Casting doubts on one inside linebacker prospect

As the seemingly endless stream of mock drafts - yes, you sense some annoyance in those words - have started to trickle out over the last handful of weeks, one player has been linked to the Ravens perhaps more than any other.

That player is Arizona State inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

Burfict has become well known for his mean streak and pad-thumping hits, and would help fill a fairly major need for the Ravens, who would love to add young talent at the inside linebacker spots.

Vontaze_Burfict-ASU-sidebar.jpgThe Sun Devil has some character issues and he’s been known to lose his temper at times on and off the field, leading to penalties and mistakes. But some believe that Baltimore would be a great place for Burfict to land because he could learn under his idol, Ray Lewis, and could benefit from the veteran presence in the locker room.

That’s led some draft gurus to project Burfict to the Ravens with the 29th pick in April’s draft.

One very respected draft analyst, however, isn’t sold on Burfict’s potential at the NFL level. And that’s putting it nicely.

“I’m not a fan at all,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said yesterday during a conference call. “I just watched a bunch of his tape the other day. I came away unimpressed. His instincts aren’t good.

“He gets enveloped by bigger bodies and he runs around blocks. For a big, strong guy, he’s nowhere near as strong at the point of attack as I thought he’d be. I don’t see first round at all.”

Ignoring Burfict, there don’t appear to be many first-round options at inside linebacker in this year’s class.

Boston College’s Luke Kuechly is the consensus top inside ‘backer coming out this year, but he’ll be gone long before the Ravens are on the clock at No. 29. Alabama’s Don’t’a Hightower is an option, although a torn ACL in 2009 might cause some scouts to be wary of his long-term health.

Those interested in Burfict could still hope the Ravens will keep an eye on him on Day Two of the draft, but it appears the chances of the Arizona State product hearing his name called in the first round are growing slim.

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