This year I will once again be breaking down each of the Jets draft picks (and most of the undrafted free agent signings) in detail. On Tuesday, we took a look at the Jets' third round pick, linebacker Jordan Jenkins from Georgia, and now we move on to the discuss their fourth round pick, North Carolina State cornerback Juston Burris. I've been watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
Burris is listed at 6-feet and 212 pounds, and was a three-year starter at cornerback for the North Carolina State Wolfpack. He started 43 games over the course of his career, including the last 41 in a row, and recorded six interceptions, 31 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Burris was a projected late-rounder in this year's draft before being selected by the Jets in the fourth round.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Juston Burris?
Burris began his collegiate career as a nickel back, racking up a team-leading 13 passes defensed and three interceptions in his freshman season as he started five games.
Over the next three seasons, Burris started every game, developing into a leader by his senior season. He only had one interception each season, but racked up a total of 121 tackles and 18 passes defensed over those three years. NC State had a 25-26 record while Burris was on the team, but they ended up with a winning record in three of the four seasons.
Burris struggled at the East-West Shrine Game and his performances at the scouting combine and his pro day were good but not great.
Let's move on to look at some of my own analysis from watching Burris' film. Here are my observations, divided into categories.
Burris has good size for the position, although - unlike most of the Jets' picks this year - only has average arm length. He's big enough for a potential role at safety and has good strength, as displayed by his 19 bench press reps at the combine. Miles Killebrew (a 217-pound strong safety) and Sean Davis (who many are also projecting to safety) were the only defensive backs to beat that number.
Burris' straight line speed (4.53 40-yard dash) along with his vertical and broad jumps were adequate, but his agility numbers were poor. Based on this, he'd ideally be a good matchup for a bigger receiver or tight end, but might struggle with smaller and shiftier receivers.
Burris was employed almost exclusively as a boundary corner on the right side in 2015. He played just three snaps in the slot in 2014 and none last season. The only times where he wasn't used as the right cornerback were when there was no receiver on that side so he dropped off into a safety role. Even when he was a nickel back during his freshman year, he was still primarily used on the outside.
Burris put up pretty solid coverage numbers over the past couple of years, only giving up a completion on just over 50 percent of his targets.
One particular area where Burris really improved in his senior year was in terms of not getting beaten deep. In 2014, he gave up six catches of over 30 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown as he got torched down the sideline by a freshman against USF and a 31-yard touchdown on a diving catch by Mike Williams of Clemson. However, he had given up no 30-yard plays or touchdowns heading into the last game of the regular season in 2015. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to sustain that.
He let himself down in the last game against North Carolina, giving up this 53-yard touchdown in the first quarter. As you can see, he reacted badly to the burst of acceleration from his man and his safety wasn't able to get over and bail him out
Burris would give up another deep catch in the Belk Bowl, when he failed to get a clean jam on Mississippi State's De'Runnya Wilson at the line and got beaten down the sideline for 39 yards, although it looked like Burris would have recovered if not for a blatant push-off right before the ball arrived.
In those last two games, Burris was targeted 18 times and gave up his first two touchdowns of the season, after having been targeted less than three times per game over the first 11 game. The North Carolina game was by far his worst of the year, but he fared slightly better in the bowl game, with two pass breakups. Even with these two games, the average yardage given up on catches surrendered by Burris dropped from almost 18 in 2014 to just over 10 in 2015.
One area where Burris will sometimes struggle is in off coverage. He seems to lack elite closing speed and acceleration and this can lead to easy completions underneath. There's an example of this below, followed by a play where he anticipates the route of the receiver incorrectly and ends up losing his balance and giving up an easy touchdown (which the receiver drops).
Burris is a very physical player and was employed a lot in press coverage. He makes optimum use of the five-yard rule for contact beyond the line of scrimmage, but does play on the edge sometimes with this and his downfield hand-fighting. That could lead him to get flagged more than he did in college (six times last year, with four pass interference calls).
Burris plays up on the receiver on these two plays, giving up a quick slant for a first down while in pretty good position and then seeing the deep pass overthrown and incomplete. On that second play, he slows down the receiver within the first five yards and appears to be right with him until he sees the ball is overthrown. Would a perfect pass have been a touchdown, though?
While Burris would seem to match up well with bigger receivers, in his matchup with 6'5" Darren Waller of Georgia Tech in 2014, he gave up a 16-yard first down on a play where he was in good position but Waller was able to go up over him for the catch.
Other than slowing the receiver up with the jam at the line of scrimmage, one of the best skills Burris has is to cut off the receiver's route, using the sideline to his advantage, anticipating to get in front and using his size to maintain his position.
He did that to earn his only interception of last season, just about managing to avoid getting flagged as there was a lot of contact before the receiver slipped over:
When running downfield with receivers, Burris usually does a good job of getting his head turned around and locating the ball. However, he never managed to come close to matching the pass break-up numbers he put up in his first season. I'm sure that was at least partly due to the fact he was targeted more often as teams went after the freshman back-up corner.
As you can see from the above gif, he made a nice juggling catch and kept his feet inbounds. However, he has dropped a few interceptions over the course of his college career, which is disappointing because he played some receiver in high school. His other interceptions included one he snagged off a deflection, one as he jumped a route to pick off EJ Manuel, and one where he ran stride-for-stride with the receiver on a deep ball, got his head turned early and went up to get it in front of the receiver. All three of those were caught cleanly.
Here he closes well on a short catch and makes a good hit just short of the marker but doesn't manage to make a play on the ball:
Burris is regarded as a good run defender, but since he plays on the outside, he isn't involved in run support that much.
In an interesting example of some of the conflicting scouting reports you can get once you get past the well-known prospects, Nolan Nawrocki states that Burris could serve to be more aggressive in backside run support while PFF says he has a tendency to be over-aggressive and can lose backside contain.
On this play, he comes up in run support displaying willingness to make the stop, although he does get trucked backwards a couple of yards.
Burris is regarded as a good tackler that can lay some big hits in the secondary. He also became more of a secure tackler in 2015, more than halving his missed tackle total to just three.
He still had this bad missed tackle in the game against North Carolina, as well as another bad one against Devon Cajuste in the Shrine Game that led to a 22-yard play:
Burris also had a bad missed tackle in the flat that led to a 40-yard play in the game against FSU in 2014 and then, perhaps still down on himself for that, was slow to react to the receiver breaking to the outside, giving up a 15-yard touchdown two plays later.
He did close well to make a solid open field tackle on this play, forcing a field goal attempt that came up short.
Burris did not do much pass rushing in college, blitzing just 10 times over the past two years and recording one pressure. He had zero sacks in his college career.
While he would sometimes drop deep at the snap, Burris was primarily employed in man coverage, so he was able to concentrate on his role and not worry too much about breakdowns between man and zone defense. With that said, sometimes he would be too preoccupied with his man coverage assignment. That's on display below, where he realized too late that the run was coming his way and found himself blocked out of the play down the field.
Burris does have a tendency to gamble at times, including in the Shrine Game, where he bit on a pump fake into the flat in zone coverage, letting a tight end in behind him for a touchdown.
Burris has been praised for his work ethic and aggressive attitude. He matured over the course of his career and was considered a leader in his senior year. Apparently, he impressed the Jets with his knowledge about their scheme and depth chart when they interviewed him.
On the field, he's constantly battling with his man and often gets involved in chippiness after the whistle. In one game, he was punched in the face, drawing an ejection.
There were also some plays where it seemed like he went through the motions when a play went away from him and then wasn't in position when it ended up breaking back to his side of the field.
Burris didn't contribute much on special teams in college. He did have one special teams penalty last season and saw some action in a vice role. He also saw some duties as a return man in high school.
Burris played in every game over the course of his career and managed to remain injury free.
Burris is an interesting prospect who showed some nice things on film and played with a level of consistency that no doubt enhanced his reputation throughout most of 2015.
It's disconcerting that Burris had some struggles over his last two games of the year. Heading into the last game of the regular season against North Carolina he had posted coverage numbers that were elite compared to the rest of this year's class. He was in first place in terms of yards per coverage snap, the top five for coverage snaps per reception, and QB rating when targeted and the top 10 for overall grade per PFF. Also, as noted earlier, he hadn't given up a 30-yard pass play or a touchdown.
Unfortunately, he had a really poor game against North Carolina, as his team fell behind 35-7 in the first quarter and eventually lost, 45-34. While he had a better game in the Belk Bowl, he still gave up a big pass play and a touchdown, which he'd managed to avoid for so long earlier in the year.
I assume the Jets were encouraged by the consistency of his performances and film from the rest of the season and happy to write the Tar Heels game off as a bad day at the office with any of the mistakes he made being considered either uncharacteristic or fixable. Alternatively, perhaps they learned he was playing hurt or something of that nature.
The Jets obviously really liked Burris to take him a couple of rounds earlier than most expected, but I do wonder whether his skill set would be better suited for him to become more of a role player than a full-time starter. That doesn't mean it is destined to be a bad pick, though. After all, if Burris matches up well with a type of player others on the team are not physical enough to handle, that could make him a valuable piece going forward.
Up next: A look at the Jets' fifth round pick, offensive tackle Brandon Shell from South Carolina. Is he a potential future starter?