The 2019 NFL Draft is less than one month away, and the Buffalo Bills could go in a variety of directions with their No. 9 overall pick. The team did a great job plugging holes throughout the roster at key positions during free agency, which gives Buffalo the flexibility to select the best available player with each of their 10 draft picks. Most mock drafts following the Bills’ active approach to free agency have the team selecting players like Alabama’s offensive tackle, Jonah Williams, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, and Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, among others. But one player that hasn’t been linked to Buffalo very often, and one who probably should be, is Florida State’s dynamic edge rusher, Brian Burns.
Brian Burns is a long, athletic pass rusher who stands 6-foot-5 and 249-pounds. He improved in each of his three seasons with the Seminoles, finishing his career with 123 tackles, 38.5 tackles for loss, 23 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and seven pass breakups in 33 games.
The former five-star recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s American Heritage High School was named All-ACC after racking up 52 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three pass breakups in 13 games during his junior season, his last at Florida State.
Burns has the length that teams covet in an edge rusher. His height, coupled with his 33 7/8″ arms are an asset that he utilizes well, displaying a wide array of pass rush moves, including impressive counters that complement his signature spin move.
I've gotten some questions about Brian Burns fit with the Lions. He is underweight, but these two plays show exactly why I think the Lions will consider him. pic.twitter.com/A5nSHfEhzp— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) February 10, 2019
According to Pro Football Focus, Burns tallied 20 QB hits and 82 hurries in three seasons, including 10 hits and 48 hurries during the 2018 season.
Brian Burns... The dip and acceleration around the corner. Holy smokes!!!— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 5, 2019
And this is Jawann Taylor at LT - whom many have as OT1. Not saying he’s a bum - I’m saying Burns is special! pic.twitter.com/Cx2cLwSmas
6’5, 250lb humans shouldn’t move like this, but Brian Burns makes it look easy pic.twitter.com/tA7kQAsTBK— Jake (@SeedsofJake) March 24, 2019
He had a stellar workout at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, and was timed at 7.01 seconds in the three-cone drill. Burns capped off his day by posting a 36-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot-9 broad jump.
The Buffalo Bills are desperate for help at the edge rusher position. Veteran defensive end Jerry Hughes provides consistent pressure from the right side of the defense but is 30 years old and entering the final year of his contract. The team’s 2016 first-round draft choice, Shaq Lawson, showed some improvement during the 2018 season, tallying 30 tackles and four sacks, but the production is far from what the Bills had hoped for out of a top-20 selection. Buffalo signed Trent Murphy to a three-year, $22.5 million contract last year, but the former Washington Redskins edge defender disappointed in his first season with the team, notching just 24 tackles and four sacks.
By selecting a player like Brian Burns, Buffalo would inject elite athleticism and length into a position group that lacks both qualities. Burns is viewed by many as a one-trick pony, or simply a pass-rush specialist who will struggle against the run, due to his lanky frame. However, Burns is just 20 years old at the moment, and his frame can carry added mass.
With that being said, selecting Brian Burns with the No. 9 overall pick would go against the grain in regards to what Bills GM Brandon Beane and the Buffalo brass are accustomed to. The average defensive end drafted by the Bills’ personnel department is 268.5 pounds. Dion Jordan was the lightest at 249. Burns played around 235 pounds and bulked up to 249 for the NFL Scouting Combine. This may give some fans pause, as the memory of Aaron Maybin still haunts. But Burns does meet the thresholds in terms of weight, arm length, short shuttle, and 40 time of defensive ends drafted by this regime.
Buffalo certainly needs to add playmakers on defense, particularly along the defensive line, after reloading their offense during free agency. Ed Oliver and Montez Sweat are “sexy” predictions to the team in many of the latest mock drafts, but Brian Burns could flourish with the team if selected, as the Seminoles standout has serious star potential that could help elevate the Bills’ defense to the next level.