Most draft observers didn’t believe Artie Burns was ready for the NFL when he declared for the draft as a true junior in 2016. At least, they had their reservations. And despite those reservations, the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to make him their first-round draft pick.
Obviously, that didn’t work out too well, though Pittsburgh has a history of being unable to draft and develop talent in the secondary. Of their five starters, four came to them through means other than the draft or college free agency. The only one they are responsible for bringing into the NFL is Terrell Edmunds, the one with the worst reputation among fans.
And yet Burns wasn’t even a part of that group. We do know what group he will be a part of in 2020, as he agreed to a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears. While we don’t know what the value of that deal is yet—and thus whether or not it will qualify for consideration for a compensatory pick—we do know, currently, what his situation is.
The cornerback starting opposite Kyle Fuller last year was Prince Amukamara, a former first-round draft pick of the New York Giants who also was somewhat regarded as a letdown relative to his draft position. He performed well in Chicago, but is no longer with them.
Burns almost surely chose to sign with the Bears in part because he has a strong chance to compete for a starting job there. As of the moment, his primary competition is a third-year former undrafted free agents in Kevin Toliver, who has 310 defensive snaps and two starts over his two-year career.
The other contender is Tre Robertson, who is coming over by way of the CFL. He was originally an undrafted free agent of the Minnesota Vikings in 2016, but found himself up north by 2018. He found great success with the Calgary Stampeders, and that led to a minor bidding war among a number of NFL teams for his services in 2020.
Still, the success rate for players coming into or back to the NFL from the CFL is pretty minimal. There are several dozen Shawn Lemons for every Cameron Wake. The point is, you will see Stefon Logan’s name come up on lists of ‘the best CFL players to play in the NFL’.
Assuming the possibility that Burn’s one-year contract does qualify for the compensatory pick formula (it would have to be over $1.75 million at a minimum, and is currently over $2 million), playing time would also be a key component to determining whether or not Burns will yield a compensatory pick for the Steelers.
In other words, even if for some reason you don’t want to see him turn his career around and find some success in the NFL, there may still be a fan-centric incentive to root for Burns in 2020 to win the Bears’ starting job and play well enough to keep it, provided that the deal he signed qualifies. Given what Tyler Matakevich got, it’s hard to suggest it’s not possible.