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2018 NFL Draft Scouting Reports: Deontay Burnett is the Ideal NFL Slot WR

One of USC’s unsung heros might be looking to fill a similar role at the next level

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The truly forgotten man was also the last man standing in USC’s receiving group in 2017. Deontay Burnett carried the passing game and was—to a fault, locked onto by a Dr Jekyl-Mr.Hyde Sam Darnold.

Yet another Trojan down the way from Gardena via the Junipero Serra pipeline, Burnett’s USC journey was not an easy one as he worked hard to gain playing time with big-bodied WRs like Juju Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell Jr. ahead on the depth chart.

After setting a USC record for most receptions in a Bowl Game with 13 in a memorable 2016 Rose Bowl Game, Burnett’s final season saw him become Darnold’s primary target and the season with 56 catches for 1114 yards and nine touchdowns.

Measurables

5’11″ | 186 lbs | 31 1/2 arms | 8 5/8 hands

Broad Jump: 10’1”

Vertical jump: 30.5″

40 Yard Dash: 4.70

Strengths

Impressive Route Runner

Burnett is a smooth route runner who continues to get better. He has the quickness to set up his defender on the route and can always get open.

Body Control

At sub-fix foot, Burnett is still a guy who can go get the ball. With an inaccurate Darnold at the helm, Burnett frequently contort his body to catch the ball wherever it was going.

Toughness

Burnett got a hit a lot as a Trojan, but he still managed to play through knee and foot injuries in 2017. He’s fearless in going across the field running shallow and slant routes—anything to make the play.

Weakness

Diminutive size

Burnett is as big as he’s going to get. After weighing at 188 lbs. at the Combine, he droped down to 177 lbs. at USC’s Pro Day. If he plans on playing at that weight in the NFL, his body might not hold up.

Prone to Drops

Burnett’s small hands and seeming lack of hand strength saw him routinely drop balls with a bit more ‘mustard’ on them. Even though he was excellent body control, the effort is often for naught as he can’t hang on to the ball in tough or contested situations.

Speed

Burnett’s 4.70 time isn’t an indicator of his actual speed given that he ran it on a hamstring that was at 80 percent, but he doesn’t have the speed to be a true vertical threat nor get a lot of YAC as desired in all slot WRs.


Best Trojan Performance

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 Rose Bowl Game was easily his best career game. Even with Juju and other big WRs in this game, Burnett stepped up when the light were on bright and dropped 164 receiving yards, three touchdowns and a record-setting 13 catches. Burnett was getting open at will and made tough catches against a fast Penn State defense. The performance was capped off by a his 27-yard game-tying touchdown catch that will forever immortalizing in USC lore.

Best Comparison: Kendall Wright

Much like Burnett at USC, Kendall Wright in the NFL was thrusted into the WR1 role as a member of the Tennesse Titans. A natural slot WR, Wright was asked to move all around the field and was productive doing so. Wright would always be open with his route running prowess and was forced to make tough catches playing with a string of inaccurate QBs. Limited after the catch, Wright wasn’t known for his speed nor YAC, but still managed to have a productive NFL career.


Projection: 5th Round

In a draft with a bevy of questionable receiver talent, Burnett has proven reliable as a WR1 for this year’s projected top pick and has traits to be the quintessential slot. With a more work on his hands and perhaps a few pounds of muscle, a slot-needy team will find excellent value on Day 3 with Burnett.