12. Morgan Burnett (Ray’s pick)
I know what you’re thinking … you just can’t wrap your head around the reason why Morgan Burnett sat down after intercepting that pass late in the 2014 Championship Game at Seattle.
Why didn’t he keep running? After all, there was nothing but green grass in front of him. Why did he follow the lead of Julius Peppers who told him to take a seat?
Would the Packers have been headed to the Super Bowl had Burnett kept running?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But at this point, it really doesn’t matter, does it?
Let’s move on …
Let’s talk about the fact that Burnett has seen the pits and valleys of playing safety in Green Bay.
After being drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the third round (71st overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft, Burnett moved his way into the starting lineup at the end of the 2010 season, starting the final four games of that Super Bowl year.
He came into the 2011 season as the starter and hasn’t been moved out of that position since. That year he intercepted three passes, had two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, while posting 78 tackles and 31 assists.
Though he had one fewer interceptions in 2012, Burnett had 87 tackles and 35 assists.
Then came 2013.
Though he missed three games that year, he also had the worst season of his career. He didn’t have a single interception and only 66 tackles.
Then came 2014 when he had one interception, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, 1.5 sacks and 105 tackles.
More often than not, we saw Burnett crowding the line of scrimmage and making plays on the offensive side of the ball.
Burnett’s fortunes turned in 2014 when rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix joined the team. This duo finally gave the Packers strength at a position that was simply horrible in 2013.
And with the addition of even younger and more intriguing players in Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in last year’s draft, the Packers defensive backfield got even better in 2015.
Between 2013 and ’15, Burnett missed eight games, but has still been an important cog in that Packers’ defense. Though he hasn’t been an interception machine (seven total in his six years in Green Bay), nor a sack leader (4.5), Burnett has been tough in coverages over the top and in stepping into the box to help stop the run.
In his six years he has 395 tackles and 163 assists – his best year being the 105 stops he made in 2014, along with his 38 assists.
During his career, he has also had 34 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries (one which he returned for a touchdown in 2013).
So, though Burnett hasn’t set the league on fire, he’s been a consistent player for the Packers – fitting into their defensive scheme perfectly.
With Burnett entering his seventh season in Green Bay, it will be interesting to see if Ted Thompson gravitates toward drafting a safety in this year’s draft as a possible replacement for Burnett who comes to the end of his second contract in Green Bay.
Stay tuned on that …
Next: No. 12 (Freddie's pick)