With the 16th pick in next week’s draft, the Panthers have plenty of holes to patch before the season starts. One of those holes exists on the defensive line, as Carolina could use a new, young defensive end to be the leader of that pass rush, and perhaps the future leader of the defense as a whole.
Three edge rushing prospects that have been considered candidates for the 16th pick are Florida State’s Brian Burns, Mississipi State’s Montez Sweat, and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell. I’ve already made threads on each of them – you should check those out here, here, and here, but now it’s time to compile all this into one piece as we, like the Panthers staff is currently doing, compare the three pass rushers to each other to decide who would be the best fit if all three are still on the board when the Panthers draft.
Let me be on record that I’m not saying the Panthers should focus on pass rush above everything else – if a stud offensive lineman prospect shows up, then by all means, grab that player – but it’s likely that one of the two positions will fall and the Panthers should be able to get a nice piece at a position of need.
With that in mind, I’ve written a summary of each edge rusher with snap-by-snap and clip analysis, so let’s get this started.
Brian Burns (Florida State)
The Brian Burns hype train has taken off in recent weeks, with some analysts projecting him as high as a top 10 prospect. After watching his tape, it’s really not hard to see why that’s the case.
In his final season at FSU, Burns posted 52 tackles, 10 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. His 10 sacks were tied for the eighth most in all of FBS college football in 2018.
Burns is easily one of the most tantalizing edge rushing prospects in this class. The versatility of moves at his display make him such a dangerous threat on the edge, and that’s made his style all the more appealing.
Here, Burns lines up against the right tackle:
After three steps, Burns performs what appears to be a swim move on the tackle:
With the three-step move, Burns is able to create instant pressure on Boston College’s quarterback. Now let’s see the entire play in slow motion.
Burns’ agility on this play also stands out. It’s impressive enough that his inside move works, but his brilliance also comes from the quickness with which he executes it. He doesn’t get the sack, but installs a sense of urgency in the quarterback with the level of pressure he’s creating.
In the above example, Burns gets the sack, and on this occasion he’s lining up against Miami’s left tackle.
Once again, Burns has to make a decision on his third step. Once he puts his foot down for the third time…
…he makes an impressive move outside, ducking under the left tackle before bending inside the pocket…
…strip sacking the quarterback in the process.
Upon closer inspection, Burns actually gets his outside hand underneath the blindside tackle’s outside arm, allowing him to make the move outside and get leverage, winning the one-on-one matchup. When Burns realizes he’s too far away to actually tackle the quarterback, he swats the ball out of his hands, creating a strip sack in the process.
Burns has whatever you need from a pass rusher: Great power (and great responsibility), he’s patient with his reads on option plays and vs. single blocking, he’s fast, he’s ridiculously agile, he’s quick off his first step, he’s technical, and he has a wide arsenal of moves he can use to destroy your team’s tackles and create some tackles of his own.
The only area I’m not completely floored with Burns has to be his bend, but even then, it’s still good in its own right. He’s an outstanding, intelligent pass rushing prospect and one that will give a DL-needy team a franchise player on the edge for the next decade.