Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 186 pounds
School: USC Trojans
Deontay Burnett 2018 NFL Draft Profile
Lightly recruited out of high school, Deontay Burnett initially committed to Washington State. But the product of Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, CA had a change of heart and decided to stay close to home by choosing USC. The Trojans were not among the schools who offered him a scholarship which ended up playing in his favor. It enabled him to “blueshirt” as a true freshman. According to Burnett’s profile on the USC Athletics website, this process “allows a non-recruited student-athlete to receive athletic financial aid after beginning practice and have that student-athlete count towards the next year’s signing class if the school has reached its NCAA-maximum aid limit for the current year.”
Burnett had a rather muted impact during his maiden year with the Trojans. Though he appeared in 12 of 14 games, he caught passes in just six of them and finished with 10 receptions for 161 yards. His sophomore campaign was when Burnett caught fire and began to catch the eye of evaluators at the next level. That much was apparent in what became an epic Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State. Burnett finished with 164 receiving yards and three touchdown catches in the Trojans’ 52-49 win. It included a 27-yard catch for a score which tied the game at 49 with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter.
As a sophomore, Burnett largely played second fiddle in the Trojans’ receiving corps to JuJu Smith-Schuster. That all changed in 2017. With Smith-Schuster off to the NFL, Burnett became Sam Darnold‘s favorite target. His 86 receptions, 1,114 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns all led the team with his catch total finishing tops in the Pac-12. And he finished the season as one of 22 FBS receivers with five or more games of 100+ yards receiving. For his efforts, Burnett received second-team all-Pac-12 recognition.
- sure-handed and confident as a pass-catcher;
- has the courage to haul in catches when he knows a hit’s coming;
- good vision post-catch with the ability to elude in space and move the chains;
- kicks it into an extra gear to beat linebackers after the catch on underneath routes;
- finds and exploits windows in zone coverage;
- plus over the shoulder ball-tracking skills;
- makes timely moves late in the route to get open downfield;
- possesses the hand-eye coordination to bring in the one-handed highlight-reel grabs;
- production improved during all three of his seasons in college.
- lacks ideal height and is a bit thinly built;
- needs a little more polish and sharpness to his route-running;
- might not have the play strength to consistently separate from physical press corners;
- not aggressive enough fighting for contested balls;
- doesn’t do a good enough job getting corners to bite with change of pace moves;
- too often gets separated from the ball in 50-50 situations;
- might be limited to possession receiver/slot role at the next level;
- willing blocker but could be more effective.
NFL Comparison: Dede Westbrook
Projection: Early day three selection
What makes Burnett a tantalizing prospect for next level evaluators is his ability to catch virtually everything thrown his way. He also proved he can make circus grabs while also eluding tacklers after the catch. But what elicits concern is the fact he’s undersized and doesn’t create enough separation downfield with his route-running. Being able to win in contested situations also proved a challenge. Putting it all together, Burnett’s most likely fit is in the slot as a possession receiver in a pass-happy offense.