Versatile WR Looking to Carve Out a Spot

After playing things relatively safe throughout the course of the draft and with most of their free agent signings, the Colts took a gamble on an athletic prospect by signing an undrafted prospect that may be a man without a position. Brad Keller has the analysis here.

Arizona State's Rudy Burgess had a tumultuous career as a Sun Devil.  He started out as a running back and enjoyed a productive sophomore season in 2005 with 145 carries for 644 yards (4.4 yard average) and all six of his career rushing touchdowns.

He was moved outside to receiver before his junior season and showed some production there as well, snagging 125 passes for 1,536 yards and 12 touchdowns throughout the course of his career — interestingly enough, his career high for receptions came in 2005 as well, with 59 catches for 655 yards.

To add one more accolade to his list of accomplishments, he is only the 14th Division I-A player in history to accumulate more than 1,000 yards rushing, receiving, and on kick returns.

To think of all the great — and versatile — players that have come before him, to be one of 14 people to achieve that is something very, very special.  The question then becomes: Why didn't he get drafted?


Rudy Burgess carries the ball against Washington in 2007
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

More and more, players are becoming specialists.  Either they only run the ball, or they only catch the ball, or they only work on special teams, even at the collegiate level where systems are different than in the NFL and roles are not always as well-defined.

If a player shows remarkable ability in one particular area of the game, the tendency is to keep that player in that area as much as possible to maximize their productivity.  If the player does not excel in any one area, but does well enough in a number of different areas, they can stay on a college roster, but there does not tend to be a spot for someone that is a "jack of all trades, master of none" in the NFL.

As a running back, Burgess is too small at 5 feet, 10 inches and 186 pounds to risk more than 5-10 carries per game.

While he does have excellent receiving skills, particularly for a tailback, his blocking ability leaves a great deal to be desired and pass protection is one of the most important aspects of a running back's game when he plays for the Colts.

In addition, he hasn't played the position for two years, so there would be a period of adjustment while he re-learns the position while simultaneously learning the Indianapolis offense.

As a receiver, he's about the right size for the Colts, has plenty of speed having run a 4.45 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, and his most recent experience was as a wideout.

However, he has only two years of experience at the position and, in addition to the six men already on the roster, Indianapolis also brought in seventh round pick Pierre Garcon, as well as fellow undrafted free agents Samuel Giguere and Charles Dillon.  Dillon also has experience as a kick returner.

Indeed, the best shot Burgess has at making it on the roster or getting signed to the practice squad is to make the most of his abilities in the return game.  As far as specialists go, the position of return specialist is one that is currently lacking in game-changing explosiveness for Indianapolis.

Though T.J. Rushing did have a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown in 2007, he is certainly not the kind of player that strikes fear into the hearts of special teams personnel throughout the league.

Although there's nothing to indicate that Burgess has the talent of a Devin Hester, Ted Ginn, or even an Allen Rossum, he certainly has a great deal of athletic ability and has no shortage of potential.

If he can realize his potential and unseat Rushing, then the Colts have found themselves another diamond in the rough.  If he doesn't realize his potential and can't unseat Rushing, the Colts will have only wasted virtually nothing for giving him the chance.


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