No current Carolina Panthers player has more upside than defensive end Brian Burns. Heading into his third season in Carolina, Burns continues to fly relatively under the radar despite a tantalizing rookie season followed by a strong showing in 2020.
Burns was recently left off Touchdown Wire’s ranking of the top 11 edge defenders in the league. Now, he’s been excluded from another one – this one a top-10 list from ESPN, who surveyed 50 people around the NFL. At least he earned an honorable mention courtesy of an unnamed coordinator.
“He’s one of those next top-tier guys. He’s not at that level yet, but he’s coming. He can go.”
That he can. Why can’t he seem to break through in these rankings, then?
For one thing, Burns is still relatively young and hasn’t been around as long as some of the elite edge defenders like Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt, who were deserving of the top two spots they got on ESPN’s list. He’s also playing for a small market team that has yet to win more than five games in a season since he was drafted, so it’s natural that he gets somewhat less media attention through no fault of his own.
This is also a case of a crowded picture. The edge is probably the deepest position in pro football right now. If Burns had been playing in a different era he would likely already be considered a top-five talent. These days he has to compete with two Bosas, two Watts, Khalil Mack, Cameron Jordan, Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence and now Chase Young, as well. Once you start adding up all these names, the snubs start to make sense.
We are convinced that Burns’ moment will come, though. The advanced stats show that his sack totals aren’t an accurate representation of what he can do. For example, Burns posted more pressures (57) than any defender under the age of 25 and ranked No. 4 in ESPN’s pass rush win rate last year.
Now that Haason Reddick has joined a loaded group up front and Derrick Brown has found his feet as a pass rusher, it should be much more difficult for opposing offensive lines to contain Burns. The breakout year is coming.
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