What to expect from Green Bay Packers third-round pick Oren Burks this season.
In the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers selected Oren Burks out of Vanderbilt.
This pick immediately got me excited. Burks was a player I had my eye on prior to the draft.
At 6-foot-3, 233 pounds, with a 4.59 40-yard dash, Burks compares favorably to the new age linebackers that are becoming the craze in today’s pass-happy NFL.
He has the size to hold up inside, while also possessing the speed needed to be a sideline-to-sideline tackler and hang with running backs and tight ends in coverage. Most importantly, Burks has position versatility.
Burks started his college career at strong safety, usually playing close to the line to help in run support. From there he moved to outside linebacker before finishing his Commodores career in the middle.
Having familiarity with these positions is important for his new job in the NFL. The Packers moved Josh Jones around a lot last year, with early but not sustained success. Jones was effective early before falling off as the season went on. His head was spinning as he was learning more than one position at once. With Burks, he already has experience doing these things.
We don’t know what new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will roll out come September, but he has already stated it will be multiple and varied. If you look back to the Jets defense in 2010, I think of Blake Martinez in the David Harris role and Burks in the Bart Scott role.
Harris was the early-down run-stuffer, and Scott played multiple roles mainly manning the middle on passing downs. In fact, Burks’ measurements are similar to Scott’s. At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, there is only an inch and two pounds that separate them. The biggest difference is speed. Burks’ 4.59 40-yard dash was faster than Scott’s 4.72.
This is not to say Burks will immediately be Bart Scott, but I envision Pettine using him in the same manner. But if Burks can put up the production Scott did, the Packers will have a special player.
In 2010, Pettine also liked switching between 3-4 and 4-3. This is where position versatility will come into play. Being able to seamlessly switch from inside to outside will benefit Burks and the Packers.
With Burks’ speed, he should be able to handle the middle of the field on pass defense, as well as cover running backs out of the backfield. This will allow Pettine to open up more of his playbook while keeping continuity with players on the field.
Burks has the potential to improve two positions — middle linebacker and safety. He allows the Packers to keep Jones at safety, and have his focus be on one position instead of many. And with the loss of Morgan Burnett, the Packers will need help at both positions.
Under Mike McCarthy, the Packers have shown they are not afraid to throw rookies to the fire on defense. Should Burks show what I think he is capable of this preseason and earn a starting job, the Packers defense should be in good shape.
Season stats prediction: 89 tackles, three interceptions