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Feel the Burns: Carolina Panthers take Florida State star in first round
Explosive edge rusher goes 16th overall
Published Thursday, April 25, 2019 11:33 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

The Carolina Panthers took Florida State defensive end Brian Burns (99) 16th overall in the first round of Thursday's NFL draft.

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Defense reigned supreme halfway through the NFL draft’s first round.

The Carolina Panthers picked Florida State defensive end Brian Burns with the 16th pick overall, making defensive linemen half of the players selected to that point. Carolina knew they would take Burns when Washington took Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins at No. 15.

“For every pick, we have a plan,” said general manager Marty Hurney, who noted that around the 12th pick they knew which direction they wanted to go.

A junior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Burns stands 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds and caught the Panthers’ attention as an explosive defender.

“We’ve got a guy who has elite athletic ability,” Hurney said. “He’s got length. He’s got speed. He’s got elite change of direction. He makes plays rushing the passer, and that was one of the needs that we wanted to address. There were times coming into this process I didn’t think he’d be there, but he was.”

Coach Ron Rivera emphasized Burns’ speed off the ball. He also noted his ability impact to the pass rush, which fits the defensive direction the Panthers want to pursue with the ability to drop into coverage in a pass-oriented league.

“He flashes,” Rivera said. “He constantly flashes. He’s good for at least 1 1/2 whether it’s 1 1/2 sacks [or] caused fumbles, where he is involved in it. When a guy has a number like that, you know you’re going to get an impact at some point during the game from his skillset and his ability. I think it’s going to translate very well into the league.”

Burns played in 38 games at Florida State, starting 25. Last season, he started all 12 games, finishing with 52 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, eight quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery. His sack celebration Burns a nickname—Spider-Man.

“I always loved Spider-Man as a kid,” Burns said. “I just took it to another level with my sack celebration.”

Burns isn’t a finished product, Rivera cautioned. He’ll need some bulk and break a habit of occasionally diverting his attention away from the player opposite him.

“The first thing I will tell him is that you have to make sure you defeated the blocker before you try to locate the ball,” Rivera said. “Every now and then, he’ll get a little tall when he plays. He starts looking back there, trying to pick up where the ball is. Focus on the guy who is attacking you. Finish him off, and then go make the play.”

Aside from that, Rivera likes that getting to the ball is a priority for Burns.

“He wants to get there,” Rivera said. “He wants to make a play. He’s one of those guys, in my opinion, he wants them to run in his direction. He excites you because of that skillset.”

Drafting young blood makes sense with an older defensive line, particularly on the heels of Julius Peppers’ retirement after 17 seasons, two of which were with Burns’ older brother Stanley McClover, a defensive end whom Carolina drafted in the seventh round in 2006.

“It’s really mind-blowing, and my brother played


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