OWINGS MILLS — Arizona State junior middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict grew up idolizing Baltimore Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, trying to embody Lewis’ intimidating style.
"You’ve got to compare yourself to the greatest," Burfict once said. "I compare myself to him."
However, Burfict’s grand ambitions of mirroring the game of the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year appear to be unrealistic. Lewis’ accomplishments, skill and discipline are in heavy contrast to the raw Burfict.
A consensus All-American as a sophomore, Burfict wasn’t even an all-conference selection last season.
Often losing his temper and piling up penalties, Burfict has displayed serious flaws in his game and attitude. He plays like a candidate for anger management.
Now, he’s not regarded as a first-round draft target for NFL teams.
"I’m not a fan at all," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said during a conference call. "I just watched a bunch of his tape the other day. I came away unimpressed. His instincts aren’t good.
"He gets enveloped by bigger bodies and he runs around blocks. For a big, strong guy, he’s nowhere near as strong at the point of attack as I thought he’d be. I don’t see first round at all."
Burfict is prone to facemask penalties, head-butts and cheap shots.
He was benched two seasons ago due to an incredibly high amount of personal foul penalties.
Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson knows Lewis from his days at the University of Miami and once arranged for Burfict to speak with the NFL star.
"They’re both fired-up guys," Erickson said before last season. "Ray is obviously very mature at this point in his life. They’ve talked. I wanted Vontaze to relate to what those great players were all about. That’s his idol, man. That’s his man.
"There aren’t too many better. He’s a long way from Ray Lewis. Ray plays the game the way it should be played."
A big, strong linebacker at 6-foot-3, 252 pounds, Burfict’s lack of discipline extends to his off-field conduct.
Burfict allegedly punched a smaller teammate in the locker room. The former blue-chip recruit also has a history of academic problems.
As the Ravens search for a potential successor to Lewis, they should probably look in a different direction than Burfict.
Boston College standout Luke Kuechly is regarded as the consensus top inside linebacker in the draft.
However, he’s not expected to get past the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 15 overall selection of the first round.
Other than Kuechly, Mayock doesn’t grade any other inside linebackers as worthy of going in the first round.
Not all draft experts agree, though.
For the Ravens, big Alabama inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower is another intriguing possibility who has drawn high grades.