clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Vernon Butler 2016 NFL Draft scouting notes: Two-look Tuesday

In our Two-look Tuesday series, Dan Lavoie and another Buffalo Rumblings community member break down tape on a 2016 NFL Draft prospect. Today's subject: LA Tech defensive lineman Vernon Butler.

Welcome back to Two-look Tuesday! Here at Buffalo Rumblings, we like to keep an open mind on 2016 NFL Draft prospects, knowing that there are members of the writing staff and community with different backgrounds and skills to collectively evaluate. That's why we're bringing in guests to help break down prospects for you.

This is a stream-of-consciousness series, where two viewers watch the same cut-up, write notes as we're viewing, and then deliver some short thoughts following the conclusion of the game. Two people may watch the same video and come out with different conclusions - or they may find themselves in total agreement. With the added perspective, we hope you'll join in with your own thoughts on the players we scout.

Today we're joined once more by Grif to talk about another of his favorite players: Louisiana Tech defensive lineman Vernon Butler. With the NFL Combine in the books, we can share some new information with you, so here is Butler's spider graph from the event:

As you can see, Butler has outstanding size for a defensive lineman, and managed to have roughly average agility (with slow long speed) given his major heft.

We watched Butler's game versus Western Kentucky from this season. Grif's notes come first, and mine follow.

Grif's notes

  • Uses his quickness and hands to shed the guard and just misses the running back in the hole.
  • Content to be blocked on a play ­action pass. (Did he take the play off?)
  • Attacks the guards left shoulder, misses the solo tackle on the running back but his teammates clean it up.
  • Gets doubled by the tackle and guard on a three man rush.
  • Pushes the guard aside but loses sight of the running back running past to his left.
  • Bull rushes the guard into the quarterback but not fast enough to affect the throw
  • Sheds a guard with good hand usage and pressures the quarterback into an incompletion
  • Uses his long arms to fend off the center to pressure the quarterback again
  • Gets fooled a bit by the zone ­read seemed to lose sight of the running back in the backfield
  • Bull rushes the guard back to pressure the quarterback on a quick throw. It looks like WKU offense is predicated on the spread with a lot of quick passes but Butler is still managing to get pressure.
  • Pushes the right guard towards the running back but misses the arm tackle
  • Hustles to try and tackle the running back after he breaks loose on the edge. I like seeing that.
  • Holds his ground on the guard and prevents a hole from opening up.
  • Double teamed and gets stuffed
  • Bull rushes the guard and turns inside to flush the quarterback outside.
  • On a third and long, comes in on a delayed blitz and pancakes the center. Quarterback throws it before Butler can pressure him though.
  • Tries an ineffective spin move on the guard
  • Guard manages to get lower than Butler on the goal line and pushes him off his spot.
  • Splits the gap between the guard and tackle and wraps up the running back for a loss.
  • Attacks the left shoulder of the guard and pressures the quarterback into an incompletion

Pros: Good hand usage, above ­average quickness off the snap, versatile, good strength at the point of attack, good hips/balance for a big man.

Cons: Raw technique, not refined as an interior pass rusher, doesn't have a second move, pops up too high too quickly and losses leverage.

Verdict: WKU offense is a quick-strike, spread type of offense. They seemed to be avoiding Vernon Butler at all costs, but he still managed to make a significant impact in this game. He's a bit raw in terms of technique, which shows in his lack of a plan in terms of his pass rush. But with his raw athleticism and length he has great potential against the run and the pass. He also offers a great amount of versatility as well. He lined up in the 0­ technique, the 3 and the technique. I'd rate him as a mid-­first rounder with good upside.

Dan's notes

  • Butler's going up against the most prolific quarterback in the nation today. Let's see how he does.
  • Cut blocked on the first play. Good athleticism to jump over it and get towards the QB.
  • Running play, a quick move lets Butler split the guard and center and dive towards the RB, but he just misses.
  • Playing 5-tech on this play. Mostly unblocked, but a three step drop and no damage done.
  • Got his arm up to try and swat a pass when it was thrown.
  • Running from the backside on a run play, he doesn't take the best angle and can't reach the RB.
  • Strong arms. He's one-on-one with the guard on this play and bulls him back five yards, but doesn't disengage and the pass drops in for a long TD.
  • Again Butler does a great job sifting between two linemen and exploding into the backfield. Misses the tackle on the RB again but his teammates clean up.
  • Fourth and two play. Stacks up the linemen in front of him, but it was a misdirection bootleg throw to the TE and they convert it.
  • Tries a sort of swim move but his arm placement isn't great and he gets nowhere with that technique.
  • Now at one-technique. You can tell the WKU gameplan is to avoid the defensive line, with lots of short passes to the sidelines.
  • Butler was basically triple teamed on this play with 5:00 in the first.
  • I'm watching this 1st and 10 play at 4:40 in the first a lot and I think Butler could've played it better. Basically, he lines up between center and right guard, and at the snap sees both players sliding to the left. I'm not a defensive coordinator, but I think I'd like him to attack the RG's right shoulder with his own right side - either crash him down or rip past him. Instead Butler basically attacks head-on, basically wins at the point of attack, but can't disengage. His teammates clean it up anyway.
  • Nice power rush on this 2nd and 14 play, walks the guard back into the QB.
  • Chasing down the slow-footed Doughty, Butler is the faster one but he can't catch him before the QB throws the ball away.
  • Butler does a lot of attacking with two arms when if he'd turn his body and attack with one he's have a better shot of disengaging.
  • I think that's the second time Butler has fallen for a misdirection play.
  • Butler's wide body prevented him from splitting two linemen for a pressure on that 3rd and 11.
  • Butler has some decent athleticism in space. Moves around well, can accelerate and stop as needed.
  • Goalline play. Takes on a double team, sifts past it, but a pass is completed for a TD (but there's a flag)
  • Interesting look, he's rushing from a standup MLB position. But isn't fast enough to come near the QB for a pressure before the throw.
  • I don't like it when defensive linemen rush toward their opponent, slow up, and do a dumb dance with their arms before engaging with two hands. That's what Butler did on this 2nd and 3 play. What are you hoping to do, fool the guard? You weigh 300 pounds, you aren't juking him out of his shoes. Be aggressive and make him make a mistake by attacking him with ferocity. Doughty drops a dime for 15.
  • Playing a sort of contain on this play? Was standing up at NT, then shifted to DE before the snap, but didn't rush. Looks like a bad playcall. Doughty completes another 20 yard pass to the sidelines and now WKU is almost in field goal range.
  • Woah woah, what just happened? 12 seconds left in the half and no time outs, and WKU runs the ball. Butler attacks the center, walks him back, but again positions his body in a suboptimal way and the runner goes right past the hole he allowed. Luckily there was a flag, because otherwise WKU was at the 7 with the clock resetting just before halftime.
  • At the half it's 27-17 WKU. They've been picking on LA Tech's corners and using quick passes and double teams to keep Butler at bay.
  • I saw a spin move on that pass rush, although it seemed out of desperation. Good to know it's in his repertoire.
  • Butler does a beautiful job ducking under the RT to get into the backfield. But Doughty totally fools him with a playground ball fake and Butler freezes while the RB runs past him with the ball.
  • One thing in Butler's favor? His excellent power. I haven't seen him get walked back at all in the run game. I know he can hold his own against double teams.
  • Every time I watch this game I'm reminded how much I like Brandon Doughty as a quarterback.
  • Oooh, a nice bull rush that turns into a sort of rip move. He generates a hurry and flushes Doughty from the pocket into an incompletion.
  • There's that stupid juke shuffle pass rush again. If he just went straight he might've caused a hurry.
  • Triple teamed again. One of his teammates gets a sack.
  • The spin move has come out a few more times, but right now it's slow and also loses him leverage when he uses it.
  • Again Butler is unblocked in the backfield but slow to diagnose the running play and he can't get to the RB.
  • Hey, that was a decent swim move! And it turned into a pressure (but also a completion). And it gives us our first replay of the cut-up.
  • Goalline stand at the 1. Here we go.
  • Butler gets low and stacks up the linemen. Unsuccessful QB sneak.
  • On 2nd down Butler gets a bit too high in his stance and is walked back just a yard. It's enough for the TD.
  • 2-pt conversion. Butler at 1-tech. He's slowed up trying to hand fight the center and can't get there in time to stop the throw.
  • Butler finally makes a beautiful TFL. Swims past the lineman, sees the RB in the backfield, and wraps him up.
  • Attacking a guard, Butler comes free and hits the QB to force an incompletion.
  • Nice spin move, but he wasn't close enough to the QB to threaten a hurry when he came free.

Let's tally up the plays - I have Butler for 5 hurries (1 QB hit) and a TFL. I also saw four plays where Butler was unblocked in the backfield but didn't manage to tackle the running back because he froze trying to commit to a target. This game was basically the worst matchup for Butler. A spread offense with plenty of three step drops, a quarterback who is willing to throw the ball away if pressured, and an offensive line that's directed to send him plenty of double and triple teams. As you might guess, the scheme worked; Butler was often held at bay.

Watching Butler play in this game, his gifts are obvious - he's a huge player (6'4" 325 pounds with 35 inch arms) with excellent strength, a guy who will hold the point of attack. He can play anywhere on the defensive line with varying degrees of success, and you can even put him in an unconventional spot and he has the athleticism to do something with it.

That being said, I'm not sold yet. Butler is still very raw, if this game is any indicator. While I saw him using swims, rips, and spin moves in his arsenal, they maybe totalled around 8 snaps. The rest of the time he was attacking with a bull rush or no real plan. His body positioning was troublesome at times, where he would defeat his opponent but be angled away from the ballcarrier. Does it have something to do with him improperly reading his keys? I'm not sure, that's an area I'm still learning about. The pass rush moves are also unrefined; those techniques weren't good enough to threaten the man across from him. He wasn't really attempting to set up moves on his opponents. To be fair, when a player is moved around the line as frequently as Butler was, there's no real chance to establish a pass rushing rhythm, but it seems to me that there is a host of technique and approach that Butler could develop. Pad level is another area, where sometimes Butler would stand up and not really make an impact because he had lost some leverage.

I was also worried with the amount of times Butler fell victim to misdirection and ball fakes. He could have had a monster game. I'm talking 5 tackles for loss, but most of them were whiffed because he was too slow to diagnose the running play. If his instincts were a bit better (or maybe that comes in the film room), he would be so much better. In this case, I'm chalking it up to WKU's offense keeping him off-balance and making him think too much rather than react, but it is a concern I have.

Can Butler be a starting defensive lineman in the NFL? Absolutely. Does he have things to work on? You bet. I don't see a first round prospect when I look at Butler's tape, but I do see a member of this very talented defensive line class.