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Deontay Burnett is the draft’s best WR no one is talking about

Sam Darnold’s favorite target at USC is going pro; what do you need to know about him?

Goodyear Cotton Bowl - USC v Ohio State Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Deontay Burnett, WR
School: USC | Conference: Pac-12
College Experience: Jr | Age: 20
Height / Weight: 6-0 / 186 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Rounds 4-5
NFL Comparison: Nelson Agholor

College Statistics & Measurables


Player Summary

Wasn’t a highly-touted recruit but immediately saw the field as a true freshman. As a sophomore he started the final 5 games and had a monster Rose Bowl performance with 13 catches for 164 yards and 3 TDs. As a true junior Burnett made second-team All-Pac-12 after posting a very respectable 86-1,114-9 line. He was clearly Sam Darnold’s favorite target at USC because of his reliability with soft, sticky hands.

Burnett has a knack for getting open even though he lacks prototypical height/weight/speed measurements. He’s always around the ball and making tough catches to move the chains. Burnett hurt his hamstring in pre-Combine training so was not able to participate in Combine or pro day drills.

Strengths

  • One of the youngest players in the draft; only 20 years old and won’t turn 21 until after the season starts. Has at least a couple more years to fully develop physically
  • Soft supple hands; natural hands catcher
  • Consistently able to make tough catches in tight coverage or on poorly placed balls
  • Very reliable target over the middle that ‘plucks and tucks’ ball to secure catch while avoiding big hits
  • Had good feel for zone coverage sitting between defenders; also works well to uncover with scrambling quarterbacks



Weaknesses

  • Slender frame that lacks muscle mass
  • Will never be a #1 receiver that draws attention of multiple defenders
  • While quick and explosive out of his breaks, does not have the deep speed to beat defensive backs vertically
  • Likely limited to slot role in the NFL, does not yet have size or strength to play outside against press coverage


Media


How He Fits on the Redskins

I’m a big fan of Burnett’s game because he just gets the job done without really possessing a height, size, or speed advantage against most defenses. He’s just tough and has great hands. Burnett strikes me as a receiver that would fit well in Gruden’s scheme because of the aforementioned qualities but also because of his good short-area quickness and route running. In a lot of ways Burnett reminds me of a taller Jamison Crowder.

Burnett would be a very solid pick in the fourth round and a steal in the fifth or later. I think he could compete for the 4th wide receiver spot behind Doctson, Richardson and Crowder in his rookie year, meaning he would essentially replace Ryan Grant. People forget, but USC wide receivers have a very productive recent track record with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Nelson Agholor, Marquise Lee and Robert Woods all having prominent roles on their teams at age 25 or younger.

Burnett won’t turn 23 until after the 2020 season starts which is just crazy as it means he has tons of time to continue developing into his body and craft. He’s definitely my favorite mid-round wide receiver, and I think the team that ends up selecting him will be making a smart investment.