Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler is a player the Detroit Lions have spent a lot of time scouting. They met with him at the Senior Bowl and Combine, and also held a workout for big No. 9 of the Bulldogs.
- 323 pounds
- 35 1/8” arms
- 33” vertical, 9’3” broad jumps
- 26 bench press reps
- 82 3-cone, 4.76 short shuttle
Butler lined up primarily as a 5-technique, but also played the 4, 3 and even the 1 on occasion in Louisiana Tech’s variable defense. Optimally he’s a 3-tech for a 4-3 team like the Lions, with the versatility to move to the outside when the team deploys an odd-man front.
He’s got surprising quickness for a 320+ pound man. Normally guys his size are expected to be anchors inside, but not Butler. He’s an attack dog.
The ability to consistently win with his first step and make himself narrow through the gap really stands out in watching Butler. The fact he accomplishes this despite an inconsistent burst off the snap is a testament to his coordinated strength and quickness on the move.
That burst and snap anticipation is a big area for improvement. Game tape is littered with all sorts of “almost” great plays. Butler’s not a great finisher at this point, and he often is a half-count late to creating the impact play either for himself or a teammate.
Every split second counts, and Butler is often a split second behind others moving off the snap. It’s a lot easier to make up that almost imperceptible pause in the Conference USA than in the NFL. Fortunately, Butler really performed well in Senior Bowl practices and in the game itself, which is where the second play from the first clips is taken.
If you are a fan of the concept of “disruption equals production”, Vernon Butler likely makes you salivate. The key is development. He’s only 21 and demonstrated during Senior Bowl week the ability to quickly implement good coaching. Rod Marinelli was his position coach in Mobile and the former Lions head coach gushed to me (and others gathered after a rep session) about Butler’s ability and how well he listened and applied his learning.
He still had more production (3 sacks, 10 TFLs) than some other players who will drafted in the first two rounds. And it’s easy to see how higher-level coaching and more experience will help him convert more of those “almost” plays into actual results.
Butler already uses his hands pretty well. His jolting punch and upward surge and rock even the best blockers. He stays balanced well on the move and has a very adept nose for the ball. There is a lot of very exciting potential here. I like the motor, it just needs fine tuning.
If he’s available in the second round, the Lions would be foolish to pass him over. Butler is a potential impact starter in a year or two.