When Ben Burr-Kirven, then a 6-0, 200 lb. linebacker from Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton, Calif., committed to the Huskies in September 2014, virtually all of Husky Nation asked themselves the same question: “Who?” Burr-Kirven, after all, was a little-discussed prospect among even devoted recruitniks, despite holding offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Boise State. Just check out the comments on our article following his commitment; our readers are a notoriously glass-half-full bunch when it comes to recruits, and a sizeable contingent of even them weren’t sold on his ability to play at a high level in the Pac-12.
After recording an FBS-leading 176 tackles in 2018 as a fourth-year senior, though, it seems fair to say that across the Pac-12, Ben Burr-Kirven has become a household name. An even larger audience will become familiar with him when he is likely selected later this week at the NFL Draft in Nashville, Tenn.
There’s no sense in arguing that Burr-Kirven (6-0, 230 lbs., 31 7/8” arms, 8 7/8” hands) isn’t at least a bit undersized compared to the prototypical NFL linebacker. On the other hand, there’s equally no sense in arguing that he doesn’t have a nose for the football, as evidenced by his 338 career tackles, including a torrid pace of 12.6 tackles per game in 2018. Simply put, Burr-Kirven is a tremendously smart football player with a knack for reading plays and positioning himself in the best possible location within the field to maximize his impact on the game.
NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein describes Burr-Kirven as a prospect who “plays the game with [the] fatigue setting turned off,” and possesses “outstanding instincts, football IQ and focus get him to the action.” However, he also notes that his “short arms show up with ‘just miss’ tackle dives,” and that a “low percentage of [his tackles occur on the] opponent’s side of the ball.” I don’t take issue with any of those points, as it seems to me that they each track fairly well with our experience of watching him in Seattle. I do think, however, that we should give a greater recognition specifically to his voracious appetite for studying the game. That habit is demonstrated most clearly through his on-field production: After all, no linebacker prospect of (at best) average height and weight transforms himself into the nation’s most omnipresent tackler without demonstrating a deep understanding of scheme and mechanics, and a commitment to studying his own and his opponents’ techniques in microscopic detail.
The results of Burr-Kirven’s workouts at the 2019 NFL Combine follow:
- 40-yard dash: 4.56-seconds (sixth among linebackers);
- Bench press: 21 reps (13th);
- Vertical jump: 34.5 inches (11th);
- Broad jump: 121.0 inches (11th);
- Three-cone drill: 6.85 seconds (first);
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.09 seconds (third); and
- 60-yard shuttle: 11.43 seconds (first).
Despite his undeniably impressive production as a senior, Burr-Kirven’s 6-0 frame will almost certainly conspire to delay his selection until day three of the draft. If he falls through the draft entirely, however, he’s almost assuredly going to be one of the first prospects that the NFL’s general managers reach out to as an undrafted free agent. At any rate, it would be a huge shock for him not to be included on a roster this summer, even if it’s in the role he’s always seemed to play: that of the underdog, fighting for his chance to shine.