NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2021. This is the seventh in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout the offseason.
The 2021 NFL Draft saw another bushel of wide receivers fly off the board in short order, with 10 selected in the first 60 picks. The highly decorated group, which includes the first Heisman Trophy-winning wideout in nearly three decades, brings speed, pristine route-running and YAC ability. But one thing the WR Class of 2021 lacks? Size. Of those first 10 receivers selected, half are shorter than 5-foot-10, and just one -- Terrace Marshall Jr., the 10th wideout taken -- clears 6-1. Consequently, big-bodied Arkansas WR Treylon Burks is something of a sight for sore eyes in the scouting community.
A physical presence with a filled-out frame and enormous hands, Burks has led Arkansas in receiving yards during each of his first two years on campus. While he's been utilized in just about every conceivable manner for the Razorbacks -- receiving, rushing, returning and even some wildcat quarterbacking -- Burks has primarily lined up in the slot. While his imposing stature does come into play on deep balls, it's most noticeable on catch-and-run plays. Having averaged a healthy 7.6 yards after the catch in 2020 (per Pro Football Focus), the 21-year-old is a load to tackle.
After watching three of Burks' game tapes against top competition in 2020, I offer my initial scouting report on the Hogs' star wide receiver:
Height, weight: 6-foot-3, 225 pounds (school measurements).
2020 statistics (9 games played): 51 catches for 820 yards (16.1 average), 7 TDs; 15 carries for 75 yards (5.0 average).
Game tape watched: vs. Georgia (Sept. 26, 2020), vs. Ole Miss (Oct. 17, 2020), vs. LSU (Nov. 21, 2020).
What I liked: Burks is a smooth athlete with outstanding size and strength. His role in this offense places him primarily in the slot, with a few backfield reps mixed into each game I viewed. He hauls in a lot of quick-hitters (swings, bubbles and slants), which highlight his best attribute: run after catch. He powers through tacklers consistently and is sneaky-elusive, as well. He has the ability to get vertical from the slot and tracks the ball very well over the shoulder (SEE: this special one-handed TD grab vs. Ole Miss).
Where he needs to improve: Burks has good-not-great speed. He doesn't generate a ton of separation down the field, but he tracks the ball naturally and can win in a crowd. I'd like to see him run a wider variety of routes, but that's not his role in this system. He flashes the ability to quickly get in and out of the break point when asked to do so. Hopefully, he will get some more opportunities to play outside in the upcoming season.
Biggest takeaway: Burks would be a fun player to utilize for a creative offensive play-caller. He can play a role similar to what Deebo Samuel does for the San Francisco 49ers, generating big plays on simple jet sweeps, toss sweeps or reverses. It's a luxury when you can call plays with limited risk and tremendous reward. I also love the fact that he's playing against the best cornerbacks in college football on a weekly basis. The SEC is loaded with talent in the secondary, and these defenders aren't afraid to get physical and challenge opposing wideouts. That will make his evaluation easier and it will prepare him for the next level.
He reminds me of: A.J. Brown. I remember watching Brown torch the SEC from the slot. Brown is a little more explosive than Burks, but both guys play with tremendous physicality and toughness. They aren't afraid to work in traffic and they become special once the ball is in their hands. Brown has already established himself as a premier player at his position in the NFL. I don't believe Burks has quite the same upside, but I see him developing into a solid No. 2 target at the next level.
I can't wait to watch him play: at LSU on Nov. 13. The Tigers return one of the most talented secondaries in the country, led by cornerbacks Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks. This will be the first tape NFL evaluators pop on while doing their homework on Burks. I can't wait to see how the physical wideout performs in this rivalry bout!