Draft Prospect: Vernon Butler DL-LA Tech

The Bills may be in the market for a defensive lineman in the upcoming draft. The defense is in a transition stage personnel wise. Corbin Bryant and Stefan Charles are restricted free agents, Alex Carrington is a free agent and coming off of injury. Guys under contract such as Jarius Wynn and Kyle Williams are coming off of injuries and Mario’s status with the team is still unknown.

One of the top defensive lineman in this draft that fits the Bills’ defensive scheme is Vernon Butler. Butler has all of the NFL measureables, but more importantly he possesses the metrics that Rex Ryan loves. He is big, at 6’3″, 325 pounds. Butler has impressive reach measuring in at 34 1’8 inches. Something that coaches, including Rex Ryan look for in two gap players. When Rex was with the Jets they selected Sheldon Richardson who is 6’2″, 294 pounds with a reach of 34 1/2, and Muhammad Wilkerson 6’4″, 325 and has a reach of 35 1’4 inches. So Butler is right in line with those stud defensive lineman that were selected quite high.

Butler played his ball at Louisiana Tech. He was one of the conferences better players. On the field for 75% of the teams’ snaps, he registered 50 tackles, 3 sacks and 10 tackles for loss his senior year. He can play just about anywhere along the defensive line, which is a plus in Rex’ hybrid system.


Against the run in 2015, Butler had 33 run disruptions which was 40th overall according to the Real Football Network (RFN). RFN defines run disruptions as plays that disrupt the run concept. Ten of those run disruptions came against top 25 teams.

On the following play you can see Butler read his key, he uses his length and strong hands to stack the lineman then he sheds the blocker and attacks the RB. Vernon totally disrupted the play.


On the next play Butler shows why he would fit in Rex’ system. He has the upper and lower body strength to hold the point of attack. He takes on the combo block and it frees up the ILB to make the play.


On the following play the talented defensive lineman shows off his length and power. Butler doesn’t allow the lineman to reach block or to control him. Not allowing an offensive lineman to reach or to execute a scoop block are Rex’ two rules to defensive line play. Vernon demonstrates those rules on the next play. He wins the line of scrimmage battle at the snap and doesn’t allow the lineman to lock on. His play occupied two lineman and re-established the line of scrimmage in favor of his team. The RB is forced to cut it back.


On the following play his strength is no match for the center. He bull rushes the lineman forcing the QB to dump it down.


His ability to pressure the quarterback is really what opened up scouts’ eyes at the Senior Bowl. As I said his stats don’t really stand out, but his play during Senior Bowl week really made scouts go examine his tape more thoroughly.


Rushing the passer is where he definitely needs to improve though. He has the potential in that department, but he isn’t as polished as other defensive lineman in this draft.

In 2015, Butler had had 27 pressures (QB knockdowns+QB hurries). Nine of those pressures were against top 25 teams. Most of his pressures were due to his strength and not technique.

On the following play you can see him bull rush the guard. He then sheds the block and forces the QB out of the pocket.


This play shows how well he. Keep an eye on his right hand, the lineman is off balance so Butler just shoves him aside with his right hand.


One of the most impressive traits that Butler possesses are quick feet. Two of the main characteristics Rex looks for in a defensive lineman are quickness and fluidity.

“The defensive lineman must demonstrate quickness in his ability to move in all directions. The player must be able to react and change direction flawlessly.”

Butler demonstrated his fluidity quite well on the following play. He reads pass, stabs the A gap but the shoots the B gap.”


Check out how easily he opens his hips and the fleet footwork he has.


Butler has the prototypical size that defensive coordinators love but he does have two weaknesses. They aren’t major because they are coach-able.

The first weakness is that his play is still pretty raw. Most of the plays that he “won” were based on his raw skills and not technique. More times than not he was the stronger man 1 on 1. But when he met an offensive lineman with good technique, he was neutralized.

Like on this play. On the snap Butler’s pad level is too high. The RG beats Butler to the point, gets his hands on him and anchors down. Butler has no counter and in essence gives up. The RB adds a nice chip to completely neutralize Butler.


Butler’s other flaw is his consistency. From play to play he is up and down. Maintaining a baseline level of play will really be the goal of the team that drafts him. He is raw but will blossom quickly under the right coaching. A coach who teaches discipline and technique daily. Someone that will challenge him daily.

On the following clip you will see Rod Marinelli coaching Butler up. Butler’s hand placement was just a little too high. Butler’s technique will need to be drilled.


Choosing Butler at 19 in my opinion is a little too high. If the Bills are set on drafting him, they should try and move back a few spots. Butler like most defensive lineman are drafted for their potential. He hasn’t hit his ceiling yet and with the right coaching I think he can be a really good defensive lineman. He is a guy that definitely fits the system really well, but I am not sure we have the coaching that will maximize his potential. Rex loves big, athletic defensive lineman, will he and Whaley pass up this player?

Other prospects analyzed:

Justin Simmons

A’shawn Robinson

Emannuel Ogbah

Reggie Ragland

Kentrell Brothers



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