When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead in the 6th-round of the 2012 NFL Draft, they drafted a great football player, and an even better man of character and compassion.
I’ll be the first to admit I only watched Burkehead occasionally during his career at Nebraska, and knew he was a solid power-back who could probably be a solid contributor at the NFL level, but that there were arguably better backs on the board when the Bengals selected him. Still, I knew it was a good pick and was glad to begin reading up on him and learning everything I could about the former Cornhusker great.
Of all the scouting reports I’ve read on Burkehead, Billy Bastona had the most in-dept breakdown of Burkehead and what he’ll bring to the Bengals. Here is just a sample of his report:
Burkhead’s biggest overlooked strength is his football knowledge and versatility, which allows him to quickly adapt to the changing flow of the game. Burkhead dealt with many eight and nine man fronts during his college career and through his versatility he was able to quickly adapt by quickly identifying and switching his running style during the game to a one-cut, downhill, power runner. Burkhead has good size for the position, and I am sure with his work ethic he will bulk up some for the NFL, and probably easily weigh in the 220′s, the weight he played at during his senior season. What makes Burkhead unique is clearly his receiver skills, but also that he could thrive in a Mike Shanahan running style offense or still be very effective in the pistol or any other revitalized offense. Burkhead is a versatile player that can help a team in a lot of different ways. Does not have to come off the field on third down due to his pass blocking ability and the fact he has extremely quality receiver hands out of the backfield. Although Burkhead does not possess great 100 yard straight-line speed, he does have very good quickness/short burst and the ability to make defenders miss (direct quote from multiple coaches was Burkhead can make people miss in a phone booth).
Burkhead has a nice combination of patience, and with his cutting ability and short-area burst, he can quickly transitions to a slashing, cut-back runner who finds his way through traffic. Tremendous vision with elite balance and ball skills. Burkhead knows how to set up blockers and defenders, how to use lanes, and when to hit the hole. He is very good at starting with the flow of the play and then utilizing his lateral quickness to cut back against the pursuit to find open running lanes. Tough runner with underrated strength and power who has a tremendous yards after contact (YAC) percentage. Burkhead will attack defenders on inside runs and outside runs when needed which adds to his ability to juke them later in the game. He uses good body lean to run through arm tackles and shows great effort to fight through the trash, always with his eyes down field. Burkhead is capable of bull-rushing unsuspecting defenders and has the agility to make tacklers miss in the open field as well. Burkhead’s Character, Leadership, Work Ethic, and Off-Field qualities are second to none in the 2013 NFL Draft. I had to take a second look at this stat about Burkhead twice, because from the approximate 720 touches Burkhead had during his college career he only had four fumbles, and we all know ball security is a premium in the NFL. Plus, Burkhead is known to be “Crazy athletic” dunking a basketball anyway he wants and at 5’10″ that is impressive.