An interesting first-round prospect to look into is Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech, a defensive tackle who seems like a huge potential to be a fantastic pass rusher, making the Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans really intrigued.
Butler played four seasons with the Bulldogs and was fantastic in his final two years, picking up 22.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks. Those low sack numbers do worry some NFL scouts, but everyone seems to be in agreement that Butler, who is 6’4 and weighs over 320 lbs, has the size, speed and unique athleticism to do well as an inside pass rusher in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, although he needs to work on how he makes the best of plays and doesn’t waste away momentum and advantages in one on ones.
Despite the flaws, he has plenty of teams interested. The Titans and Panthers are on this week’s set of visits, while he’s already worked out for the Bengals and Raiders. He’s ranked by most mocks as someone who should be taken in the final third of the first round or maybe early second round. That’s where the Titans (picking 1st, which won’t happen for Butler, and 33rd) and the Panthers (picking 30th) are hoping to land him.
The Raiders seem to be in a bad spot to draft Butler, picking 14th, which seems a bit too soon despite their defensive needs, and their second round pick should be too late for the All-Conference USA selection in 2015. The Bengals take a player with the 24th overall pick, which seems to be in Butler’s vicinity. But their main concern this early should be wide receiver, which might mean that despite working him out, they’re hoping he falls a little bit further.
Who knows, if teams think he’s such a special talent and with a little bit of work can become a real menace rushing up the middle of an offense to hit the quarterback, someone might engineer some kind of trade to not let him slip away. Butler is a raw talent who relies on athleticism instead of skill or a set of moves to fool offensive linemen, but his size, length and speed are keeping teams intrigued, and optimistic they can teach him a few tricks.