Florida State defensive end Brian Burns believes there are two types of pass rushers: the athletic ones and the smart ones. He classified his former teammate Josh Sweat as a "freak athlete," while another one of his former teammates, Demarcus Walker, thrived because of his intelligence and anticipation skills.
Burns, however, thinks he falls under both categories, and he said he models his game after several top NFL defenders.
“I feel like I take bits and pieces from the people I like to watch as far as Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Leonard Floyd, Dee Ford," Burns said while speaking to reporters at the NFL Combine. "There’s a lot of dudes. I just look at them. Whatever I see from their game, I try to take bits and pieces and combine it to my own.”
Burns credited playing with Sweat and Walker for helping him become a versatile pass rusher. Burns has also reached out to several NFL players, with New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport being the most notable. Davenport helped Burns prepare for the combine and briefed him on the draft process.
Upon arriving at Florida State, the highly-rated Burns immediately became one of the nation's best young pass rushers, leading all freshman with 9.5 sacks in 2016. He regressed a little bit during his sophomore year but then had a breakout campaign as a junior, earning first-team All-ACC honors thanks in part to recording 10 sacks. He declared for the 2019 NFL Draft after the season and is widely regarded as a first-round pick, with some believing he'll end up with the Washington Redskins.
According to Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network, Burns “is a special prospect with dynamic range, explosive qualities and terrific length/polish as a pass rusher. Burns brings one of the finest pass rushing skill sets to the table in recent years, and his explosiveness and developed hand usage should help him provide his team with impact pass rush from Day 1. Burns would be well served to fill out his frame to be a more well-rounded player, but he's got game-changing qualities.”
To quiet those who believe Burns is not big enough to play defensive end in the NFL, Burns and Davenport came up with a goal for Burns to add 21 pounds before the NFL Draft, which would bring his overall weight to 270 pounds. Burns said gaining mass will also help add some much-needed power to his game.
Along with his physical abilities, Burns also has confidence in himself as a leader and a motivator.
“My [Florida State] teammates voted me leader and captain of the team, so I took great responsibility in it," Burns said. “I held them accountable and held myself accountable to the season we put up. When the season was going down in slumps, I called a team meeting, a players-only meeting to really hash out the problems to find out what was going on. That’s one of the main things I did as a leader.”