With their first pick (118th overall) on day three of the 2016 NFL draft, the New York Jets selected cornerback Juston Burris from North Carolina State. Burris, a three year starter with the Wolfpack, has many of the traits you’d expect to see in a Todd Bowles defensive back.
The lo-downBurris’ college career spanned four years, three of them as a full time starter. In his freshman year he started five games in the nickel position, but in year two was moved to the outside and has played there since, starting all games for NC State. He also has some experience at safety, something which endeared him to the Jets although they have confirmed that he will be utilized as a corner initially. Although his production slipped a little in his junior year, he remained a reliable and consistent performer as his college stats indicate:
- Year 1 – 3 interceptions, 43 tackles, 8 pass break ups
- Year 2 – 1 interception, 53 tackles, 11 pass break ups
- Year 3 – 1 interception, 29 tackles, 5 pass break ups
- Year 4 – 1 interception, 38 tackles (including 3 for loss), 7 pass break ups.
At 6 feet tall and weighing 212lb Burris passes the ‘eyeball’ test for an NFL cornerback and is a fluid player despite his size. He is described as a highly competitive player who doesn’t back down from physical challenges. He has played a lot of football against good competition in the ACC making his production, especially in terms of pass completion allowed, extremely impressive. Using the NFL system, quarterbacks had an average rating of 78 against him.
Burris is also a good system fit for the Jets, having played in a man-to-man scheme in college, meaning he should transition well into Todd Bowles’ press heavy system. He describes this as a key strength saying:
“We did a lot of work with press-man coverages” at NC State…you can see on the tape I’m pretty good at press-man coverage, and my ability to disrupt the timing of the quarterback and disrupt the timing of the routes—I’m pretty well versed in that.”
He is comfortable playing with his back to the ball and looking over his shoulder to make a play at the catch point without losing a feel for his man. He brings power in his hands and has the frame to match up against bigger receivers. On the selection of Burris, Todd Bowles said,
“He’s big, he’s got long arms and he’s very good at the line of scrimmage. He’s a press corner. He’s got great eyes and ball skills.”
His relatively low number of interceptions seems to contradict this, but he was only targeted 44 times – probably because he only allowed 34.1% of passes to be completed. He is also an excellent tackler with no broken tackles last year, allowing only one touchdown. The Jets had problems at times with missed tackles in the secondary last year; so this skill should make Burris an asset. In addition he is also strong in run support as a physically imposing defender, making him a versatile option who will also work well on special teams.Weaknesses
Burris clocked a 4.53 forty at the combine, ranking him below average for a corner. His relative lack of speed means he struggles to keep up with slot receivers hence his use mainly on the outside. When back pedalling, he remains too upright, creating a high center of gravity which at times has knocked him off balance, allowing the receiver to get away. His height and size can hinder his transitions and change of direction and can lead to a loss of technique if a receiver gains a step on him. As a hands on and physical defender who doesn’t shy away from contact, he is an easy target for holding and interference penalties. Last year he was penalized six times; four were for pass interference.
The Jets’ cornerback group was shaken up when Antonio Cromartie was released, promoting Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams up the depth chart and uncovering a lack of depth below. Despite adding Daryl Morris in free agency, it’s unsurprising the Jets looked to draft a further corner, especially given their lukewarm feelings on Dexter McDougle and Dee Milliner. The fact that Milliner has now had his fifth year option declined, suggests that Bowles does not see him as a good fit in his system, where cornerback play is such a key element.
In terms of the position vacated by Cromartie on the outside, Todd Bowles said that the competition was ‘open right now’ but added:
“Obviously, Buster(Skrine) played the most, so he’ll probably start out there, “But we’ll see, as training camp comes, what the competition brings, and who wins it.”
Skrine played nearly 70 percent of the snaps in 2015, mostly on the inside as he is traditionally seen as a slot corner. It may be that the Jets consider Burris a potential option in time for the outside spot, depending on his development and progress. He is certainly a little raw around the edges but his fluidity, competitiveness and physicality are traits which cannot be taught and could see him develop into a starting level corner in time. He’ll need to tidy up his technique but has certainly landed in the right place in terms of coaches to enable this. His strengths with press coverage should put him in the mix for plenty of playing time in Todd Bowles’ system.
Photo credit: www.newyorkjets.com