NFL Draft

2018 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Vanderbilt ILB Oren Burks

From now until the 2018 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#20 Oren Burks/ILB Vanderbilt – 6’3/1 233

The Good

– NFL-looking frame with ability to add weight if team asks him to
– Impressive athlete in testing and on tape with sideline range, fluid mover whose safety background shows
– Takes good angles to the football, good run fits
– Physical player and a “want to” as a tackler and defending the run
– Versatile, moved around who didn’t get to settle into one spot and grow
– Leader and co-captain, considered to be high character
– Durable player, showed toughness
– Productive career vs top competition, excellent starting experience

The Bad

– Really struggles to disengage and defeat blocks in the run game, consistently swallowed up and vulnerable in power schemes between the tackles
– Athletic but not as strong in coverage as you’d expect, too slow to react to route concepts and has trouble locating the ball to finish the play
– Needs to be a more consistent player overall though that may be partially contributed to being shifted around
– Trouble finishing tackles, falls off RBs too often
– Not a successful pass rusher from the interior or off the edge
– True position in the NFL?


– Three year starter and started half of his redshirt freshmen season, 40 career starts
– Career: 228 tackles (15.5 TFL), 5 INTs, 4.5 sacks
– 2017: 80 tackles (7 TFL), 1 INT, 1 sacks
– Ran a 4.59 40, jumped 39.5 inches, 11’2″ in the broad at Combine with a 6.82 three cone
– Played multiple positions throughout his career
– Came to Vanderbilt as a linebacker, moved to safety in true freshman season, played there 2014-2015
– Became their “Star” in 2016, hybrid linebacker/safety position before moving to Mike linebacker full-time as a senior in 2017
– Defensive co-captain as a senior, two year captain in high school
– President of Vanderbilt’s Student-Athlete Committee in 2016-2017
– Volunteers with Project Safe on campus and was Vandy’s representative at past two media days

Game Breakdown

Oren Burks first caught my eye at the Senior Bowl, called up for the final day of practice, similar to what happened with Javon Hargrave in 2016. First impressions were good. An excellent athlete and one of the best “movers” of anyone down there which to be fair, wasn’t saying a ton.

Finally got around to watching him and…I’m a little disappointed. Maybe my expectations are too high. And he should get credit for having to play a new position basically every time he laced up his cleats. But there are some definite flaws in his game, big ones, and we’ll get to that. But first, the good.

The background is obviously interesting. Safety turned hybrid turned linebacker. That type of resume, that type of athlete (backed up by how he tested) is what the NFL demands today. I pulled a game against Georgia from 2015 of him nearly picking this pass off. Great read, in position, but drops the ball. Like a linebacker.

Watch his flow down the line to make the tackle on this perimeter run, too. Skills translate.

But the problem is interior runs when guards and centers work to him. He struggles to disengage, like a safety, Routinely swallowed up and doesn’t have the strength or hand use to defeat the block. It’s not that he’s contact-shy or won’t take on blocks, he absolutely will, he just can’t do anything if the linemen engage him. Two examples. Against Kentucky, watch #73 stick to him.

And in coverage…also a little disappointing. Missouri was a rough game where he got beat three times.

He’s reminding me of Travis Feeney minus the injury history, which is obviously a big advantage. He’s raw, going to get pushed around versus the run, though he’s more physical and not quite as lanky. There’s potential to become a successful player in the NFL but I can’t help but think he’s better off either going back to safety or, and this is what I’d prefer, play in that hybrid role in sub-packages. David Bruton/Jaquiski Tartt like.

I’d stick my neck out and say he’s on the Steelers’ radar. For his versatility, productivity, and high character. Definitely fits the bill.

Projection: Early Day Three

Games Watched: vs Georgia (2015(, vs Alabama, vs Kentucky, vs Missouri, Senior Bowl

Previous 2018 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Sam Darnold Garret Dooley Calvin Ridley Fred Warner Ronald Jones II
Maurice Hurst Mike McCray DeShon Elliott  Malik Jefferson Ogbo Okoronkwo
Trayvon Henderson Josh Rosen Ronnie Harrison Kallen Ballage Cedric Wilson Jr.
Micah Kiser Will Hernandez Leighton Vander Esch Josh Allen   Harold Landry
Marquis Haynes  Tremaine Edmunds Kerryon Johnson Lorenzo Carter  Sony Michael
Kyzir White  Rashaan Evans  Tegray Scales  Isaac Yiadom  Jeff Holland
 Rashaad Penny John Kelly Bo Scarbrough  Roquan Smith  Durham Smythe
 Mark Walton  Josey Jewell  PJ Hall  Dorian O’Daniel  Josh Adams
 Leon Jacobs  Marcus Davenport  Jack Cichy  Royce Freeman  Nick DeLuca
 Vita Vea  Darrel Williams  Mason Rudolph  Shaun Dion Hamilton  MJ Stewart
 Derwin James  Kameron Kelly Justin Reid Sam Hubbard Da’Ron Payne
DaeSean Hamilton Nyheim Hines Arden Key Hercules Mata’afa Jason Cabinda
Marcus Allen Michael Gallup Jessie Bates III Kemoko Turay Genard Avery
Hayden Hurst Dallas Goedert Andrew Brown Allen Lazard Davin Bellamy
Phillip Lindsay Jalyn Holmes DJ Chark Mike Gesicki Derrius Guice
Justin Jackson Simmie Cobbs Jr. Anthony Miller Terrell Edmunds Chase Edmonds
Josh Sweat Equanimeous St. Brown DJ Moore Dante Pettis Tre Flowers
Lamar Jackson Taven Bryan Ito Smith Antonio Callaway Keke Coutee
Darius Leonard Nick Chubb Jordan Lasley Ian Thomas Jaleel Scott
James Washington
To Top