Oren Burks Can Be More Than Joe Thomas’ Replacement

Packers third-round pick Oren Burks is drawing a lot of comparisons to former inside linebacker Joe Thomas. Thomas was dynamic enough to be called upon in pass-coverage situations, sometimes acting as a third safety. Burks, who started out as a safety for Vanderbilt, became a full-time middle linebacker by his senior season. Like Thomas, Burks can play all over the field and will be a valuable asset in Mike Pettine’s system.

Speaking on his success playing in the middle of field Burks said, ““I really felt comfortable being off the ball and being able to get in all the plays. I really feel like my game got taken to the next level. My production went up and I was able to show my athleticism sideline-to-sideline and make plays. I definitely think my best ball is ahead of me at that position after only having one year.”

One things for sure, Burks is used to making plays all over the field. He finished his college career with 228 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and five interceptions. He should be able to fill Thomas’ spot just fine.

Thomas is now of course with the Dallas Cowboys after Green Bay chose not to re-sign him. This created a void at inside linebacker with no real options behind Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan. Thomas has only eight career starts but he was impactful in the rotation and on special teams.

In three seasons as a Packer, Thomas recorded 110 tackles, 7 pass deflections, and one interception. He only played 33% of the defensive snaps during this time, but saw a career-high 61.4% in 2016.

Thomas’ presence will be missed, but his services are very replaceable with Burks. He is every bit as athletic as Thomas and even faster. Thomas ran a 4.70 forty-yard dash to Burks’ 4.59.

The former Vanderbilt standout will have every chance to take over for Thomas and even make more of an impact. With Morgan Burnett in Pittsburgh, the Packers may need Burks to act as the occasional defensive back. A position he is very familiar with.

Rookie GM Brian Gutekunst obviously saw something in Burks after trading back up into the third round to snag him. If he develops into a do it all defender, it may turn out to be his best pick of the draft.


Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.