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To get to know Detroit Lions fifth-round pick Michael Burton, a fullback from Rutgers, I sent five questions to Timothy Wentz from On the Banks, SB Nation's Scarlet Knights blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Burton:
1. How did Burton perform as a run blocker at Rutgers?
Burton has great awareness and gives good effort as a run blocker. He may be a bit undersized for an NFL fullback, but he possesses the technique, smarts and toughness to make up for his size disadvantage. This is a good fit for Burton, because Detroit is a pass-heavy team and will not ask him to be an every-down run blocker in a power-running scheme. In a system like that, he could struggle due to his size and strength limitations. With Detroit, he should be very effective when used sporadically as a run blocker, especially on off-tackle runs that allow to him to get out in space.
2. The Lions are seemingly quite high on Burton's abilities as a receiver out of the backfield. How would you evaluate his skills in that department?
Burton's pass-catching skills are really what stand out when you watch him play. He's got soft hands. He shows quickness in and out of his cuts. And he has body control, which allows him to make in-air adjustments on off-target passes. He is similar to former Rutgers back Brian Leonard in that he also possesses the quickness and agility to be dangerous after the catch as well.
3. Looking at the numbers -- 22 carries for 116 yards over four years -- Burton didn't get a chance to run the ball very often in college. Was this because Burton wasn't an effective runner, or did Rutgers' offense just not call for many fullback runs?
Rutgers had a solid stable of running backs during Burton's tenure with the team. Jawan Jamison was very productive in 2011 and 2012, Burton's first two years with the team. Paul James has 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons. So, Burton was not asked to do much as a ball carrier. However, when called upon, Burton was useful in short-yardage scenarios.
4. Much has been made about Burton's path to Rutgers as a walk-on and his overall character. What kind of player are the Lions getting off the field?
Burton is your typical lunch-pail guy. He's hard-working, smart, tough, humble. This year, the team honored him with the Paul Robeson Award, which is given to the player who best displays leadership and dedication on and off the field. In the classroom, he's earned numerous academic accolades throughout his career. Burton will fit perfectly in an NFL locker room, because he's hard-working and has that itch to always get better.
5. What one play from Burton's career at Rutgers best exemplifies his abilities as a fullback?
This is just your run-of-the-mill play-action pass to the fullback, but Burton does everything well to make the play work. He fakes his block to draw in the defense, but then has the quickness to get out in open space, despite a corner and safety closing in on him. His speed and quickness are certainly underrated, and because of it, he creates a lot of mismatches and forces defenses to always account for where he is on the field.