Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict had the most dramatic plunge in the NFL draft, going from a player who was widely believed to be a first-round prospect a few months ago to an undrafted free-agent signee of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The oft-penalized Burfict had as many red flags as yellow ones.
His final season was riddled with 15-yard penalties; he fought with teammates and refused to enter a game late in the season; he was overweight and slow at the combine, running a 5-flat 40, and, according to FoxSports.com, failed a drug test there.
Still, Burfict has more than his share of splashy highlights, at times leaping over the line Superman-style to blast a quarterback or running back. But on the whole, many evaluators weren’t swayed.
“I put his tape on with absolutely zero preconceived notions,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said. “I watched these tapes and really didn’t like him as a football player. I think he’s a non-draftable kid. For me, he’s a free agent.”
The Bengals obviously saw something they liked, and they have a history of rolling the dice on risky players. What’s more, they have a need at middle linebacker, with Rey Maualuga facing the possibility of suspension after recently having an assault charge settled in mediation.
The door is open for Burfict, who will compete for the backup job with Dan Skuta, seeing as none of the Bengals’ 10 draft picks were linebackers.