Taking a look at players the Washington Redskins might draft next week, focusing on possible first-round targets.
Player: Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
Weight: 323 pounds
Notable: Butler chose Louisiana Tech over Ole Miss and Mississippi State (Southern Miss and Memphis were two other possibilities). Butler was only a two-star recruit, but he clearly blossomed.
Worth reading: A little peek into Butler's mindset.
Games I watched: Kansas State, Rice, Mississippi State
What I liked: He has excellent hands and when he keeps his base, can stun guards with his bull rush. Saw it a few times; his bull rush is really good. Gets his arms extended, stays low and drives. Butler’s footwork was usually solid and he had a knack for shooting gaps – often by stepping to one side first and then quickly shooting the other side. His swim move was quick. Typically, he shot out low and took advantage of linemen who were a bit high in their stance. I liked his hands in these situations. He played all over the line. Butler gave good effort, often seen running to the ball. And his effort stayed true throughout the game, with one or two exceptions. Against Mississippi State, he continued to give strong effort despite it being a blowout. He has good length. I saw him run a few stunts, one leading to a strong bull rush and another to a batted pass. Even saw him start as if he was going to stunt, only to cut back and stun his man. Showed good awareness. Made some "wow" plays.
What I didn’t: He sometimes tries to spin back into plays in the middle of the line, something that won’t work in the NFL. However, when he did do it, he’d usually stay low (better linemen handled it, however). He could learn how to handle double teams better. I don’t think it’s a talent issue, though, so this can be taught. It’s hard to always know this without knowing what he’s asked to do, but there were times I wondered if he took himself too much out of his gap, leading to bigger creases for a back. Though he collapsed the pocket, he didn’t always finish as a pass-rusher. Just a couple times late in games I saw him get a bit upright and seemingly gassed. However, in one game that occurred (Mississippi State), he seemed more refreshed after a break. There were some plays I thought he could have been more economical in his footwork, increasing his effectiveness on stunts, for example.
How he fits: The Redskins need young defensive linemen. He fits that description. But he also offers versatility, something they absolutely need. So if they drafted him and put him over the nose, he could still move around in other packages.
Why he doesn’t make sense: It’s such a deep draft class that someone else might tempt them more than Butler. And there are players from bigger schools who faced better competition on a weekly basis (though Butler did play against big schools and he fared well at the Senior Bowl). Butler needs some work to refine his game (though the same can be said of any player drafted 21).
Why he does: Like other players, his versatility will help. Butler has excellent size, something Scot McCloughan prizes on both sides of the line. And Butler can play anywhere -- he lined up at either tackle spot and also over the center in pass-rush situations. He would become an instant part of the rotation and, based on what has been written and said about his character, would fit into the culture they’re trying to build.