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Burfict tumbling on NFL draft boards

December, 8, 2011
12/08/11
6:58
PM ET
Four Pac-12 players are ranked identically on ESPN draft guru Todd McShay's and Mel Kiper's NFL draft boards, but Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict's stock is plummeting.

Both have Stanford QB Andrew Luck No. 1, USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil No. 2, USC QB Matt Barkley No. 6 and Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin No. 7.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley/Vontaze Burfict
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty ImagesOff-field issues may be the reason Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict's draft stock is dropping.
You can see McShay's rankings here. And Kiper's "Big Board" here.

Two Pac-12 players moved around, though.

Kiper has come around on Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro. McShay has ranked DeCastro much of the year, and he has him at 18th. Kiper brought him aboard at 20th. Writes Kiper:
Extremely consistent, and both athletic and powerful in the run game. The rare guard who could get some looks in the first round.

Both McShay and Kiper have been dropping Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He fell from 15th to 21st with McShay, who writes:
Questions about Burfict's on-field maturity and mental makeup have hurt his stock, but he's a physically gifted player with the tools of a top-10 prospect. He has the power to deliver heavy blows and solid range and awareness in underneath coverage.

The Pac-12 blog suspects Burfict's play as well as off-field concerns might drop him from the first round entirely.

Burfict has a big problem: He played for a coaching staff that just got fired. Many members of that staff are not fans of his. And because those coaches don't have to be accountable to Burfict, his teammates or the program going forward, they will provide unvarnished takes on Burfict to NFL personnel men. Some won't say nice things.

Put this way: Burfict was benched in what is likely his last game as a Sun Devil. When his coaches asked him to return to the game, he reportedly refused, according to the Arizona Republic.

That is not in the "How to Win Friends and Influence GMs" guide to the NFL draft.

Then there's this from former Arizona State QB Danny White when he appeared on Brad Cesmat's radio show on XTRA Sports 910 AM in Phoenix on Nov. 29. Cesmat, according to the Arizona Republic, "mentioned that he thought ASU junior linebacker Vontaze Burfict was a microcosm of the [Dennis] Erickson era."

Replied White:
"I agree 100 percent," White said. "He was also the reason Dennis Erickson got fired. When your best football player is a guy like that, he's what I call a coach killer. He's such a great athlete, you have to have him on the field. But by the same token, the negatives outweigh the positives with him. As great a player as he is, you can' t have that. And then what happens, when if you don't take extreme measures with it, then it becomes a cancer on the team. And I started seeing other guys on the defense starting to act like that and I think it became infectious. No matter how good a player is, when he's got that kind of attitude on the field, when he hurts you like Vontaze hurt the team, you got to get rid of him. As hard as that is, and it's a hard thing to do, especially when he's your best player, you just can't have it or it does become a cancer, and I think he did."

Burfict probably could benefit from another year in college. For one, he didn't play well this year, so he could return to the form that made him a consensus preseason All-American. And he desperately needs to grow up, something that won't happen with folks around him coddling him and telling him the way he behaves is OK.

But it's doubtful he wants to return for his senior season, and it's also questionable whether or not the next coach would want to take a risk on him.

Ted Miller | email

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