PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY
Notes: Well-schooled receiver whose father played in the CFL. Partial qualifier in 1999. Started every game in 2000 and caught 57 passes for 921 yards and eight touchdowns, with a long of 80 yards. Missed two-plus games after dislocating his shoulder vs. Louisiana Tech in '01. However, in nine starts, he caught 53-737-2 with a long reception of 91 yards. Caught 138-1,629-12 with a long of 95 and ran 22-120-1 in 12 games in '02. Was a Biletnikoff finalist, a first-team American Football Coaches Association All-American and first-team All-Western Athletic Conference.
Positives: Good athlete who runs very good, sharp routes, is quick into and out of his breaks and knows how to drop his weight. Motions are quick and smooth. Good technique. Above-average to good hands. Knows how to get open and makes things happen. Has good character and is a leader. Superproductive. Adequate size. Decent route-runner. Excellent leaper with a 421/2-inch vertical.
Negatives: More quick than fast. Is an inconsistent receiver downfield. Likes to catch on his knees and uses his body too much. There is some wasted movement in his routes. Lacks bulk. Pass-friendly offensive system helped pad his statistics. Lacks burning speed.
Summary: Will have a hard time converting his college production to the pro level. Could be greatly helped by a strong speed showing.
Burleson has an angular build with the ideal height you look for in a receiver. He has great feet, which allow him to play faster than he's timed, having just average 40 speed. But he gets great separation form his defender, and has superior vision to find the open spots on the field to make a play. He has a great sense for the position, recognizing the coverage as zone or man-to-man, and adjusting his pass routes accordingly. He rarely drops the catchable ball, but is more than just a keep-the-chains-moving receiver. He is quicker than people give him credit for, with a good burst out his break, and his height provides an ideal target for the quarterback. Like Sam Aiken, he's an underrated performer who can push for a starting job right away because of his experience, knowledge of the position, and consistent production. One of the more polished wide-outs available this year, Burleson may not have impressive straight-line speed, but he's quick out of his cuts, knows how to work the CB, and rarely if ever will drop a catchable ball.
Strengths: Has adequate height and speed. Is quicker than fast. Excels at changing directions. Is well schooled at running routes. Shows good technique, body control and burst out of breaks. Knows how to drop hips and make sharp cuts. Has good hands. Is elusive after the catch and a threat to score whenever he catches on the run. Works hard as a blocker. Rarely takes a play off.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal bulk. Lacks great speed and isn't much of a downfield threat. Will have more trouble getting a clean release and separation in the NFL than he did within a wide-open, pass-friendly college scheme. Durability has been a minor problem in the past; dislocated shoulder in 2001.
Bottom line: Burleson is an above-average athlete with good speed. He also plays bigger than his size and is fearless in going over the middle. He doesn't do much vertically, but he does everything else very well and is ready for the NFL. Burleson may fall to the third or fourth round, but he could provide more of an immediate impact than several receivers drafted ahead of him.
Nate Burleson: What Others Are Saying
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