Raiders Draft: Amari Burney

Grading 2023 Raiders Draft Class: Amari Burney – A Classic Flier Pick Or More To It?

Day 3 of the NFL Draft is where teams are trying to unearth diamonds in the rough. It’s also the portion where squads are mining for high upside and core special teamers. Which one will Amari Burney be for the Las Vegas Raiders? The sixth-round pick (203rd overall) has the makings of a classic flier pick. But can he perhaps be even more?

Let’s dive in.

At 6-foot-1 and 233 pounds, Burney comes to the NFL with a 4.50 timed speed (even faster depending on whose timer you believe at the Florida Pro Day). He’s a safety-turned-linebacker who brings fluid athleticism inside the box, and it’s that defensive back background that gives Burney the ability to turn and run to cover receiving options.

Whether this is a commendation for Burney or a condemnation of the Florida Gators defense—you decide—the linebacker led the team with two interceptions in 2022. Burney was every bit a disruptive presence on Florida’s defense this past season, his first as a full-time starter at weakside linebacker. He racked up 79 total tackles (nine stops for loss), four sacks, two forced fumbles, six passes broken up, and a pair of picks. That’s the ball disruption Las Vegas so desperately seeks, and general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels spoke constantly about it before and after the draft.

Burney is an aggressive, athletic, and productive defender who has speed to burn, hence why he’s a classic flier late-round pick.

That’s the upside portion.

The Raiders speak highly of Burney’s ability to continue his progression as a linebacker on the pro level, and why not? He’s a sixth-rounder who, at worst, doesn’t make the roster. With the overall lack of depth and competition at the linebacker spot, along with a need for younger talent on special teams, Burney is afforded a solid opportunity to earn a roster spot.

But can Las Vegas afford to wait for the former Gator to develop into a contributor? Unless the team adds more competition at the linebacker spot (a position group that has seven on the 90-man roster limit), the Raiders have no choice.

Who are the most logical options for the Raiders?

In terms of linebackers with coverage ability, Divine Deablo (another safety-turned-linebacker) and Burney remain the most logical options.

It seemed the Raiders needed a thumper of a linebacker to replace the departed Denzel Perryman, and TCU’s Dee Winters (taken by the San Francisco 49ers with the 216th pick in the sixth round) fit that profile better as a maniacal tackling machine.

Still, the ability to run with skill-position players in man coverage is quite appealing, and the Raiders don’t have enough of that type on the roster. Even with man-to-man linebackers disappearing from the NFL landscape and zone coverage being more en vogue from linebackers, Burney still holds value.

Potential is an awesome thing. But realizing it is a different beast entirely. Are the Raiders the team to get it all out of Burney? That’s why the grade is middling. “Perhaps” is befitting of the C+.

Grade: C+

*Top Photo: Getty Images

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