Panthers fell in love with Burns

There’s a funny thing about the mock drafts. They’re all in good fun: 90 percent of the picks will be wrong.

But it’s also fun to read the tea leaves. Although it was far from a consensus, the Carolina Panthers were a popular destination for Brian Burns.

“There were times in this process when I didn’t think he’d be there, but he was and we’re thrilled to have him,” Panthers GM Marty Hurney said. “This guy has a huge ceiling. He’s got some elite skill-set traits that are hard to find. He needs to develop as he grows and his body matures – he needs to get stronger – but you can’t coach some of the traits he has. The speed. The length. The change of direction.”

As the draft’s first 15 picks unfolded, the Panthers were able to select a player that they hoped would still be on the board and the Carolina war room was excited to make the former Florida State star the No. 16 overall pick on Thursday. The Panthers had worked out Burns in Tallahassee at the March Pro Day and again in a private workout in Charlotte.

It was really no secret that the Panthers needed a pass rusher to complement Mario Addison (nine sacks in 2018) after seeing Julius Peppers retire. Or that coach Ron Rivera had hinted at using multiple defensive fronts, which would seem to indicate a need for a pass rusher in a 3-4 scheme.

How will Burns be used in Carolina? Rivera outlined a number of possibilities.

“You see him not just on the right side. You see him on the left side. You see in the two-point (stance). You see him in the three-point (stance),” Rivera said. “A couple of times you see him back off the ball and drop into coverage.”

Burns, who said he follows Peppers on Instagram, said he had a feeling when he saw the longtime NFL star retire. And it was reinforced by all of the attention the Panthers gave him.

“I’ve seen my name connected to the Panthers a lot,” Burns said. “That means a lot to me.”

Burns is familiar, by family tie, with the Panthers. When the pick was announced on Thursday, Burns was excited. But more emotional in that moment was his brother Stanley McGlover, who was a seventh-round pick by the Panthers in 2006 and spent two seasons with the team.

“You had to be there,” Burns said. “It was almost like he couldn’t breathe.”

The Panthers are hoping that Burns will make sure quarterbacks can’t breathe easy in the pocket. Burns needs to build strength but his athleticism, speed and flexibility are valuable in Carolina. And Burns’ work ethic is attractive.

“I’m hungry for knowledge. I want to learn. I want to be coached, I want to be coachable,” Burns said. “But I want to be great, and I’m ready to get going and get this work in.”