The curious fantasy case of Aaron Burbridge

Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Michigan State wide receiver Aaron Burbridge.

Aaron Burbridge is going to be a very interesting prospect headed into the draft. He was a highly-decorated recruit as a high school senior, but he never seemed to be able to live up to his promise. Like he was a real-life version of Jamie O'Hara from "Rudy."

Yes, that was the character played by Vince Vaughn. Go watch "Rudy" again, that's Vince Vaughn. A very young, fresh-faced Vince Vaughn. And here's a fun fact you might or might not be aware of: Jon Favreau and Vaughn met on the set of "Rudy" and then went on to create "Swingers," which was a pretty amazing movie during its day. But I feel like it's aged a little bit. I mean, I love the old footage of the Fremont Hotel and Casino (which is supposed to be the Stardust, but the purple felt on the blackjack table gives it away). And if you know anything about me, the Paradise Buffet is one of my favorite hangs in the world. Just read my Yelp reviews. And yes, it is the place in the movie where the waitress says to Mikey, "Hang on, Voltaire" after he besmirches her character and education. Great scene. (Let this be a lesson to you to not dismiss the wait staff.)

But going back to Rudy and the character of O'Hara, it's a fictional player. I thought it was a real-life person because that kind of stuff happens all the time, but they wrote it for the movie. Which is too bad. Because when Ara Parseghian kicks O'Hara off the third team and tells him to move to the practice squad, I would well up and my eyes would get all glassy like a little kid with a skinned knee. It spoke to me. Mostly because I'm a huge slacker who has never quite lived up to his ability. I also lived on the practice squad. Bench buddies for life!

It does show, however, that sometimes even the most decorated recruits can fail to reach their potential. And I thought that was going to happen with Burbridge. But he caught fire during his senior season, became the go-to guy for Connor Cook and started to make believers of everybody all over again. I mean seriously. Cook would only look to Burbridge after he ignored him all of 2014 in favor of Tony Lippett.

I'm just kind of dubious of Burbridge's monster year. You should always be wary of the guy who is able to flounder for a while and then puts up a superstar-like season. Kevin White did that two years ago. And I know it's not the best example seeing that White was injured for all of last season, but you really need to be mindful of such things. Those one-year wonder guys should draw a bunch of red flags. They are similar to the combine workout warriors.

2016 NFL DRAFT

Draft coverage:

The optimist in you probably hopes that Burbridge is a case of a player finding himself and fulfilling his promise. And maybe he does. But before we speculate on that further, let's take a look at what the tape says.

Full 2016 "Prospect a Day" list

Burbridge's NFL.com draft profile

Strengths


     » Reliable hands
     » Gets off the line well
     » Impressive work ethic

Burbridge has pretty good hands. He's not passive on those 50-50 balls, as he's not afraid to go up and make the catch. That's the most annoying thing to me, when you have a player who doesn't want make a bid for the ball. He's not the biggest guy, but he's not going to get lost in the crowd. He also has the ability to get in a good position to make the catch. As in, he shields his body properly to make the catch.

Burbridge looks pretty good off the line, too. His speed is decent. Not as bad as his combine numbers indicated, as he was able to put up better scores at his team's pro day.

He also puts in a lot of work. The chemistry with Cook is impeccable. There were a lot of throws where you can see that Cook had the utmost confidence in Burbridge and really trusted him to be in the right spot. He scored a touchdown in the Senior Bowl, which is great. But remember, this is the Senior Bowl. He's had four years of instruction at this point. A lot of high-named prospects don't even get invited to the Senior Bowl. But it did show that he is dedicated. So I will still give him this as a lukewarm strength.

Weaknesses


     » Lacks prototypical size
     » Lacks top end speed
     » Might have to change positions

He's not exceptionally tall. So while he was able to bully college cornerbacks, it's going to be interesting to see if he's going to be able to do the same at the NFL level.

His best position in the NFL might be in the slot. He doesn't have the breakaway speed a lot of slot receivers do. But he does have the nuance to make himself very useful at the position, though he might have a little bit of a learning curve to fight through.

He showed that he is dedicated in college. But still, it took him three years to finally achieve the level of success expected of him when he first walked in the door. Is he going to get that kind of time at the NFL level to develop a relationship with the quarterback? He's going to need to make an impact relatively quickly and I'm not sure if that's going to be possible.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits


     » Dallas Cowboys
     » New Orleans Saints
     » New England Patriots
     » Cincinnati Bengals
     » Pittsburgh Steelers

Burbridge is not going to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. And if he's asked to be in that role this season, well, that team is going to be in trouble. So watch him get drafted by Cleveland or something. I would like to see him in a situation like Dallas, where you can pick up some of the looks that are left out there because of a guy like Dez Bryant.

The New Orleans Saints would be a pretty fun spot for him. Obviously Brandin Cooks is already there stretching the defenses and generally being awesome. But I could see Burbridge fitting in with that team and putting up some solid production for like three weeks and then never being heard from again. Only to have a prolific game, followed by a disappearing act. And then have a monster game towards the end of the season which makes you believe he's on the verge of a breakout. Until he does the exact same thing the following year. That would happen for like six consecutive years.

I'm sure if you read through all of my receiver profiles, I've fantasy booked every receiver to New England. Just because the Patriots do such a good job of taking players like this and using their strengths to their advantage.

The Bengals would also be a nice fit because they need somebody to complement A.J. Green. Oh dude, what about the Steelers? They could probably use a nice complement out there. And anybody playing opposite of Antonio Brown is going to get some open looks. This seems like kind of a Steelers pick.

Early fantasy draft projection

I find it hard to imagine a scenario where Burbridge has a huge fantasy impact. Obviously, he could contribute to "That Helps No One" and I already have the "burned the bridge" joke in the queue, ready to go. But he's not going to be much value to you, outside of DFS.

When I see him play, I see him as that guy who will end up scoring an important touchdown for a good team, but he won't be a superstar. Let's say he's drafted by the Patriots. I could see him catching the first touchdown of the game and everybody will be kicking themselves because they thought it was going to be Julian Edelman or something. And then he'll be a guy you see on NFL Films a decade from now, and you end up saying, "Oh yeah, I forgot that he caught that touchdown. Hey, is that guy still playing the in league?" He's that type of guy.

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