It might have seemed weird to see the Los Angeles Rams draft a safety in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Truthfully, Burgess is a safety by name only. Sure, he can drop back and play safety if the Rams absolutely need him to, but with Taylor Rapp and John Johnson starting, Burgess would only step in due to an injury or situational roles.
So what does Burgess bring to the table? How will he be utilized? Let’s take a look:
College Stats and Honors:
2019: 81 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, one interception and five pass deflections
Career: 116 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, one interceptions and nine pass deflections
Honors: All Pac 12 honorable mention (2019)
To put simply, Burgess is a safety with the ability to cover man-formation. This allows him to play multiple positions in the secondary, including slot-corner. This type of versatility is rare and treasured in the modern day NFL. Part of how he accomplishes his multiple roles is his superb footwork. Patient than most rookies and becomes receivers’ shadow by precision coverage. He’s a good overall athlete in terms of speed and agility.
An underrated aspect of Burgess’s game is his tackling skills. Hits hard and secures tackle with good wrap-ups. Not afraid of being aggressive at the line and typically knows when to let off to avoid flags.
So how did a prospect like this fall to the third round? Well, Burgess really only has one year of starting experience. In fact, if he didn’t have a solid 2019, Burgess would have fallen tremendously. The lack of experience is a bit unsettling because it’s difficult to say if he will repeat in the NFL.
This isn’t a huge issue but Burgess shouldn’t be an every-down safety in the NFL. He’s more built for a cornerback role and doesn’t have the strength to be a safety. Sure, a good tackler, but definitely won’t shed larger blockers.
Expectations in 2020:
So the default answer would be to compete for the slot-corner spot. Currently, Burgess would have to compete against last year’s rookie, David Long. Regardless of who wins the primary slot-corner role, we can expect Brandon Staley to use him in numerous positions. Theoretically, Burgess could be used as a situational safety and maybe see Rapp drop down to the hybrid-linebacker role. This wouldn’t be ideal for every play, but in certain packages and against certain offenses, this could be effective.
The Rams certainly drafted based on versatility here. Burgess gives the Rams more options and this is especially helpful considering the Rams’ lack of quality inside linebackers. While Burgess doesn’t have the capability to play inside linebacker, he frees up players to step in and play that role.