Format for the Rookie WR Review:
Pre-Draft Recap: Run through my scouting evaluation
NFL Film Breakdown: View how the athlete performs against NFL competition
Post-Rookie Re-Grade: Use Film Grading to calculate the trajectory of his NFL career
Treylon Burks is the ultimate test for the Film Grading system. Both he and Christian Watson graded highly in terms of Athletic Versatility and poorly in Skill Refinement. Their success/failure will go a long way in helping me establish how much each of those categories need to be weighed.
Burks is the most raw player I've graded. He showcased zero strategic ability at Arkansas and won every play with athleticism and good game planning. The Arkansas OC frequently protected him from contact at the line and moved him all over the formation to avoid as much traffic as possible.
Treylon Burks' pre-draft Film Grade was bolstered by the expectation that his physical playstyle would translate to the NFL. He scored highly due to excellent ball skills and his ability to win over the top.
That 80+ grade appeared to be useful. The NFL agreed with me and decided he was worth a first round pick despite a disappointing combine performance. Burks had my 6th best Film Grade in the class. He finished 10th in PPG at 8.2 and is now typically ranked as WR5/6 (from the 2022 class) by most Dynasty sites.
Let's start with the good. Treylon's ball skills & toughness certainly translated. While he didn't earn a ton of volume, he did showcase the ability to high point the ball downfield and win in traffic. This was the best of his rookie year. Slipped inside on the post and held on to a touchdown despite getting absolutely rocked - left the game concussed, but my man held on to that ball.
Treylon also made a huge step by adding one simple element to his route running strategy. He figured out how to use Aiming Points. If he was the exact same guy as he was in college, I'd be telling you to launch the escape pods. But this single upgrade indicates some legitimate hope. Some players don't look any different than they did during the scouting phase - Nico Collins, Terrace Marshall, N'Keal Harry - and it kills the upside of their "athleticism." If Burks can take one step forward, he might be able to take another.
There were plenty of instances of improved aiming point work. Watch how he attacks outside the defender's frame before cutting up inside. That's new! And it's reliably useful!
Here he sells the outside vertical and gets Trevon Diggs to initiate outside momentum. Needs to catch the ball, but he actually ran a good route.
Look at this guy, he's some sort of route running ninja! Genuine positive flashes on posts and digs.
That's where the good news ends though. Some receivers learn things categorically. They figure out how to run one route at a time. That may be the case with Burks and he just has to learn how to succeed with other routes. But the main theme with all the good plays above is that he had plenty of space to work. Almost every defender was in zone coverage and gave him 7+ yards of cushion.
When Burks does not have that space, he struggles. Miserably.
Here, he's set to run a deep out toward the goal line against a defender holding outside leverage. He's dead before the snap. Simple positioning rules him out. He has no answer for a defender that lines up where he wants to go. He doesn't offer a release to shake the DB out of position. He doesn't make an attempt to win over the top or force his way outside. He just helplessly leans into the defender.
More of the same here, but this time the defender is not in his way! Burks has an in-breaking route and the DB is outside leverage. This should be a clean win off an outside jab - inside rip. Burks haplessly pushes outside. He has no plan of attack. Every release is just a guessing game.
At this point, if he can't win with physicality, he's not going to win.
When it comes to engaging contact, Burks still doesn't know how to move defenders off balance and create space for himself. He just runs his route and hopes it works out. When the OC calls an iso-whip route to the backside X in the redzone, he's expecting a straightforward timing win. It's a dream play call for a good WR. Burks simply lets the cornerback ride him. If you can't reliably dial up isolation routes, he's not your best receiver. Find a mismatch with the tight end or create a pick play somewhere, but Burks is not trustworthy on an island.
When I asked you to watch Treylon vs. Dallas, this is what I was referring to. Dallas has a fairly deep and versatile DB group and you got to see all of his strengths and all of his weaknesses in one game.