The defensive line looks like it may be the strength of the 2016 NFL draft class and Vernon Butler is among the reasons why. What does his scouting report have to say about his status looking towards April?
School: Louisiana Tech
Weight: 325 lbs
In addition to football, he played basketball and track in high school. Got his team to the state title game as a junior. Improved steadily throughout college and had his best season as a senior with 50 tackles and four sacks. Turned down invitations from prominent SEC schools like Ole Miss and Mississippi State to play for Louisiana Tech.
- Size jumps out immediately. Not just big in terms of weight but seems to wear it well.
- Quickness, athleticism and speed are rather impressive given how big he is. Moves well laterally and can give chase down the field.
- Uses his long arms and hands with consistent violence, working to shed blockers but also makes sure to keep the legs churning.
Butler comes out of his stance with suddenness here and does a good job of extending his arms into the blocker, making it easier for him to control where he goes. With the guard off balance, he then demonstrates his considerable power by driving him backwards until he’s almost into the lap of the quarterback. Butler may not get the sack, but the pressure forces a quick throw that isn’t likely to be completed at the pro level.
- Keeps his eyes up. Shows awareness for where the football is going and works hard to be in position for making a play.
- Adept at knifing through gaps into the opposing backfield. Doesn’t lose momentum when his tilts his body to slip blocks.
- While his quickness can be an asset when shooting gaps, he doesn’t always anchor against the run well. Bigger offensive lineman find he can be pushed out of the way.
- If a blocker is able to get into his pads, he loses most, if not all his momentum. Struggles to break free after that.
- Though he is effective as a pass rusher, his pad level tends to elevate a bit much, allowing blockers to get underneath him and drive him out of plays.
Two of his key problems show up here. The center is able to get into Butler’s body and underneath his pads, making it easier to drive him out of the play and for the running back to find that lane for a big gain on 1st down. Keep in mind his blocker is from Western Kentucky. Imagine if that had been Ryan Kalil or Alex Mack making the block. This is why staying low and improving his ability to anchor is so important.
- Production doesn’t match the tape. Seems able to consistently apply pressure but only had three quarterback sacks as a senior.
Pro Comparison: Gerald McCoy
Butler has the size and capability of a 3-4 end but his calling seems to be as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, a position that would allow him to use his exceptional quickness and ability to split gaps to create pressure in the backfield The closest comparison to him is Tampa Bay Buccaneers standout Gerald McCoy, who plays the same position. Like Butler he’s much more known for his pass rush skill than he is his run defense.
Projection: 2nd to 3rd Rounds
As of right now Vernon Butler can be classified a big, athletic defensive lineman with ton of pass rush potential. If he can improve his lower body strength and learn to play better against the run, he has Pro Bowl potential regardless of the scheme he ends up in.