
Background & Stats:
The heartbreak that Artie Burns has endured over the past year makes him one of the more intriguing stories of this draft season. In late October, the University of Miami star received the news that his mother had passed away at the age of 44 after suffering from a heart attack. With Burns’ father currently incarcerated, the athlete and father of one has taken custody of his two younger brothers as well. While he has always been a highly regarded prospect, Burns’ need to provide for his family was a huge factor in declaring for the draft as an early entrant.
The multi-sport stud in football and track-and-field was a four-star recruit out of high school. He earned second-team All-ACC honors this past season in his second year staring for the Hurricanes, while receiving All-American recognition as a hurdler as well. On the football field, he accumulated 93 tackles over the course of his college career in addition to 14 passes defensed, a forced fumble, and seven interceptions (six this past season). By the end of his time in Miami, he had become one of the best, most exciting cornerbacks in the conference.
The Cane truly has all of the psychical tools to be a force at the next level. Being a multi-sport standout, he is obviously a fantastic athlete. First off, he has the speed that scouts look for in order to stick with quicker receivers (4.46 40-yard dash). In addition he has the ideal combination of height (6’0”) and length (33 1/4”) that have become typical for the league’s top corners.
Out of his physical attributes, his length might be the most significant. It is truly something when he is able to successfully use it to his advantage. First, let’s focus on how it affects his ability in press coverage:
As displayed in this play, one of his biggest strengths is his ability to jam receivers. Although the ball ends up going in another direction, this example displays his willingness to be physical with receivers and his success in throwing off the timing of routes.
Despite press-man coverage being an obvious fit, Burns does have experience playing other schemes as well. In the play below, the corner drops into zone coverage, reads the eyes of the quarterback, and picks up an interception:
Another important aspect to point out is his catching radius. In this play, watch how far Burns (once again in press coverage) catches the ball away from his body; his arm length is what allows him to make this interception. His body control is also quite impressive in this example:
His length similarly suits him well in jump ball situations.This will be critical as he faces some of the taller wide receivers in the NFL.
Another positive can be found in his tackling. When he makes contact with an opponent, he very rarely misses. While he will need to improve in his routes to the ball and consistency in his tackling technique, the fact that he can make hits like the one below should inspire optimism for his ability to take on stronger players:
Burns undoubtedly possesses the ball skills to be a playmaker in the NFL, and his physical measurements suggest that, with some refinement, he could develop the consistency needed to be a high-level starter. Not to mention, he also brings versatility (he played a form of hybrid-safety role at times at UM). Many coaches would be ecstatic to have a player with Burns’ tools at their disposal.
Due to being an All-American hurdler, Burns did not have the same practice time as other top prospects. While his football teammates were getting into game shape each spring, he was taking part in the spring track schedule. While this fact makes it extremely impressive that he was still able to become a second team All-ACC caliber player, it makes his draft stock a little shakier.
While watching Burns’ tape, you can tell he lacks the technique, consistency, and motor necessary to earn immediate playing time in the NFL. Considering the circumstances regarding his family, it seems like effort should no longer be a problem at the next level. Plus, NFL coaches can often draw inspired performances out of their players anyway. Unfortunately, while his traits scream, “top prospect,” his play suggests that he is going to need time and lots of coaching to reach the potential that he displayed in the plays provided above.
Part of Burns’ problem is that he relies on his athleticism and physicality far too often. For example, if Burns fails to jam the opposing receiver, he can often have trouble recovering. It seems as if he believes his natural skills can allow him to overcome his deficiencies in all of these other areas. Watch this play, as he fails to quickly diagnose the route. After whiffing on the jab, he trails the receiver for the rest of the play:
Similarly, he lacks some necessary instincts. It takes a high football IQ to succeed as a professional, and in watching Burns play I simply don’t see it. I do think this in part due to his dedication to track-and-field, and for this reason I believe his knowledge of the game will gradually catch up to his physical skills. However, it also means that he is not a player that should be counted on in his rookie season. While some believe he could go in the latter part of the first round, I have a gut feeling that his rawness ultimately makes him a second round prospect. Take this next play for example:
All great corners are able to use the boundaries to their advantage. In the video above, Nebraska wide receiver Brandon Reilly runs a simple streak down the sideline. Burns gave him too much of a cushion, and the pass was completed for an easy 41-yard gain. While even the best corners will have lapses at times, Burns’ play is undoubtedly unpredictable.
There are a few other disappointing aspects that I would like to point out as well. First off, despite Burns’ capability of laying down a big hit, he sometimes just latches onto the ball carrier and holds on for dear life until he gets help. For someone of his physicality, this obviously isn’t the most efficient form of tackling and certainly won’t be effective against the “Brandon Marshall’s” of the NFL.
Finally, it would be nice to see him play with more urgency. It is almost impossible to tell which “Artie Burns” you are going to get from game to game. One week he will be flying around the field and laying the hammer down on running backs out of the backfield, and the next week he will be seen stopping before the play is over and ending his pursuits in order to avoid engaging with blockers. As I explained before, I truly don’t believe this will be a problem once he gains experience and obtains the guidance of NFL coaching, but it is most definitely a reason for caution on draft day.
How He Fits in Miami:
Every time I write an article I find myself repeating the same sentiment: Miami needs to improve their secondary. In 2015, they finished in the bottom-10 in opponent completion percentage, opponent QB rating, and passing touchdowns allowed. They weren’t much better in terms of passing yards allowed either, surrendering 4,000 yards through the air (20th in the league). In other words, they were atrocious across the board.
Burns has the physical tools to be a gifted player at the next level, but will he be able to put it all together and how long will it take? While his upside should ensure that he is off the board by at least the middle of the second round, it may honestly come down to how patient a team is willing to be.
The Dolphins could be the franchise that is willing to wait. As lovely as an immediate turnaround sounds for Miami, it is very unlikely that it occurs during head coach Adam Gase’s first season. This is a team that is still finding its identity and a team that is likely to be held back by the holes they have at a couple of key positions (including, but not limited to, cornerback). They would be misguided to ignore a player of Burns’ potential simply because he won’t be an immediate starter; cornerbacks rarely are, especially not those drafted in round two.
I would be amiss not to mention new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph in this situation. I consistently rave about the former defensive backs’ coach of the Bengals and Texans simply because I hear the endorsements from his former players and understand the effects he had on their games. One name I don’t mention enough is Lou Anarumo. After finishing the final stretch of the season as the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator, Anarumo will return to the team as their defensive backs’ coach. While Joseph may get the publicity, the guidance of both coaches would be vital in developing Burns’ technique and drawing out his best effort on a game-to-game basis.
While the addition of Byron Maxwell should help, the Dolphins need to continue to instill talent at the position. Burns, while still lacking polish and the necessary mindset, has the potential to be a difference maker on the outside of the defense. Discussing the prospect of Burns to the Dolphins is difficult, as it ultimately depends on how they use their pick in round one. If they take a cornerback, it would be foolish to assume that they would use another pick on their secondary in round two. Plus, there is no guarantee he is available at their draft slot. However if he is, and if Miami’s front office believes that he could ultimately reach his full-potential with their coaching, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to hear his name called with their second round pick.