LINCOLN — There might be a noticeable lack of buzz surrounding Rex Burkhead and his NFL draft status, but Gil Brandt said don't confuse that with any lack of interest in the former Nebraska I-back.
>> Burkhead has the skills to fit just about any offense in the NFL, thus not limiting the pool of potential candidates to pick him.
>> Burkhead brings the kind of toughness, character and work ethic that remove any level of gamble that might go with his selection.
“He'll do everything you want him to do,” said Brandt, the NFL.com analyst and former Dallas Cowboys executive.
Burkhead is the Huskers' top prospect in what will be a lean draft for the program for the third time in six years. In addition to a limited number of draftees, it is expected that Nebraska will be going without a first- or second-round pick for only the seventh time in the last 43 years.
Brandt has Burkhead as a fifth-rounder. Other projections range from the mid to late rounds for the 5-foot-10, 214-pounder.
Brandt thinks that whoever gets him, however, won't be disappointed.
“He's a hard-, hard-trying guy,” he said. “And he's played when he's hurt, and probably played when other guys wouldn't even think about playing. He's a guy who's been an overachiever since he's probably been in the third grade.”
Brandt is based in Dallas and knew of Burkhead as he made a name for himself in nearby Plano. Brandt watched Burkhead play his Texas Class 5A state semifinal game in 2008 before heading to NU.
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“I hope he gets an opportunity to play in the National Football League and does well,” Brandt said. “They'll have a hard time running him off, is the way it's going to be.”
Some see Burkhead as a potential jack-of-all-trades back. Some see that as a knock that he doesn't excel at any one element.
But Brandt said Burkhead showed his athleticism at the NFL Combine with a 39-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot broad jump and a swift and agile run through the 20-yard shuttle (4.09 seconds). After not recording a blazing 40-yard dash at the Combine (4.73 seconds), he came back and lowered that mark into the 4.5s at the NU pro day.
NFL scouts at the Huskers' pro day also had him field some punts and work out as a slot receiver.
“I don't think his skill-set is limited at all,” Brandt said. “He's an extremely versatile player. You can probably line him up as a gunner on special teams. He can do anything.”
Still, the No. 5 all-time rusher in Husker history (3,329 yards, 30 touchdowns) might be in for a wait.
NFLDraftScout.com lists him as the No. 22 running back as the three-day, seven-round draft starts Thursday night. Scott Wright of NFL Draft Countdown places him at No. 20 among backs.
Brandt said good character won't move a player up in the draft as much as bad character will drop one. But he said character is “extremely important” — and Burkhead has plenty of it.
“Just a very, very competitive and well-rounded guy,” Brandt said. “He's the kind of person, in later life, who's going to be extremely successful.”
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