What did they have to lose when the Bengals decided to sign one-time linebacker sensation Vontaze Burfict as an undrafted free agent? The answer was nothing, but we had no way of knowing what they had to gain, which has been everything.
Burfict has done nothing but impress since he took over the SAM position for the injured Thomas Howard. Now, after an impressive 10-tackle game against the Eagles in Philadelphia, Burfict is the team's leading tackler, surpassing the defensive captain, Ray Maualuga, with 139 tackles.
This is the ninth game this season that Burfict has posted double-digit tackles and according to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, he's just getting more comfortable.
From The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy:
"I think he's getting more comfortable," Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. "He's had some tough assignments in the last six weeks."
"I think he just likes playing football," Zimmer said. "The good thing about him is when he makes a mistake, he can say, ‘Hey that was me. I messed up.' A lot of times guys don't know when they messed up. So that's impressive for a young guy."
Burfict's best game so far this season was a 16-tackle game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Considering this game is basically an elimination game for both the Steelers and the Bengals (not technically for the Bengals, but they would need help if they lost), another big game against the Bengals rival is going to be needed.
When you look back at the draft, knowing how Burfict was going to turn out, what round would he have been worth giving up a pick for? Third? Second? First?
With 139 tackles in his rookie season, it's hard to think the Bengals could have gone wrong if they selected him in any round. As it turned out, though, Burfict will be considered one of the biggest steals in the draft.