Note: With the NFL draft complete, we'll spend the next six days taking a closer look at six of the Vikings' third-day picks. Here are articles that already appeared on first-round quarterback Christian Ponder, second-round tight end Kyle Rudolph, third-round defensive tackle Christian Ballard and sixth-round defensive back Mistral Raymond. We'll start this series with cornerback Brandon Burton.
Brandon Burton left Utah after his junior season in part because he received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. The decision seemed like solid reasoning on Burton's part, but evidently teams did not share the same feeling about him as the advisory board.
Burton lasted until the fifth round when the Vikings took the cornerback with the 139th selection overall and the eighth choice of the round. The fall might not have thrilled Burton but Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman wasn't complaining.
"We felt Burton was another value pick for us," Spielman said. "He has a lot of cover skills. He can be physical in support. He's fast and a big corner [5-11, 190 pounds] and those are the type of corners we are looking at from a defensive scheme standpoint. So we felt very confident when he was there that was our guy."
The Vikings needed to add depth at cornerback and did so by drafting Burton and Mistral Raymond, a corner and safety who was taken in the sixth round.
"It's not really disappointing," Burton said of dropping in the draft. "I tried to go into this whole process with no big expectations. I just tried to stay humble about everything and getting drafted is an honor. It's a blessing getting drafted by the Vikings."
As for why he fell, Burton did not have an answer. "I really can't put my finger on it," he said. "I'm not exactly sure. You know the draft is crazy and sometimes the results go awry but like I said, I [don't] regret anything about coming out."
Burton, who did not have a private workout with the Vikings but spent time with coach Leslie Frazier at the combine, redshirted in 2007 and ended up starting 25 of 37 games at cornerback in his three seasons at Utah. He finished with three interceptions (two in 2010), 18 pass breakups and 101 tackles. Last season, he earned All-Mountain West conference second-team honors and was a member of the Jim Thorpe award watch list.
Burton also had two blocked kicks, including one on a 42-yard, last-second attempt in the 2010 regular-season finale against Brigham Young that secured a victory for Utah.
"My style as a corner is that I'm technically sound, I like pressing and playing man-to-man," Burton said. "I have very good ball skills, I'm a ball-hawk and I play the ball real well when it's in the air. Some people say I'm a finesse corner, but I like to think I'm a finesse corner and I can get nasty too sometimes."
Burton not only will have a very real chance of making the 53-man roster, he also could figure in the nickel package when Antoine Winfield moves to the inside. The Vikings took cornerback Chris Cook in the second round last year, but then made the mistake of trading Benny Sapp to Miami and found themselves shorthanded when injuries struck.
Cedric Griffin, the starting right corner, is coming off his second ACL tear in as many years; Winfield will turn 34 in June; and Cook had surgery on each knee last season after tearing the meniscus in both. Asher Allen, a 2009 third-round pick, struggled when given a large workload. Veterans Lito Sheppard and Frank Walker aren't expected to return.
Burton said he was glad the Vikings drafted him in part because Utah's defense is similar in that it also used a scheme based on Cover-2 and man-to-man.
The 21-year-old Burton's father was stationed in the army in Germany when he was born in 1989. His father is an engineer and his mother is a doctor. Burton was a track and field standout growing up in Texas and he won the district 200-meter championship as a junior at Clear Creek High School with a time of 21.3 seconds. That enabled him to qualify for the Junior Olympics.
Burton now resides in Houston and admits playing college football at Utah was an interesting adjustment off the field. "The people in Salt Lake City are great," he said. "I love the city, but it was definitely a culture shock going up there. But I made the decision wholeheartedly and I felt like it was the right fit for me so I never regret going to Utah."