We all know the big names. The Antoine Winfields. The Matt Kalils. The Adrian Petersons. Those taken in the 1st round of the NFL Draft, the 10-year vets or those mugshots of players being arrested on a weekly basis. However, not many know the no-names, the bench warmers, guys on “the bubble,” or practice squad victims. In this week’s column, we highlight a player relatively unknown to most Vikings fans (until recently it seems) and investigate if he has a legitimate shot at contributing to this year’s team or if he’s going to be riding the coat tails of the practice squad.
So… What makes Stephen Burton so special?
The media has been building up this second year wide receivers improvement online over the last few weeks. The word is, Burton is someone who is expected to have quite an impact on this year’s squad. I know I’ve been one to buy into the recent pre-camp hype, as I’m sure you many of you have as well.
“Stephen Burton primed for breakout year with Vikings”~Rant Sports
“Relaxed Stephen Burton opening eyes in Vikings workouts” ~1500 ESPN
“Vikings’ Burton making leaps in 2nd year” ~FSN North
As little information/videos/anything as there is on this kid, I’m left to assume what has made Burton stand out to the local media. So instead, I’m looking into Burton’s past to determine what his future might be. Let’s go back to where it all started, shall we?
With the 236th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select Stephen Burton – West Texas A&M.
4.53 40 yd dash
6’1 – 221 lbs
In 2011, Burton recorded 70 receptions for 1,021 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He also registered three 100-receiving yard games. Burton was also known for his return ability, averaging 23.9 yards per return on 23 kick attempts in 2010.
Notable 7th Round WRs:
1999 – Donald Driver
2001 – TJ Houshmandzadeh
2006 – Marques Colston
It wasn’t assumed that Stephen would contribute much last year. The fact that he made the team and was activated to the 53 man roster for 3 games last year, was more than one would expect out of a 7th round selection in his first year.
Burton recorded 2 receptions last year in one game, for a total of 38 yards. From the footage I’ve seen, Burton isn’t overly quick. However, he has shifty feet and can make a man miss. There were a few catches in his West Texas A&M days, where he wasn’t able to be wrapped up on the first hit. I also noticed that it takes a lot to take him down. Indicating that he has an immense amount of lower body strength. My thoughts of this were confirmed when I saw one of Burton’s training videos, in which I saw the size of his calf muscles. Although Burton isn’t the most dynamic jumper, he plays “bigger” than he is. There was no indication that he was shy of contact. Even in blocking, he is willing to put his entire body on the line. I recall one block during a running play for West Texas A&M, where Stephen drove his guy literally off the field. One knock on Burton coming out of college was his unreliable hands. And although I can’t comment too much on that area. I can say, that in the minimal number of video clips available, he was able to make a smooth catch in full stride.
Nothing is gauranteed for a player drafted in the 7th round. However, with this young core of wide receivers and a disgruntled Percy Harvin, Burton should have every opportunity to carve a role for himself in this offense. Especially with the coaching staff jumping on the youth movement and possibly cutting veteren players. From the little I have learned, watched and observed of Stephen Burton, I have come to the understanding that he has the attitude and basic abilities to be a solid receiver in the NFL. There is nothing flashy about his play, rather he is ready to catch the ball, take a hit and gain extra yards the hard way. He isn’t going to be a receiver that gets a huge amount of separation or makes a spectacular play. But, he will be a workhorse and a reliable option for the young Christian Ponder. If he can find time over Greg Childs and Jarius Wright that is.
Another interesting note about Burton: He’s been posting to Facebook/Twitter pretty regularly since being drafted by the Vikings. Reading his tweets/posts gives you insight into the life of a young, unproven and hard-working player in the NFL. Seems like the kid has a good head on his shoulders. You can find Stephen Burton at:
And more importantly… you can find me at: @cbrusoewriter