Green Bay Packers NFL Draft prospect profile: RB Rex Burkhead
Rex Burkhead, RB Nebraska
5-10, 214 pounds
Hometown: Plano, TX
40 yard: 4.73
3 cone: 6.85
20 yard shuttle: 4.09
60 yard shuttle: 11.51
News and Notes:
A lot of times draftniks and media types alike try to fit round pegs into square holes: one common example is calling for the Packers to draft a offensive tackle this year, only they have forgotten that Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod were both 1st round picks and drafting a 3rd OT in 4 years is getting close to Matt Millen levels of insanity. Other examples include cornerback and inside linebacker, two positions where the Packers have the most depth. Really, people should think of it the other way around; there are only a few exceptional players every year that are talented enough to change how a team operates (think RGIII or Russell Wilson), most other players have to learn to play in the system already set in place. So really the question you have to ask is, what player fits best into the system that the Packers have in place? One of those players I believe is Rex Burkhead.
What they’re saying about him:
- CBSSports.com: “Burkhead is a compactly-built 210 pounds with excellent balance, running close to the ground and with a head of steam. Burkhead is hard-nosed and tough as nails, finishing every run and popping right back after a big hit while showing the downhill patience and vision to follow his blocks.”
- NFL.com: ” Slasher who uses his foot quickness to find his way through traffic to move the chains. In one-back or two-back sets, can start with the flow then cut back into a running lane, spinning through trash on his way to consistent four or five-yard rushes. His lateral quickness comes into play when penetrating defenders look to corral him; somehow he finds a way to cut left or right to run away from their waiting arms. There’s no questioning his toughness, carries the mail 30 times a game and gives great effort trying to use his good lean to plow through arm tackles for extra yardage. Not used as a receiver very often, but his solid hands, quickness and agility will make him a valued weapon in the passing game.”
- He’s a white running back, get over it
- Shows surprising lateral agility for a back of his size but clearly lacks top end speed or even a second gear really to threaten defenses
- Very soft hands, looks like a receiver on the touchdown pass. Was used often in delay and wheel routes.
- The most polished pass blocker I’ve ever seen in a college running back; at 0:56 Burkhead is aligned left of the quarterback and slides inside with his initial blocking assignment as probably either a DT or MLB. He has the awareness and knowledge of the protection call to shift back to left and pick up the unaccounted blitzing DB. This is something that even NFL caliber running backs struggle with (Tony Romo’s broken clavicle in 2010 was a result of a missed blitz pickup).
- Appears to run best as the lone back, but has experience in I and split formations.
- Comes in with the perception of a bruising back who fights for extra yards after contact, I think he surprises some defenders with his lateral agility by slipping away from arm tackles and cutting against poor angles.
If drafted by the Packers
I would argue that Rex Burkhead is the player that best fits the Packers in the 2013 draft. I’m not arguing that he is the most talented running back in the draft (I’m sure Marques would like to convince you it’s Giovani Benard), but if the Packers were to imagine the perfect running back for their scheme and offensive philosophy, that player would look a lot like Burkhead. When looking for running backs, the Packers look for is 1) pass protection skills 2) protecting the football and 3) a tough one cut runner who can gain yards after contact in that order. Rex Burkhead is fantastic in blitz pickup (his average functional strength will cause him to lose some battles with bigger defensive ends and linebackers, but that’s asking too much from any running back really), protects the ball well and has the size and grittiness to grind out yards. Also Packers running backs are going to see lots of passes thrown their way and not many true lead blockers in front of them (Kuhn isn’t really your traditional blocking fullback either), which again falls right into Burkhead’s comfort zone. Furthermore, Burkhead’s deficiencies (namely his lack of top end speed) are masked by the Packers offensive scheme, where running backs aren’t expected to rip off 20 yard runs, rather keep churning yards and keep the offensive in good down and distance situations. Finally Burkhead fits the mold of a “Packer’s People”, Burkhead is a coSIDA Academic All-American and works with cancer patients. Initially, if drafted by the Packers, Burkhead will probably be inactive for the 1st half of the season or at best a special teamer as the Packers simply do not put their running backs on the field until they know they can pass protect in the NFL; even 3rd round pick Alex Green never saw the field during his rookie year because of this and the Packers had serious reservations about putting DuJuan Harris in for the same reason. But once Burkhead gains the trust of the coaching staff and more importantly Aaron Rodgers, he has the ability to become a 3 down running back, something that the Packers have never had in the Rodgers era.
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.